Happiness is hard. I don’t want it to be, but it is. Growing up I took my happiness for granted, sauntering through each day unencumbered by anxiety, self-consciousness, and doubt, never guessing that once I finally became an adult I’d often struggle to feel content, joyous, and serene. The adult world is full of debt and responsibility, comparison and fear, confusion, judgment, tough decisions, and failure. The adult world can transform happiness into a rare commodity, and many of us struggle to capture it.
Happiness is even harder when you hate your body. You may have amazing friends, a loving partner, incredible family members, a rewarding job, a fulfilling spiritual life, and enriching hobbies but if you loathe your physical form you’ll always feel a bit hollow. You may feel that you should be happy, but unable to access the emotion because you’re constantly brought up short by your self-consciousness and discomfort.
In my experience, the path to happiness often begins with self-love and body acceptance. If you want to feel fulfilled and rewarded but can’t love the skin you’re in, you’re setting yourself to a well-nigh impossible task. Learning to be kind to yourself, to respect your body’s needs and natural shape, to be thankful for everything your body does, to celebrate the physical alongside the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual inevitably leads to increased confidence, gratitude, and contentment. Loving your body can be absolutely key to unlocking personal happiness.
Now, HOW you learn to love your body is the real question. And, as you undoubtedly know by now, I believe that body knowledge gained through explorations of personal style can foster self-love and self-respect. Style has a very real impact on body image, and I am convinced that dressing well expresses self-respect and self-understanding. This was my path: I hated my body, resented it, longed to change it and fought to suppress it until I discovered that I could, instead, celebrate it by dressing in fun, flattering, and form-fitting clothes. I learned to love my body by learning to dress it well. And I write here in hopes that some of you can do the same.
BUT I feel compelled to point out that I don’t believe that style is the only way to unlock self-love, or that self-love is the only path to happiness. And I feel further compelled to explain that what I really want for you – all of you – is simple happiness. That’s it, nothing more. I don’t want you to be trendmeisters, I don’t want you to be style mavens, I don’t want you to feel pressured to look paparazzi-worthy every day of your lives, I don’t want you to be expert shoppers or figure-flattery experts. Not unless you want those things for yourselves. But I do want you to love yourselves and feel joy. I truly do. I learned to love myself and feel joy by diving headfirst into the world of fashion, so that’s what I write about here. But it’s a big, diverse, complex world full of people and experiences and thought-processes and activities that may make you WORLDS happier than focusing on your style ever could. And I honestly love that.
Happiness is the point. Style is just a way.
Image courtesy Adam Cohn.