By Mary Clewley
When I worked as a pastor and chaplain I had to dress in my best everyday because I was a woman in a male-dominated profession. Whether we like to admit it or not, we often judge others and make assumptions about their character, ability to do a job and even socio-economic status based on appearance. The way we dress also speaks volumes about the way we care for ourselves.
My closet was full of power suits, silk blouses, pencil skirts, tailored jackets and heels. I spent about an hour each morning putting myself together to face the day. Then it happened: I got sick. I ended up leaving the pastorate and my job as a chaplain. Everything changed. The beautiful clothes in my closet began gathering dust. Day after day as I struggled with illness, my clothes were a constant reminder of the way my life as I had known it had changed. I felt tormented because I had spent so much time and care choosing each piece and found myself suddenly without any opportunity to wear them.
As I struggled with illness, I found myself more comfortable in yoga pants and t-shirts. My dresser drawers were suddenly filled with a variety of very casual clothes. Many of these clothes made me feel even worse about my situation, as they did not fit my body the way they used to. My daughter did a “closet intervention”, and we spent many long days while I was sick going through my dresser drawers and closet –making me try on each piece, keeping only what I looked and felt great in.
It was during this long process of purging my wardrobe that I began to recognize what a powerful impact our clothes have on the way we feel about ourselves. Our sense of self-esteem is reflected by our clothing choices. A great jacket, blouse or sweater and pencil skirt or pair of jeans with a fabulous fit can actually change our attitudes toward ourselves and the world around us. A great outfit can change the way we see ourselves, and the way we perceive and accept others.
When we rise in the morning and put on our best selves, making intentional choices about our clothing, it becomes an act of self-care, discipline and the cultivation of hope in all that the day may bring. It is an act of optimism when we dress for our best selves. This process is about more than just clothing; it is an act of being fully present, fully alive, regardless of our health, emotional state or circumstances. Something amazing happens when we dress for our best selves. It changes the trajectory of our lives.
When a friend invited me to join the GYPO Style Challenge, I had been through a dormant season in my life, struggling to hold onto hope during illness. Through the challenge and the resulting connection with a group of inspiring women, the fashionista inside of me was reborn. The thought of reinventing myself once again sparked joy in my heart, and I found myself excited to get up get dressed, connect with fellow participants and think about which pieces fit comfortably into my current lifestyle. As I began to feel better about my clothing choices, I felt motivated to go out and got a new haircut. I also began to explore ways to care more holistically for my body, mind and spirit. I started getting massages, bought pretty nail polish to make my hands and toes feel pretty. I got serious about self-care.
As a pastor, I had taught self-care to thousands of women, yet years later I found myself lacking in this discipline. Dressing for the best you is an intentional act of self-care. It begins right where we are in life and gives us the confidence that the things for which we hope are possible. Developing any sort of discipline requires order and intention. Working toward being our best requires us to take the small spark within ourselves and light it. Just as we dress with intention, we also put intention into caring for our bodies and souls, giving them the attention they need and developing daily discipline to care and nurture them.
Like the capsule wardrobe, putting on our best selves will spark something inside of us that says, “I am worthy. I am beautiful. My present circumstance does not control my destiny. There is hope.” In closing, we do not have hope because of the way we dress, but the hope within us beckons us to get up each day and be our best selves, to live with intention and to walk as confident women through the day that is before us.
ABOUT MARY CLEWLEY
Mary Clewley is a former pastor and hospital chaplain. An author of several prayer journaling workbooks, she also writes, blogs, teaches and speaks on hope and cultivating an inspired life. She believes in a philosophy of cultivating hope in everyday living as an integral component of ongoing spiritual formation. Through her website and social media, Mary teaches a group of 4500 women on the importance of focus on the interior life and the spiritual disciplines of prayer, study, solitude and worship. Mary is very connected to her readers, and seasonally writes devotionals to help them work through each page of her prayer journaling workbooks. She has taught self-care classes at seminaries, cancer centers, to hospital staff and through her women’s events.
You can learn more about Mary and her ministry at: www.hopefilledliving.com
Registration for the Spring 2016 Style Challenge will be closing soon. Sign up now to get your spring trends shopping list and a spring capsule wardrobe with 21 days of outfit ideas. Feel confident in your clothing this spring. Get more info and sign up HERE.