The 4 Biggest Ways You Get in the Way of Looking Your Best

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

Laurel Kinney’s personal styling business is much more than just the superficial. With a background in social work, she believes “fashion should support you, be an enjoyable creative outlet that makes you feel confident, and the process of shopping for a wardrobe you love shouldn’t be a rule-filled pain, but a fun and easy endeavor with positive results.”

With 2018 officially here, I asked Laurel to share some of the most common ways we get in the way of our own style…and how we can get out of the way. Use her advice (not rules!) to start the new year off on your most stylish foot.

Laurel writes:

Our closets are these smallish, usually windowless, spaces in our bedrooms where we spend only a minor fraction of our day. We tend to stand in front of them as if they’re soothsayers, asking the space to tell us what we should wear. Our closets, like crystal balls, hold the potential to make or break our confidence on any given day. That feeling you get when you put on those jeans that fit you perfectly and you KNOW make your butt look amazing? The awkwardness of wearing a shirt whose buttons are gaping, causing you to pull at it every five minutes?

The clothes we wear tell the world who we are at first glance, and when something’s off in our closets, our whole personality takes a hit.

As we start to hibernate at home, it’s a rich time to take a deeper look at what’s inside our closets. Maybe you feel ready for more than just a few quick closet-sorting strategies (which I will get to later) and want to start to truly evaluate your wardrobe and what it communicates about you, now. First, you have to take a hard look at how you may be blocking your own style from fully flourishing. When we learn how to break down the barriers that prevent us from sending the most authentic message about ourselves via our clothing, we can more mindfully go about sorting through what we have and might need to add.

(Image credit: Chris Perez)

Once you understand your body type and what you want to express to the world, you can look for options to elevate your personal style at any price point you’re comfortable with.

The following are probably the most common reasons we put off anything related to our style game:

(Image credit: Chris Perez)

Trying new things is TERRIFYING (so let’s just avoid it).

Sure, you can read a thousand different closet-cleaning blog posts and tips, but what happens when you realize you don’t like anything in your closet (or very little of it) and have to start over? It’s overwhelming and scary, and most of us will put it off for as long as possible, for fear of getting it wrong. Maybe you don’t want to look like you’re trying too hard, or would rather appear to not care at all rather than be mistaken for superficial, silly, or whatever other story you tell yourself about what others will think of you if you wear a skirt for the first time. The truth is that when you begin upping your style game, people will give you attention for a day or two, maybe you’ll hear a few “when’s your job interview?” jokes, but then it just becomes normal again.

Don’t let these fears get in the way of your self-expression. When you truly feel great in your clothes, all people will see is confidence anyway.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

It’s too much work.

Sure, figuring out your personal style is something that does take a bit of up-front effort if it’s something you haven’t considered for a while (or ever). But think of all the work you might be doing now, having to set the record straight for people who are reading you wrong because your clothes aren’t in line with who you really are? Maybe you’re a young exec who has to work a little harder than your older colleagues do to look the part of the competent professional, or perhaps you’ve transitioned to a creative field from a more conservative one and fear appearing too stuffy, or maybe you’ve had a change in size and none of your clothes fit anymore, which can send incorrect messages about how comfortable you are in your own skin. It’s hard work to fight against a first impression that’s 80% visual, and 100% incorrect. Doing some work now to figure out what you want your clothing to reflect about you will save you tons of even more difficult work down the line, and will be easier to make tweaks to in the future once you’re aware of the tools you need to keep it up (so keep reading)!

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

We think our bodies aren’t good enough.

This one is super common. The truth is that everyone from a size 00 to a 42 can think of something they don’t love about their bodies. The good news is that clothing can be used to emphasize what we DO love and to de-emphasize what we’re less crazy about body-wise. Not being totally happy with your size/weight/kneecaps is not an excuse to avoid personal style. Sometimes, making a few tweaks NOW will help get you motivated to reach your exercise goals, or to be a little nicer to yourself in the meantime (because you look awesome in that new shirt)!

Not being totally happy with your size/weight/kneecaps is not an excuse to avoid personal style.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

You’re on a budget.

Well, who isn’t? We often will invest in all sorts of other things before we invest in new clothes, because our house/kids/pet rabbit come first, or we think maybe it’s superficial to spend money on clothes. Taking the time each day to care for ourselves by getting dressed in something that shows a little bit of who we are to the world can improve our mood, confidence, and our desire to connect with other people. That’s far from superficial. You definitely don’t need to spend tons of money on any given item, either. Once you understand your body type and what you want to express to the world, you can look for options to elevate your personal style at any price point you’re comfortable with.

→ Are you inspired to dig in a little deeper on this personal style business yet? Here are questions to ask yourself (so you don’t end up with a closet of clothes you never wear next year). You can also dive into sorting your closet like a professional stylist.

→ You can read more about Laurel’s personal styling business on her website.

Or follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

And see Laurel’s house tour from 2013