Rule #8 on Being Lovely: “Clothes should be tight enough to show you’re a woman, and loose enough to show you’re a lady.”
So far, I’ve been enjoying each week’s exposition on the variety of angles we can take for introspection. But I’d say it’s about time we take a look at how our internal reflections begin to manifest themselves externally.
Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years has learned to be unabashedly open to what she loves. Since middle and high school, she cracked a very critical code:
People are going to criticize you no matter what you do, so you might as well be purposeful about and proud of yourself and your preferences.
With that lesson learned, Molly-Today loves feeling beautiful. I love it. This has not changed over the past 30 years. I’ve just learned to give myself permission to feel my own form of beautiful. Every day. To love dresses, and make-up, and long, flowing hair. To love singing, and writing, and learning, and talking. Because that makes me feel beautiful.
I’ve also learned to give myself permission to derive beauty from feeling powerful and strong. To love black, and wearing clothes that allow me to test my physical limits, and tying my hair back to concentrate. To love nature (even though I do not care for bugs or their bites), and climbing rocks, and WWII narratives, and campfires. I love it all. Because I love it.
With regards to Rule #8 in its present state, Molly-Ten-Years-Ago probably picked this Marilyn Monroe quote because she loved the idea of being ladylike. She loved the concept that “The magic is in the mystery.” She loved modesty and dressing like a casual young royal.
And if someone else loves that same thing: great. And if someone else loves the exact opposite thing: also great.
So maybe this specific quote works for the people who want That Same ThingTM. But Molly-Today understands that this is likely a small subset of the population. Certainly not the whole.
However, I want this blog about being lovely to apply to anyone who reads it. I want it to apply to all of the women that want to be feminine. I want it to apply to all of the women that want to be masculine. I want it to apply to all of the people that want to be anything.
So, here’s how Molly-Today thinks Rule #8 should read:
“Your clothes should fit however you want them to fit, and should make you feel however you want to feel.”
And what’s important to note is that you may feel two, or ten, opposing ways about yourself…and that is fantastic! Because, just as we discussed in Rule #1, you are You. Your personality is not mutually exclusive from day to day, or moment to moment.
Neither do your descriptors exist in mutual exclusivity. You do not have to be “Delicate and Feminine Only” on one day, so that you can choose to be “Fierce and Force-to-be-Reckoned-With Only” on another day. You never have to be “Intellectual Bookworm Only” one day, so that you can be “ATHLETIC AND SPORTY ONLY” another day.
That’s simply not what the Spice Girls would have wanted.
These tropes are cliche, and limiting, and unfair. A while ago, I stumbled upon this quote, which really solidified how I felt on this topic:
We are dynamic beings, with a multitude of contrasting factors to us! All of these feelings we hold occur in varying levels of our lives, and we get to figure out how to portray that to the world.
How creatively wonderful!
It should come as no surprise to you that, though I will be talking about both of these things, this Rule is actually nothing about clothing or makeup. Rather, Rule #8 is all about taking note of what you love about yourself and presenting that to the world.
I’ve learned that most of life is about taking the time to learn what we love and what we love about ourselves, and giving ourselves permission to emphasize those items together.
I firmly believe that we know what we love by a very young age, but taunting and teasing throughout our adolescence make us conform away from our true selves. How many interests and traits have we hidden throughout our lifetimes, in an effort to gain external acceptance?
So, Rule #8 is about rediscovering what we may have pushed aside many years ago. And being so confident in your own interests and personality that you wear them with pride, literally and/or figuratively.
This rule is about turning what we love into the rituals we use to face the world. Because this mental uniform we don is our armor.
I think about the time I spend executing the exact same make-up routine every morning.
Or the time I take to curl each strand of hair on my head.
I also think about the formula of clothing I use each day.
All of these steps I take every morning? They all prepare me to face each day authentically and without added self-doubt.
But I also think about how many years it took me to get to this mental outfit. And how much courage it takes to get to this point of acceptance.
Because, in all honesty, Young Molly was never comfortable with her outward appearance. Molly-Today still struggles with it. I’ve always felt that I had awkward features, and my fine motor skills just did not know how to work with that.
Throughout my school career, I didn’t wear makeup. Mostly because I didn’t know how. Each attempt at masking my face was laughable at best.
This discomfort in my own skin persisted until several years after I graduated college, when life presented me with an opportunity.
We shall name this opportunity: Kristen and Jenna.
Kristen and Jenna were two of my coworkers when I was working overseas. Everyday, I would catch myself staring at them out of envy…and confusion: how can these ladies look so ethereal and natural and make it look so effortless?
I was very tempted to cross into the dangerous territory of Horizontal Comparison, which we will discuss in a later rule.
Instead, in the spirit of Rule #4, I worked up the courage to ask them if they would mind spending time doing my makeup one day, and teaching me any tips they had.
They were so kind and so willing to share their knowledge with me!
Kristen and Jenna shared with me that makeup is not about hiding yourself. At all. Rather, it is all about art theory: identifying your facial structure, understanding where light naturally falls on your face, and utilizing the color wheel. It should be fun, not frustrating.
Throughout their time with me, they would say things like:
“I imagine the sun would hit you here, so we’re going to keep this area lighter than the rest of your face…but the sun would also cause you to have a hint of color here, so let’s put some blush in this area…“
Their makeup session was very much like a session with Bob Ross.
When they were done, I remember looking in the mirror, and feeling astonished at how Me I looked. But emboldened. The point of our session wasn’t to mask my face behind a plaster, but to draw attention to it.
These ladies introduced me to such basic yet profound principles of seeing myself as a work of art. They hadn’t changed anything about my features, they hadn’t made one single negative remark. They had only enhanced the features of my face.
From that moment forward, I made an effort to stop being shy in the mirror. I made a point to learn my own features. To understand the geometry and topography of my face, and learn how to appreciate the facets that, before, I had allowed to make me feel inadequate.
After enough time, I found that gratitude was growing where awkwardness had lived for so long.
I may still struggle with moments of self-criticism. But when I look at myself in the mirror now, with or without makeup on, I no longer feel awkward. I no longer lend negative energy towards what I don’t like.
I simply study what I see. I’ve gotten comfortable with the way the light hits certain angles. I’ve learned how to emphasize spots that I like, in an effort to enhance those that I should like.
And the same thing happened with my body and my wardrobe: I no longer needed an array of wild items to create my daily look and disguise my body. I became comfortable with wearing basic pieces that didn’t do the work of my personality, but provided a clean and simple canvas for my personality.
This rule is not about asserting that someone should or should not wear makeup or a certain style of clothing. In fact, all of these rules will always be about adapting what we learn from our own experiences into helping others embrace themselves.
Rule #8 is about learning your unique facets, and embracing what you may not have always been comfortable with. This rule is about forgiving yourself if you aren’t at that point yet.
This rule is about drawing strength from your interests, and celebrating yourself in front of others.
This rule is about adorning your body with gratitude and appreciation, each day.
So, let’s wrap this up:
What are things you love and how do those items translate externally in your life?
When do you feel most beautiful, and what factors contribute to these moments?
Have you ever struggled to accept some part of your appearance?
What are ways you have worked to embrace what you have struggled with?