As of late, I have been overwhelmingly inundated with opportunities for self-reflection, development, and increased self-awareness….and I say this with such gratitude and appreciation for it all. Over the course of the past month or so, I’ve participated in various company-sponsored workshops, completed the last module of my coaching certification program through the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching , and attended Oprah’s Live the Life You Want Tour!
I have just been in “reaching higher heights” overdrive and it has been absolutely fabulous!!! My struggle in the midst of all of this with everything that I took away from each experience was what do I share and how do I articulate it. This afternoon though, as I finally go to my September issue of Essence, Editor-in-Chief, Ms. Vanessa K. Bush, put perfectly into words what my greatest takeaway from all these experiences was: “is it emotionally healthy to be so obsessed with how things appear on the outside that we neglect what’s within?”
Yes, my ‘ah-ha’ came in the form of her question but what it really articulated for me was the fact that we do spend quite a bit of time, daily, thinking about and putting effort into how we look, externally, that we really don’t naturally balance it with investment in the internal that is needed. See, what’s happened for me over the past month is a great investment of time and energy into my “within”, my inner being, my spiritual self that has nothing but a positive yield already in progress. As a result of this, I know more about me, who I am, what I am and what I will be, even more so than I knew before (which I just didn’t anticipate) that I am daily shifting my focus from what I look like externally to who I projecting internally. Does this mean I don’t care what I look like? Yeah, absolutely not. I’m not a fashion aficionado but I will never look a hot mess! What this does mean though is that I absolutely do spend more time preparing for how Farah will show up than I do on what Farah will show up in.
This directly ties to the second branding phase of self-definition where we decide how we want to be viewed, perceived and experienced in this world…and live intentionally toward that self-definition. And so where do we go from here, dressing from within? Well, we make a conscious decision, again, about how we intend to show up. When I’m going through this phase and exercise with clients, many different words come up:
Confident, kind, assured, professional, well-respected,
funny, strategic, happy, talented, genuine, vocal,
authentic, fun, ambitious, interesting, witty,
knowledgeable, positive, unique, likeable,
trustworthy, mature, smart, educated,
I could go on and on but what I want you to take note of is that these are all internal attributes. This is where dressing from within starts. So what is the full-process?
1-Identifying key internal attributes in which you will “dress” yourself every day, and use as the lens through which you view yourself and project daily. For me, it’s joy, confidence, and optimism. I choose to live as the meaning of my name, joy, operating confidently, no matter what the circumstance and being optimistic even in the face of situations that can appear as more challenge than opportunity. Ms. Bush actually drew upon Colossians 3:12 to answer this for herself:
“Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.”
How will you clothe yourself?
2-Manage your style to reflect your inner dressing. Whatever definition(s) you choose, reinforce it through the external. For me, joy is all about vibrancy and colors so I use my jewelry to reinforce that, especially as most of my jewelry has a story of joy-my bangles from India which was a land in a dream I had to get there before I thought it was actually even possible…my BC class ring representing a great achievement for myself and my family…or my earrings, treasured gifts from my mom for my eighth grade graduation…yup. Tracee Ellis Ross once said, style is not about what you wear but how your wear what you have on. Style on my friends.
3-No matter what, always reflect your own authenticity. There is no value in imitation beyond flattery….and that only lasts for a short time. True value lies in recognizing your unique place in this world, reflecting your higher calling, your purpose, and loving yourself enough to live authentically. Simplest example of this is my adoration of Lena Horne and Audrey Hepburn. I mean talk about living fabulously fierce at its best! Their talent, their style, and their witty personalities…just fabulous beyond measure. Now while imitating either of them is nothing negative, if I spent all my time imitating them, or others whom I adore, for that matter, my own authenticity would be lost. This is a truth that I’ve long accepted but it wasn’t until two weeks ago when one of my mentees called me after attending one of our programs and shared “at the end of the program, we were told that the only reason we were there was because someone influenced us by modeling what it is that we want to be just because they were their authentic selves for us…and we should find a way to just reach out and thank them…so I’m sorry to bother you on a Saturday, but I really just wanted to thank you for being you because we met when I was totally lost and you didn’t even know it then, but you really helped me figure out how to be myself, and that that would always be my best….because you were always yourself. “ Ummmm…WHOA! The kid hit me like a ton of bricks! I share this, absolutely not to toot my own horn, though I’m learning how to do more of that, but to highlight the impact of authenticity in our day to day, not just for ourselves, but for all with whom we interact.
Yeah, there’s been a lot that I’ve wanted to share over these past few weeks and this is just the beginning of what it’s all meant to me. So, here’s to you joining in with me in dressing from within…essentially letting the light within you shine and inspire through your authenticity.