This week, I’m reflecting on style, fashion, how the way we dress can affect our self-confidence, and how it has affected mine.
It is notoriously easy to spot a Brit abroad. Sometimes it’s the men whipping off their tops the minute it tips 20 degrees, sometimes it’s the bright pink sunburn, and sometimes it’s the unmistakable accent. Since first moving abroad several years ago, I practically have the art of identifying Brits from a distance down to a science. (And, yes, I am aware that I am equally as identifiable).
Although, I actually don’t speak with my native accent anymore. I spend most of my time with non-native English speakers, who find it much easier to understand me when I pronounce all of my consonants. This has sort of accidentally become my default accent, at least when I’m outside of the UK, but the second I hear another British person speak, I snap straight back into my native northern English accent. I discovered the extent of this recently when my friend and fellow Brit, Daisy, came to visit. I started speaking like an English person again, and none of my other friends could understand a word I said.
Daisy lives abroad, too, and she told me something that’s been on my mind lately. She said that her friends tell her she looks like a Brit abroad because of the way she dresses. She has a “British sense of style”. And, although I’m not sure I could describe it to you, I know exactly what she means.
Despite London being a fashion capital of the world, I think that’s more down to its multiculturalism and thriving economy than the taste of its native residents. As Brits, we’re much more inclined to dress for the cold or follow the social codes of our fellow English-speakers across the pond than we are to follow in the fashionable footsteps of Paris or Milan.
So How Does Style Relate to Self-Confidence?
I have had an interesting relationship with fashion and style over the years. Or, should I say, my lack thereof. As a teen and a young adult I went through just about every phase you could imagine, and by the time that was over I had started travelling. For more two years I didn’t stay in the same place for longer than three months at a time. My concern was much more “how can I fit my entire wardrobe into one backpack” than “is this going to look good on me”.
At first, I felt liberated. Having spent the previous five years telling everyone I was saving up to travel and having the confidence to do precisely 0 travelling, finally doing it felt like a huge achievement. This minimalistic version of my wardrobe felt like a perfect representation of that. I liked living out of a rucksack. I liked being mobile. I still don’t own a lot of stuff, and I like it that way, even though I am quite settled now.
This casual disregard for fashion became part of who I was. I’m not sure I can quite put it into words, but it came from a place of self-confidence. I wore the same jewellery every day, never put on makeup, let my hair dry in its natural waves and had seven tops on rotation. I stripped myself back to the bones and learned to be confident as me, not as whatever facade I had decided on that week. It did me a lot of good, I can tell you that for sure, despite what happened next.
Besides, when you’re travelling, you’re too busy having fun and meeting people and seeing things to worry about how you look. All you need is a light tan, a little bleach in your hair, and you’re good to go. (Okay, I’ll admit it, the bleach was a mistake).
Skip back to the first article in this series…
The Pitfalls of Taking Confidence for Granted
A problem with this way of living developed over time.
I thought I had just ✨become✨ a confident person, and didn’t really think about the fact that that could change. Confidence and self-assurance is fluid; it will come and go throughout your life, so don’t take it for granted when you have it. Look after it, nurture it, and make sure it sticks around.
As I started to settle back into life with more of a routine, I forgot to start putting effort into me again. This would have been a good time to step-up my self care, but I didn’t. It didn’t really occur to me, honestly. And so, far too slowly for me to notice, my confidence level came down to meet my level of self-care, instead of the other way around.
I didn’t even notice that I was losing my confidence until a brief stint dating an Italian this year made me realise I needed to up my game. (If there’s anyone that knows how to treat themselves, it’s got to be the Italians).
Now, it wasn’t just clothes, but that was a big part of it. I think that in my quest to save money for my next big trip, I had forgotten to be kind to myself. I had stopped treating myself, stopped striving for newness, stopped ordering food when I was too tired to cook and going hungry instead (I could write a whole article about the first time I ordered takeout just for myself). Without realising it, I had started teaching myself that I wasn’t important enough to be taken care of.
I have decided to actively work on this part of myself, but it’s not going to happen overnight.
One thing that did happen (almost) overnight, was the boost in confidence I got when I went on a shopping spree and started dressing like I meant it. Now, I’m not going to become a style guru overnight (I think that will forever be out of reach), but I feel like I want to shout from the rooftops about the way that my self-confidence changed when I started putting in some effort.
After the magazine launched, I finally had time to cut my hair and paint my nails, and I felt like a new woman. I’m a little disappointed in how long it took me to realise what a disservice I was doing myself.
I’m not saying that you need to go out and buy yourself a whole new wardrobe, or even that you need to start dressing better (you probably already dress better than I do). But if there’s something that makes you feel good, I urge you to do more of it. Self-care is important, for more than just your physical wellbeing, whatever that means to you.