I love hearing from MintStyle readers and I often incorporate some of your questions into Q&A columns. A recent letter reminded me of how I came to my own philosophy of change and inspired me to devote an entire column to making changes. Or, rather, making one change at a time, taking stock, and seeing how it suits your life before thinking of the next one.
Too Many Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes
A reader from (self-described) fly-over country was nearing a big birthday. She was tired of her job, tired of her hair (aren’t we all?), tired of her marriage (sorry, can’t help you there), tired of her weight, tired of her wardrobe…. you get the idea. What followed was a massive personal housecleaning including a divorce, haircut, new hair color, an expensive makeover (including surgical enhancements) and investment in a lot of new clothing and accessories.
I think you can guess what happened next: she mostly hates her new look and barely recognizes herself. She wrote asking for advice on reclaiming her old signature style, which was a pretty tall order and perhaps not a great way for her to start a new chapter in her life.
Keep What Works
Whenever I work with clients on personal brand and style makeovers, we spend a lot of time talking through what works and what doesn’t. As part of the process, I ask them to fill out a series of custom questionnaires. While my gut instinct usually tells me what will work for them, I prefer to understand the changes they’ll be comfortable with before making any suggestions.
While celebrities tend to shed looks and personas with each work project, for the rest of us, change is more of an exploration and evolution. And lucky for us, our bad choices and blunders aren’t broadcast to millions.
Change One Thing
In many ways, the majority of us get to live through several adolescences. We’re no longer restricted to one period of change. We live in a culture that (for the most part) fosters ongoing growth and supports opportunities to change the way we look and how we conduct our lives.
Sometimes it works. Gwen Stefani is often declared a sleek style icon (for those who’ve forgotten her days of sporting pink pigtailed hair, bindis and braces). And sometimes it can be downright freaky (Lady Gaga’s meat dress comes to mind). But the notion of change also allows you to rediscover the personal hallmarks that you might not have realized defined you to begin with.
In other words, by changing one thing about yourself, you’re actually fine-tuning and highlighting what you are already comfortable with.
Eliminate One Thing At A Time
So let’s go back to the letter that inspired this post: a woman tired of her life, who changed nearly everything, only to end up unhappy. Instead of figuring out what she truly wanted to change, she just randomly threw out everything that once defined her and ended up with no clear idea of what to do next.
When people suffer from allergies, doctors frequently advise them to try an elimination diet. During an elimination diet, people are told to remove a potential irritant from their diet for a period of time. If symptoms decrease, the food is permanently eliminated from their diet. If there’s no change at all, the food can be reintroduced to their diet.
Keep The Rest
We all long for self-improvement at some point in our lives. The key is to slowly shed parts of your past in order to realize the ones that are worth holding on to. So when you are ready for a change, commit to only changing one thing at a time.
If your hair drives you crazy, then experiment with a new stylist or length before drastically cutting it all off and going platinum. If you’re determined to lose weight and get in shape, make one change you can commit to instead of diving headfirst into a regime you’ll never keep up. If you wear too much black, try injecting brighter pieces one at a time. If you’re too buttoned up, try adding whimsical accessories.
Just don’t change all of you – you’ve worked too hard to become the person you are.
Rachel Weingarten would love to know what your one big change will be this season. She’s a style expert, marketing strategist & personal branding consultant for CEOs, politicians and celebrities and the creator of MintStyle. Rachel is the award-winning author of Career and Corporate Cool and Hello Gorgeous! Beauty Products in America ‘40s-‘60s. Visit her online at http://racheletc.com or on Twitter @rachelcw Write to her with your burning style questions at firstname.lastname@example.org