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5 Lessons in Personal Style, Expression & Self-Identity

The Doe Team

by The Doe Team

| June 29, 2022

Clothing, makeup, hairstyles. They all are small ways in which we express our self-identity as humans. Check out this article for lessons we learned.

Among the tens of thousands of decisions we make as humans each day, perhaps the most emotionally charged (at least for some) is the choice of what to wear and how to look. For those who struggle with body image issues or have trouble identifying their true self, choosing a piece of clothing may be one of their more daunting tasks.

Whether we like it or not, how we choose to look and what we choose to wear speaks volumes of who we are as people. Clothing, makeup, hairstyles, shoes—they all are small ways in which we express our self-identity as humans. What we choose to wear and how we choose to present ourselves when we are in public send nonverbal cues to those around us. And likewise, what we choose to wear can affect our confidence, our behaviors, personality, mood and attitude.

It’s what researchers have termed “enclothed cognition.”

Enclothed cognition describes “the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer's psychological processes.” In other words, what we wear can directly impact our emotions, self-value, attitudes to ourselves and others and our interpersonal interactions. This is in part due to the symbolic meaning that society attributes to certain types of clothing and the simple physical experience of wearing certain clothes. 

Think about when you meet someone who is impeccably dressed, with carefully styled hair and clean nails. You likely look at this person and think, “They seem to have their life together.”

Conversely, when you meet someone who is disheveled, with unkempt hair, and clearly isn’t taking very good care of their outward appearance, your first thought is likely, “They seem to be struggling.”

Right or wrong, we not only evaluate others but we evaluate ourselves based on clothing and appearance. 

In this blog, we take a deep dive into some of The Doe’s style narratives and consider the style lessons each author shares with readers. These style essays give us a peek into the concepts of self-expression, identity and the pressures we feel as people to look a certain way.

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I Have Been Defeated by My Pants

In this essay, the author shares his lifelong struggle and journey to find a sense of personal style. As he gets older, he recognizes his body will change and fail him in certain ways, but he doesn’t quite understand the inability to find a pair of pants that won’t slide down his body.

While the struggle reaches its climax in his quest for a pair of pants that will stay up, it’s this battle that finally brings clarity to the author—he will forever be that young boy in nerdy “Superman glasses” and the college freshman in the copycat motorcycle jacket of his college roommate. And while he’s getting rounder in the middle and can’t bend over without straining, he’s still doing pretty good for 50. 

By the end, he reaches acceptance of his fate: He’ll never find the right pants, and he’ll never quite be the perfect, stylish person he had yearned to be. And he realizes there’s freedom in that acceptance.

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I Started Dressing for Comfort and Gained My Confidence Back

In this essay, the author shares her battle to hide parts of her body by how she dressed. 

She chose clothes based on their ability to fulfill the imaginary version of herself she had in her mind. Her choices had little to do with fashion and everything to do with concealing her thighs. Eventually, she grew tired of worrying so much and of trying to diet and squish her body into submission. 

Rather than continue the exhausting battle, she chose to accept her body as it was. She found power in that acceptance. And she found her personal style.  

Instead of choosing clothes that hid her body, she chose clothes for pleasure and for how they felt on her body. She found that once she chose comfort and pleasure, she began to explore self-expression. And through the ease she began to feel in her own body, she found a sense of confidence. Most importantly, she came to the realization that what anyone says can’t take away what she feels for herself.

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How I Grew Out of My Conservative Style and Found Confidence

In this fashion essay, the author shares his transformation from a Target-wearing, fashioned-by-mom guy to a designer-clothing, colorful, confident man.

Yes, part of this metamorphosis was due to simply growing up and maturing, but a large part came from being exposed to new ideas and expressions of self via social media. His journey to becoming his true self took a few years, but blooming into a confident and expressive person was worth the wait.

After some trial and error (hello, ultra skinny jeans), he began learning about the importance of personal style, drawing inspiration from other people’s self-expression of style. He eventually stumbled upon his hidden talent of creating stunning color combinations. 

Like most of us, he struggled with imposter syndrome as he began posting his fashion on Instagram and contending with negativity from commenters. Ultimately, he found that the freedom that comes from embracing one’s personal style and creativity far outweighs the occasional troll. 

As he embraced more and more avant-garde fashion choices, his confidence grew. Trust in yourself and remember, confidence is the key to pulling off literally any style.

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What I’ve Learned About Myself—and Society—Through Developing My Personal Style

In this fashion essay, the author shares why she so strongly believes that fashion and clothes allow us to express ourselves and connect to others in a way that spoken language cannot.

While she has been challenged before on the sometimes vain and vapid nature of fashion, she also argues that fashion isn’t as frivolous as we make it out to be. It speaks volumes about our personalities, insecurities, hopes, dreams and attitudes to others.

Without fashion, we would not have the tools to express ourselves. She admits to using fashion as a means of self-expression and self-discovery.

As a personal stylist, she notes she is often granted a peek into a person’s soul: their insecurities, their opinions of themselves, their hopes and their memories. Whether we care to admit it, clothes have meaning. (See enclothed cognition.) We tend to add emotional value to clothing that is tied to certain moments, memories and feelings. 

And how we choose to dress reflects not only our emotional and mental health but our desire to be accepted as part of a larger community of people while also maintaining our sense of self-identity.

Fashion tells a story—our story.

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I Want Preventative Botox Because I'm Insecure, Not Empowered

In this personal essay, the author calls out the hypocrisy that is intrinsic in the aesthetic self-care industry. 

Upon the occasion of turning 30, the author reflects on the undue pressures she feels to remain young, firm and attractive. She argues that women must remain ageless. That’s the simple ask of society. And while there exists a billion-dollar industry aimed at fighting the ravages of age for women, she asks, “At what cost?”

Women are told to use this cream, that serum, suck that in and inject a neurotoxic protein that causes flaccid paralysis (Botox). Why? Because women must remain ageless. 

But all of these miracle products are simply designed for one thing: to monetize the fear of getting older. Women are taught the necessities of being an attractive, viable woman in society: shave excess hair, wear makeup and use products that claim to reverse aging. Those who don’t face ridicule, shame and guilt. 

Where do self-care and self-identity begin and where does beauty marketing speak end? And perhaps women feel better when they shave their legs, put on a little makeup and wear nice things. But let’s not pretend. Instead of blindly complying with the myth of womanhood, let's keep our eyes wide open to the limiting views of femininity.

Conclusion

Personal style and self-expressions are just that—personal, unique and intimate choices we make with ourselves. And yet, how we choose to look (whether it’s clothing or personal care) speaks volumes to those around us, whether we intend to or not. 

Hopefully, the lessons from these five essays on style and personal expression can help you on your own individual journey to self. 

For more stories on style and gaining a deeper understanding of self, explore more narratives found on The Doe.

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