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Low self esteem is a great cause of stress as it determines how we think, talk, walk, relate to others and also how we dress: and all of that of course determines how others react to us.
Ultimately we know that what we really need to address is the root cause. But we are not just ‘minds’ or ‘souls’ – we have bodies too. Most of us will have to admit that a part of our self-confidence – or lack of it – comes from how we look.
With this in mind we asked Sue Donnelly, an experienced image coach and author of ‘The 80/20 Makeover’ and ‘Does my Belly Look Big in This?’ to give you (and us!) some tips.
Here is what Sue has to say:
Dress Up Your Self-Confidence
How many times have you looked in the mirror when you’re feeling low and seen nothing you can be proud of? If you’re anything like the majority of us, I expect the answer is many times. Instead of looking at the whole person, we look only at the parts of ourselves that we don’t like: my tummy’s enormous; I wish my breasts were smaller/larger; just look at these stretch marks. All our self-confidence seems to be drained away. Sound familiar?
When you’re feeling this way, your clothes don’t seem to work for you either. I bet many of you try on garment after garment, tossing them aside with frustration as none of them seem to fit the bill.
There are times in our lives when it can feel like a massive struggle to gain any amount of self-confidence. The world is a dark place and it seems hard to find the light at the end of the tunnel. However, help is at hand.
In the corporate world, there is a business term known as The Spiral of Success. In essence the theory states that when you look good, you feel good and your self esteem increases. In turn, this will enable you to project yourself with more conviction and self-confidence. Others are drawn to you, so you are likely to gain more positive responses from work associates, family, friends and even strangers. From a business or romantic stance you are more likely to gain trust and respect with a resulting positive impact on your relationships and, ultimately, your bottom line.
The success of T.V. programmes such as ‘What Not To Wear’ and ‘10 Years Younger’ have proved that both women and men can increase their self-confidence by changing the way they dress. Newly discovered optimism and enthusiasm emerge, and suddenly life does not look so bleak after all.
Changing your appearance, for one that is authentic and flattering, can be the first major step in gaining back your self-confidence. Imagine looking in the mirror and saying “wow, I look fabulous”. That’s what dressing up your confidence is all about. An additional benefit to looking and feeling fantastic is that you can spend more time doing the things you love rather than spending the time worrying about your appearance. So what have you got to lose?
Here are my top tips for looking modern and stylish, whatever your age or shape. Although they are geared more towards women, the principles can still apply to the men out there.
1. Enhance your body
It’s someone’s birthday and you have the task of wrapping a spherical object (e.g. a football). How easy is it to make the gift look well presented using everyday wrapping paper?
The same problem can also apply to “wrapping” our bodies. Trying to dress a curvy body in a stiff, starchy fabric is as difficult as wrapping a golf ball in an envelope. It won’t fit properly unless lots of adjustments are made. Even the most expensive paper will not enhance the shape of the object. Furthermore, the package tends to look bigger and shoddily wrapped, however hard you’ve tried.
Conversely, a straight, angular object like a ruler does not fit well inside a flimsy wrapping. The corners poke through and the wrapping easily slips.
I’m not suggesting any of us is completely rotund or as straight as a stick but all of us lean more towards one shape than the other.
Looking at your body in an objective way and understanding your unique shape will determine how you can dress it in a way that will always look fantastic and do wonders for your self-confidence. Neither contoured (round) or angular (straight) is the best option, both can look terrific if you understand some of the style principles and use them accordingly.
Understand what fabrics and shapes suit you best. Don’t ignore it. Contoured shapes need drapier fabrics that skim over the curves. Angular shapes need stiff, starchy fabrics to enhance the straight lines.
2 Wear the correct size
There is no actual standardisation in the size of women’s clothing in the UK, so all of us will have at least 3 different sizes in our wardrobe, and that’s not counting garments for fat/thin days! If you wear clothes that are too small, you will look bigger. If you wear clothes that are too big, you’ll look dwarfed. Either scenario will drain your self-confidence. This also applies to accessories, so if you’re a smallish build do not carry an extra large briefcase – it will undermine you.
3. Wear Flattering Colours
Especially near to your face. Warm skins need warm tones like olives, golds, browns to enhance your glow. Cool skins need cool tones like blue and pink to flatter the skin. The wrong colour can drain and add years.
Bright colours in shiny fabrics will stand out and draw attention to you. A less obvious and slimmer look can be acquired by wearing darker colours in a matt fabric. Try to mix and match when you can. Dressing in dark colours all the time can depress you. When choosing your colours, think about a colour that lifts and motivates you. If it’s too overpowering to wear all over your body, add a hint of the colour in a handbag, shoes or a tie.
4. Foundation is Key
Wearing the right size underwear is critical. Get yourself measured on an annual basis. If you are overweight, you can appear to lose up to a stone just by wearing the correct bra. Lacy bras may look good in the bedroom but they don’t work so well under a T-shirt.
VPL (visible panty line) is a no go area, so search the shops for knickers which sit flush against the skin. If your tum’s got a life of it’s own, try magic knickers – they do a marvellous job.
5. Spend Wisely
Buy only what makes you feel fantastic and self-confident. I purchased an expensive, designer handbag in green leather a few months ago. It has never been off my shoulder and every morning I get a real buzz just from looking at it. All your purchases should make you feel like this.
Less is more is often the key to perfect accessorising. Too many accessories can give you the “chandelier” effect. Pick just one great accessory to add some dramatic impact. A large, ethnic necklace or bracelet, a leather linked belt slung low around the hips, a fur gilet, or a cropped cardigan (great if you’re small chested) will all look fabulous. Don’t forget your hosiery either. We tend to think that tights are just mundane things we put on everyday. This year, they are making a statement of their own. So use flesh fishnets or dark patterned tights if you want to make a statement and still look good. If these are still too much for you, go for a stunning pair of shoes or a handbag.
Men – think about your tie. This is the one area where you can really put your personality into your clothing. A word of warning though – novelty ties are not novel or humorous.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. If you’ve had the same look for years, make the transition easier by adding small changes until you become comfortable and confident with the new look you. If you are already more adventurous, try more modern garments and see how you feel. You can always use mail order catalogues and try them on at home.
8. Stand up Straight
A poor posture can ruin any outfit. So if you’ve made all this effort, make sure you can carry it off to your best advantage by standing tall. In yoga, they refer to the bandhas and in pilates, the core. This is the place in your body where you need to concentrate your effort. Place 2 fingers widthways below your navel and pull it in. Make sure you can also breathe! If done regularly, it will strengthen your abdominals and make you appear straighter. Imagine a string being pulled from the top of your head. Move into this position and pull your shoulders down and back. There you have it – perfect posture and a younger, thinner you, exuding self-confidence.
9. Learn to accept a compliment
Many of us respond with “this old thing!” or similar when someone tells us how nice we look. Imagine that compliment was a bouquet of flowers or a gorgeous box of chocolates. Would you throw them back to the person who gave them to you? No, you’d readily accept them with thanks, which is, of course, what you should do with the compliment. If it’s difficult, just get used to saying thank you and then keeping quiet. After all, it’s an insult to the giver if you’re saying you don’t agree with their judgement of how you look. People with self-confidence know how to give and receive compliments.
10. Celebrate Your Assets
Last but not least and probably the most important tip of the list.
It would be great if we could have an angel wave a magic wand over us and suddenly we’re beautiful. Sadly, that is not going to happen. This does not mean that we too cannot be beautiful.
A panel of experts recently looked at the question of beauty. Their findings were interesting reading. In summary, the most important qualities of a ‘beautiful’ person are self-confidence, happiness, charisma and authenticity.
Unfortunately, most of us dwell on what we lack, rather than what assets we have. All of have parts of our bodies that we don’t like. What we forget is that usually they are compensated by something which is fantastic. For instance, if you have a large tum, odds are you’ll have a great bum. Large boobs and a short waist usually sit with long legs. Shorter legs often go hand in hand with a long body and a flat tum. A wrinkled face may belong to a slim body whereas a plumper body can often result in younger looking skin. So turn your attention to the assets you have. Remember, the more you draw attention to your challenges by talking about them, the more others will notice. Conversely, the more your appearance boosts your self-confidence, the more natural, relaxed and attractive you will be.
So embrace your best qualities and dress them to your advantage. Show off your personality and celebrate your uniqueness. There is only one you and you ARE beautiful.