Doing What You Love and Loving What You Do

I hate my job. I seriously do. I mean I’m glad I took it when I did because it was an entry into the rhythm of the new town where I moved. However, I’ve been there four years now, have searched six years for a segue from the position I previously held so that I can go on to my career path–and it’s not there!!! I’ve applied all over the place, have my name in a temp agency and–-nothing.

You may say that I have been in a major crisis of life, both financially and existentially. I’m dependent on my job for survival, but the crazy hours wreak havoc on my personal life and my ability to get a foot in the door anywhere else. Added to that has been the utter embarrassment of professional people who know me seeing me in a cashier’s position at a local drugstore. I wonder sometimes who in the world is going to take me seriously now??? (I have two advanced degrees and loads of experience.) Applying for jobs has been a colossal waste of my time for many reasons I won’t outline here.

But there is a silver lining.

I never realized how much I really know and how fantastic my skills actually are until I came to this crisis. You know how you can go to a job interview and they ask you if you know about this thing and that thing and some other thing? And maybe you know the field generally and you  know certain specific things they don’t know, but they are only interested in what they know about??? And what they know is utterly arcane? Okay, so maybe you don’t have a background that deals with that situation, but I do.

That has always frustrated me because it makes you sound like you were born yesterday and know nothing. But it’s not true.

So the other day I read something about branding. I’ve already gone through all the branding and marketing stuff….. But it was the part where someone said that lots and lots of people are doing the same stuff that you do. What sets you apart is YOU. You do what you do in a different way than all those other people. And then I got it!!! It’s about brand authenticity…but that’s a buzz word. No, it’s something more than that. We spend so much time marketing ourselves that we never learn what kind of skills it takes to actually get something done. Branding is also a distraction.

Also, in my case, it’s my age. I’m still trying to get ‘permission’ to join middle management where in reality, people think I’m ready to retire. But this is stupid. I’ve lived through enough that I see through the crap that goes in in business and I’m not fooled. I know that I’m darn good at anything I do and that the reward for doing well is that you get more work and not necessarily better pay or more say. It’s a certain kind of person who moves up–if there is an “up” at least.  They aren’t always the wisest people or the smartest, but they are often the savviest and sneakiest. (Narcissists are documented as seeking and landing higher positions.)

So a couple of weeks ago, an interesting possibility landed in my lap just as I was contemplating all this. I decided to follow it up because I had just decided that I never want to work for anyone but myself again. This was the perfect opportunity to break that deadlock and establish myself in my field(s) with one fell swoop. I realized that the best thing was to forget about brands and money for the moment and invest in people. Yes, it entails volunteering to take on a project that pays nothing, but it positions me perfectly to help someone I like and also to learn or sharpen the skills I need for where I want to go. (I already have a built-in mentor–my husband.)

Instead of imagining great financial success and professional recognition, I asked myself firstly what I need to survive and secondly what I want my life to be about. I need money, but I also need to quit wasting my life. We go to school to get what? A job? Or maybe not. Maybe it’s to be an educated person and to learn how to think. The two don’t always go together, but in my case they are surely interwoven.

I kept reading materials and the more I read, the more it seemed obvious that I just needed to jump off somewhere–take a plunge. I needed to identify where I wanted to land and then just do it! And then be prepared to run like hell or swim.

I made new business cards, used a new title that covered all sorts of things–it didn’t have to be official. I can use it for all the many kinds of things that I do. I started a plan by writing out these questions:

  • What do I want to do?
  • How does that manifest? (In other words, what does that look like and to what does it apply?)
  • What are my skills?
  • What skills do I need to acquire to do what I want?
  • What do I need to survive?

It was the best thing I ever did. I didn’t need to think too hard. I just needed to think with passion. After answering these things, I needed to ask myself what needs doing to apply what I am able? I have some projects in the works already and need to revisit them.

I know that the answers are coming. I’ll be working on defining my skills and services more exactly as I see how the application of them to what I want to accomplish shapes up. Those skills and services will become the basis of my two-minute pitch in the future.

I never had the courage to take a plunge like this, but I am a woman of prayer.

Finding Your Style (Part 2)

One of the cleverest thoughts that ever came to me when seeking a personal style was the idea to incorporate elements of my fantasy style into clothing for dressier occasions, i.e., formal wear, attire suitable for a wedding, a symphony engagement, and anything else that gives me a little more scope of expression which I’m not bound to wear for more than half a day/night max. [Reminder: As per the first part, I’m defining ‘fantasy style’ as our entire panoply of image recommendations regardless of whether they work with our personality or for everyday. They go objectively with our body and face lines.]

For years I’d toyed with new and improved kinds of dress from all different ages. Those of us whose image lends itself to either timelessness or days-of-old treatments will find it difficult sometimes to make those treatments work believably in our own day and age. It’s tricky to know whether settling for less in a postmodern age improves our living or detracts from it. Here is where a woman must feel out her own comfort level. Perhaps the best bet is to restrict some timeless or antiquish elements of dress to small aspects of our dress or perhaps to only certain kinds of occasions.

For myself, I came out with a predominantly Natural/Angelic blend in the PSC system. This is a great combination if you are a hippie or an artsy sort of person, but it’s generally unworkable in a traditional corporate culture. A lot of women have issues like this if they must work in scrubs or any other kind of uniform that doesn’t go with their personal image. You may or may not be able to overcome that entirely during work–depends on some things. Jill Chivers and Imogen Lamport cover some of that in one of their videos on YouTube.

In addition to timeless elements of dress, I also had the issue that many women with lots of Natural elements have–that of feeling either underdressed or stiffly unnatural on certain occasions. It is something I have had to work around by using elements from my other PSC essences…. but I digress because I wanted to address a comment that a dear Facebook friend made on the PSC system. Her complaint was that many women still didn’t know their personal style and because their recs were often similar – limited to the 7 essences in that system — they tended to dress similarly according to their essence recs. That is, once again, where I found that personality comes into it. How we tweak the givens of our face and body parts has to do with personality. We all have to experiment, but all women of similar types will not want to opt for exactly the same choices.

I personally explored my secondary and tertiary essences for clues, but in the end I had to examine the limitations imposed by the climate I’m currently in and also what made me feel most like ‘myself’. I also noted Imogen’s comment that we can add in elements that, strictly speaking, aren’t among our recs provided they do not dominate us entirely.

Now I want to talk about personal style and branding because the two are closely related. Personal style is part of our brand. I read something the other day about branding yourself for business when there are so many other people out there doing the same things. The author said that YOU are your brand, because no one does what you do quite the same way that YOU do it. Wow. Eye opener. With so many people vying to stand out today, I think the point is to relax and just go with who you are authentically. That IS your brand.

But is it that simple? Sandy Dumont, the Image Architect, has made a career out of turning every style and essence type of woman into a corporate brand similar to herself (this turning people into oneself doesn’t seem unique to her). Does it work? I don’t know. But it depends on what you want to achieve. Is your goal to ascend to the upper strata in a traditional corporation? If you like that, you can go for it.

Edith Head, the famous Hollywood designer, wore a white shirt, black skirt and black glasses as her signature look. I guess what I am driving at is that there is a signature look (a brand) that can be an ‘authentic style’ or a ‘programmed style’–that is to say that this latter isn’t authentic, but it’s programmed to achieve a career effect.

Either way you go, be sure of why you are choosing your direction, or you will remain unsettled within. Personally, I did an inventory of how I really live, how I really want to live, what I value, and so many other things…. Realizing that so much of the advice we receive is according to if we lived in an ideal world, if we could find certain lines and colors while shopping, if we could find something affordable, unique enough, or whatever else, I simply closed my eyes one day and asked myself finally, “What colors and lines, given my assets and limitations, are really the ones that speak to my soul?” (Okay, it wasn’t really that simple, but that’s what I did when I reached the sum total END of this thing.) I decided who I really want to be in all the seasons and craziness of my life. And I went with it. Now I look for things that sing to my heart, as opposed to slavishly imitating my recs or my palette.

And I am finally…at long last…HAPPY.

Finding Your Style (Part 1)

“What’s my personal style? How do I know when I’ve struck ‘oil’ with my style?”

After six years of chasing that question, I took a break. I also set new life goals and lost most of the weight I’d gained since I was 32 when I recovered from a life-threatening case of Graves Disease. After losing the weight, it was like seeing myself with new eyes. In a way, my reflection looked like a stranger staring back in the mirror. But in another way, it was also like seeing an old friend. Familiar faces just look so different when you’ve not seen them in a long time. For one thing, you’ve changed, and for another, so have they (even when you and your ‘friend’ are one and the same person).

For one thing, I saw a pleasing composite of a whole person this time around. Because my image was partially unfamiliar, I wasn’t focused on all the details that needed fixing. It must have been closer to what others see than the way I’ve seen myself. It was, in fact, a rare blessing to have that new perspective. It will, eventually go away (I assume). Meanwhile, I will try to commit to memory the notes I’ve made about the experience so I don’t lose the lessons of that perspective.

Yes, I am getting back to the original style question. What is it? When I quit worrying about it, that’s when I felt secure that I’d found it.

People do seem to fall into types and categories that overlap with other things. Types and categories are a shorthand way of trying to define people. They are helpful and they are also detrimental to finding your style. You can take two women. We’ll call them Sally and Gina. They could be the same image type in one system, and yet they will seem so different. Put them in another system and they will fall into different categories altogether.

Categories are helpful for description. They are based on ways of proportioning personal attributes according to the various ways they manifest. But it is like trying to hold water in your hands to get an actual style of these approaches. They are helpful in knowing what is from what isn’t in your appearance. Style, on the other hand, is how you put it together and is influenced by personality, lifestyle, values, and geographical location.

First come the tools: image and color analysis, understanding body shape. The raw data as in, “This is what you’ve got going on.” And then there is the question: “Where do you want to go with this? What can you do with it? What’s possible? How do you really live? How do you really want to live?”

There is real personal style and there is fantasy personal style. Real style is what works in your life, what is believable concerning you. Fantasy style, as I use the term here, is what could theoretically work for you, but somehow doesn’t feel believable when you walk around in it for some days. That is to say, fantasy style could actually encompass your objective clothing recs, and thus be ‘correct’ in every conventional sense, yet not work as a living expression for you. (Note: for some women fantasy style is their real style, though I think this is not extremely common.)

Imogen Lamport of Inside Out Style remarked more than once that personality trumps everything else when it comes to style. I can imagine that. Have you ever noticed how some people evoke one feeling in a still photograph and something quite different when you see them in person or in a video? You could have a woman (or man, I suppose) with a very restrained classic face and body, but if she has a boisterous personality, something is going to feel ‘off’ if she dresses in all neutrals, classic pearls and kitten heels. You can’t ignore the ‘givens’ of face and body, but you can’t ignore personality either. Something has to be adjusted. An astute analyst might pick up on this (though I doubt most of them do), but in the end it’s up to the woman to feel herself out.

Justine LeConte says that if you want to know your real style, take all the clothes you own and sort out the ones you wear all the time from the ones you almost never wear. Those are the ones you feel most yourself in and that’s your style! (I must add my suspicion that this only works for women who have first informed themselves about style.) I did that mental exercise and came up with my real style (my everyday style) as opposed to the styles I am extremely attracted to (which look great on me) but can’t bear to live in all day long. It was the end of long (and tedious) Pinteresting for ideas. I now know what I can actually stand to live in, the other major factors being weather, professional demands, and the geographical cultural norms where I live.

A Clash of Worlds

The exploration of my inner side has produced a happy clash with my outer intention of dressing. I hope it will turn into a happy contradiction and not a negation.

You see, I like variety and occasional change. So why do I get stuck in a dressing rut? It’s because I also like predictability. I want to know that what could be depended on yesterday can still be depended on today. But even more, there are certain garments that I seem to psychologically imprint on more than others. They feel like an extension of me, my skin, my hair. They become part of my makeup (not cosmetics, but substance).

skirt

Her friends will remember her face, not her skirt and that’s good. They’ll remember her personality. If she wants variety, she can add color somewhere.

It is said that many Natural-type women often feel under-dressed when they go places. I think it must be true. There is a conflict of dressing to the occasion and wanting to be comfortable and hand round the refreshments; a conflict of wanting to look special and wanting to get on with your life.

I ran upon an article about wearing neutral colors. They are utterly forgettable, which is why men can get away with wearing the same suits over and over while adding a tie of a different color every day. No one remarks on how a man wears the same-old same-old the way they do with women. Women have to change entire ensembles, or something’s deemed to be a bit feral about them, as if they haven’t bathed in six months or something.

jeanwrap

Basic jean wrap with a twist. Not a true wrap, but close enough.

Neutrals? “Hmmmm….,” and the wheels started going. So that is why I love jeans–they are often in my best neutral shades. They go with almost literally everything nowadays. And yet, I wouldn’t want to wear that texture on every occasion. What if you don’t want to wear jeans, but you love the color? You wear pants or skirts in a different texture and–voila!–you are socially acceptable. And you can wear two or three skirts/pants in the same color all year long every day and no one will even notice. But careful….they have to be YOUR colors. I have noticed that women who wear the wrong colors like this day in and out look frumpy. But you don’t have to if you play it right.

[Note: Must insert something here. Women who wear black well have an advantage over the rest of us. Black goes with everything, absolutely everything. No one ever tells these women they are under-dressed. I have two dresses the same color. One of them is black. When I wear the black one people ask me what the occasion is — and no, black isn’t “my” color. Because it isn’t, it is going to be more noticeable on me than on someone who really wears it well. Means I can’t depend on it for a day-time go-to, thought it will work in the evening for nearly everyone.]

What does one do if they also love variety? Why, add variety to the top part of you and in your accessories. And, funny, but this is the way I instinctively dressed all the time before we entered the 1980s and I got psychologically stuck in the new styles. Must be I was on to something after all.

wrap

Basic wrap skirt. Careful on bulk around waist for some of us. I like a straight tummy area so I can wear a straight tee over it if I choose.

A basic neutral may take on a hundred different expressions with a change of texture or cut. I, personally, plan to play around with wrap skirts this next season–yes, I plan to start making them. I love the versatility of certain versions of the wrap. I like things you can throw off and on, add a top that changes the whole look. (But careful with wraps that they don’t blow up in the wind!). A person could theoretically make a skirt or pants in their best neutrals and change jewelry, alter the texture of the top piece, and do incredibly simple things while getting completely different looks out of the bottom garment. If you like variety but don’t want to bother your head constantly about creating new ensembles every time you get dressed, this could be a good option.

I would call this a minimalist wardrobe with maximum returns!!!

Let us say, I will be exploring this one. But that is not to say it’s the approach for everyone. It’s just the approach that may be right for me–and similar types.

Regimen Freedom

While I’m on the topic of ‘freedom’, let’s talk about regimen.

The hair. Last post I said I cut it. I still have to keep up with the driest climate and hardest water I’ve even had to deal with. Even my pillowcases soak up my natural oils, and when I wake in the winter I often feel dehydrated. There are more things I do than I’ll write about here, but I will say that my poor hair is in danger of dry ends even though I don’t blow dry it or use styling product! Now THAT’s a dry climate!!!

I started experimenting with lanolin and olive oil on both my hair and skin. Best thing I ever did. Consumer hair products (the ones on the shelves at stores) use cheap detergents that strip the hair. Then they do a patchwork ‘repair’ job for the damage they’ve done you, which makes their conditioners necessary (still don’t work in this climate though). So I found that a bit of pre-shampoo prep with lanolin and olive oil has really helped. I also use it sparingly on the ends of my hair now–very sparingly. Once you mix lanolin and olive oil, it’s extremely oily–more so than just olive oil. But also more moisturizing. It costs a fraction of what you’d pay for a highfallutin store bought conditioner.

I also wash my face now with olive oil (at least in winter) and I dab a touch of lanolin-olive oil mixture on the problem places and blend in all over. To that, I now use BB Cream all over. (I’m not as worried that the BB Cream isn’t totally organic, etc. It sits atop the natural oil I’ve applied.) In the winter, the BB Cream helps protect the skin further and doesn’t show demarcation like my regular foundation starts to when the skin pales a bit from lack of sun. Then I add regular foundation only on the tip of nose (which tends to redden), cheeks, under eyes with maybe a touch on forehead and chin. I blend these in and do not even attempt to cover the whole face. This is all I need to smooth my skin tone.

To that, I apply minimal powder with a blush, only to the tip of my nose and anywhere that might redden up. The point is that, mostly, the foundation is not set. I avoid powder base anywhere I can, because on older skin it sinks into crevices and makes pores noticeable. This is the most natural look you can imagine and goes everywhere!!!

It’s practically effortless. I throw my BB Cream and foundation on first thing and then build my makeup as I feel like it. I don’t wear blush unless I just feel like it, and eye shadow, too. It leaves me free to just live because it takes so little time.