Inside Out, Outside In?

untitledWhere does your confidence come from?

Is it something inside of you that radiates out, or is it something you can coax out with the a new shade of lipstick, a haircut, hot heels, or a splash of perfume?

For me, I think it’s a little of both.

I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel extra-confident (like a lion — roar! Hence the image!) in my favorite dark Joe’s jeans with peep-toe pumps.

But by the same token, I know that confidence is not (and should not be) just about physical appearance; it’s about how we carry ourselves.

Some women just have an air about them; they literally ooze confidence, and the size of their thighs just isn’t relevant to their self-esteem.

I would so love to be that kind of woman.

Some days I think I’m inching closer to getting there, but other days I know that my confidence is related to if I like my outfit, if I’ve had a decent hair day.

Yes, I do realize how vain that sounds.

But I think part of it comes from my heavier days, where I might not have felt particularly good about my body, but felt good about how I dressed my body.

I credit my awesome mom with helping me learn to dress for my shape when I was a teen (instead of fighting it), and I think that helped mask a lot of my insecurities as an adult. If my clothes fit me, versus me trying to fit into a certain style, then I was happier and looked much better.

Dara Chadwick talks about this in her book, You’d Be So Pretty If …, when she discussses the challenge of having a teenage who wants to fit in and wear what everyone else might be wearing … but not what is necessarily best for her figure.

The truth is, I’m just not the kind of girl who feels comfortable going to the mall in sweats and a T-shirt; it’s not me.

I feel my best when I’m put together — regardless of my body size. I mean, even at my thinnest, I still put on street clothes to go to the grocery store. Being “thin” wasn’t a license for me to dress down, any more than being heavier meant I should “dress up.”

Which leads me to always wonder: which comes first — the chicken or the egg? Confidence from within, or confidence on the outside viewed as the image we present to the world? It seems like it could be a little bit of both.

It’s a shame our society judges us by what we wear, but, well, it does.

Confession: I’ve always taken forever to get dressed. There’s usually four or five attempts at an outfit before I settle on something — irrelevant of my size. And sometimes, the choice goes beyond just girlish indecision.

I remember Christmas break the my junior year of college, in particular, where I was transitioning to be treasurer of my sorority. I had planned to meet my friend (who was the current treasurer) at Short Hills mall in Short Hills, N.J. (I was from northern N.J., she was from southern N.J., and Short Hills was smack in the middle for us).

Anyone familiar with Short Hills mall knows you go there dressed to the nines; it’s just understood. Short Hills is one of the wealthiest towns in the state, and its mall is pretty darn amazing. I did not want to look like a girl from Vernon (my hometown).

I hemmed and hawed for like two hours over what to wear, before going to meet my friend. Not because I worried she’d judge me (heck no), but because I knew if I wasn’t dressed nicely, I wouldn’t fit in with the clientele at this mall and might be frowned upon. Sad, but true.

And while I was well-aware of the absurdity of it, I sure fell into the trap. I wanted to present myself a certain way. And if I’d been in a t-shirt and jeans, I probably would have looked out of place. I wanted to blend, not stand out.

In retrospect, I have to wonder, how sad is that? Why did I need a dress to feel ok about myself in a mall?!

Which brings me to my next point. I don’t know about you, but I just love TLC’s hit show “What Not to Wear.”

Although Stacy London drives me nuts with her skunk strand of hair and nasally voice … it’s hard not to love and admire the confidence she, Clinton, Nick and Carmindy give the women the show seeks to transform.

Typically, makeover episodes on television are hard to stomach; they often feel contrived and not always necessary.

But the women on “WNTW” have truly amazing stories to share. They’re recommended by their husbands, friends, co-workers, because they lack confidence — and don’t see themselves as their loved ones see them.

And over the course of the show, as they dress a little sharper, put on a little make-up, take time to do their hair … it’s no surprise that their confidence levels catapult through the roof.

The truth is, whether we like it or not, society does judge us on physical appearances. We don’t have to be glamour queens or spend a fortune to look beautiful, but when we feel good about ourselves inside and out, it’s obvious to those we meet.

The show proves a hard truth many women know, but not everyone adapts: the way we present ourselves to the outside world can very much influence how we feel about ourselves on the inside.

The women who undergo transformations on “WNTW” always talk about how confident they feel now that they see themselves as beautiful. Which I’m not sure is such a bad thing … why shouldn’t a woman feel her best when she’s taking care of herself?

But on the flipside, what’s so wrong with sweats and a T on a Saturday afternoon? Nothing.

Clearly, this is something I think about a lot … I don’t have the answers, but I think ultimately it comes down to how we carry ourselves in whatever we’re wearing. Whether our confidence comes from within or is determined by our appearances, I think having it at all is the key to success in life.

And, hey, if a little lipstick makes you feel more like a lioness … I say, more power to you!

How about you? Is your confidence bolstered by your appearance or is it irrelevant?

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5 thoughts on “Inside Out, Outside In?

  1. While I’ve never been the gal who has to put on make-up to go to the gym, I definitely feel much better about myself when I’m “done up.” Don’t get me wrong…I love sweats and t-shirts, too! But I just feel clean and put together when I’m dressed up – or in jeans, even.

    I wish I could say my physical appearance had no bearing on my confidence. For me a part of it definitely comes from within (like on the days where I may be bloated as all get out, but I still feel pretty), but generally I’d say I do rely on the reflection in the mirror to give me confidence, too. GOSH that sounds vain typed out like that…

    I LOVE WNTW, too. I think mostly because it reminds people who’ve lost themselves, in a sense, that putting on makeup or carefully picking out an outfit can make you happy and we don’t have to feel guilty about it!

  2. Great post! Confidence is something I struggle with everyday. My outside appearance definitely plays a huge part in it. When I think I look crappy, I feel crappy. Yet at the same time, if I feel good, I think I look good.

  3. Definitely.
    If you look in the mirror and you look nice, it makes you feel so much better about yourself. I don’t know about you, but when I’m bumming around the house in trackies I feel fat, sluggish and gross. When I’ve made an effort with my appearance I always feel that little bit better about myself 🙂 I know that sounds shallow. But it’s true.

  4. Holly, I love this: “I LOVE WNTW, too. I think mostly because it reminds people who’ve lost themselves, in a sense, that putting on makeup or carefully picking out an outfit can make you happy and we don’t have to feel guilty about it!” — SO TRUE.

    Thanks, Burp!

    It’s not shallow, PrettyLittleBird — it’s how we feel!

  5. I just discovered your blog a few minutes ago through MAMAVISION and I already feel better about myself. This blog is very positive and I like that.

    In regards to your question, I would have to say that confidence can come from a mixture of internal and external forces. It is best to start with internal confidence first IMO because that way, once a foundation of self-esteem has been established it is harder for others to bring you down because you love/respect/cherish yourself so much already.

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