By Erika, Style Expert
This post has everything and nothing to do with fashion . . .
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If I had to give the year 2015 a name, it would be the “Year of Authenticity.” Throughout the year, whether it was during my LeadHership Mastermind course or at my church the focus has been on honesty, authenticity and living a truthful life. It can be really hard to not only live an honest and authentic life, but, more importantly, to admit to yourself that you are living a dishonest and inauthentic life.
Now, when I say “dishonest” and “inauthentic” I do not mean living a completely fraudulent life. We aren’t talking like identity theft or impersonating a person you aren’t here. What I’m talking about are the little white lies we tell ourselves to help us get through the day. Or the mask we put on for others. Or the cruel thoughts we have about ourselves that keep us from making progress in our lives. Personally, I wear the “I’ve got it all together” mask when, in reality, there are certain areas of my life where I’m anything but together. And, the truth of the matter is that, if you wear your mask long enough or deceive yourself long enough the weight of it all becomes absolutely crushing. Sometimes, we don’t even know we are being crushed by the weight of it.
So late this summer, after I had to repair my 2009 BMW 328i for the 4th time in 2015 (to the tune of $3000, on top of the thousands I had already spent on repairs), I decided I needed to make some extra cash. I had been toying with the idea of selling clothes on Poshmark for a while (I joined in 2013) and decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to take the plunge. I started to pull clothes out of my closet that I didn’t wear – because they no longer fit, weren’t my style, or because I simply had never gotten around to wearing them. I dumped them in my office and started photographing and posting them on the app.
I sold my first item about 2 weeks after I started posting – a blue and white bodycon dress I had worn exactly once. I didn’t even wear it out. I wore it to be photographed for this very blog. It was a dress that was gifted to me over a year prior and it hung and hung in my closet. Outside of wearing it in the blog post I never got around to wearing it. My excuse was that I never had any place to wear it. But isn’t true at all. The truth was, although the dress was cute and looked great, I just wasn’t all that into it. But I let it continue to hang in my closet. Why? Honestly, because I didn’t want to hurt the feelings of the (now defunct) boutique owner who gifted it to me. Like she would know what I did with the dress after she sent it. But I just didn’t want her to be mad at me. Which, now reading that, sounds completely ridiculous. But that’s how I felt – I wanted her to be happy with me and like me and want to send more items for me to share with my readers (even if it meant I would never actually wear them outside of a photoshoot). Therefore, I let that dress take up space in my closet for over a year. And, I soon came to realize, that dress was a metaphor for my life – how much space was I letting the expectations of others take up in my life?
The moment I sold that dress I felt like a tiny little weight had been lifted. Sure, making a few bucks on the dress was awesome, but that wasn’t what made me feel lighter. With the sale of that dress I felt like I got rid of the pressure to please the person who gave me the dress. Like I was just a little bit freer. After that, it caused me to look at my closet in an entirely different way. How many other articles of clothing was I holding on to so that I wouldn’t hurt someone’s feelings? How many things had I bought because someone told me I just “had” to have it? How many things had I purchased (knowing I couldn’t afford to purchase them) so that people would have a certain image or perception of me? Yes, I like clothes and I like style – but really, owning four chambray button down shirts doesn’t make me any more stylish than owning one. How much space was the weight of this projected image – which often could not be further from the truth – taking up in my life?
So, I started selling clothes like a mad woman. Yes, to make money because, contrary to what those who count my coins for me thinks, I am not independently wealthy. But more so because I found the experience both freeing and incredibly satisfying. With each piece of clothing I sold I felt like I was chipping away at the unrealistic expectations I had set for myself and that I let others box me into. Sure, I was taking a critical eye to my closet and editing like crazy but I was also taking a critical eye to myself.
What I soon, discovered, was that ridding myself of my clothing was the easy part.
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The truth is, there were lots of areas of my life where I had been lying to myself. My finances were another one. Yes, I do well for myself at my job. But have you ever heard of this thing called life creep? It’s where, every time you get a raise, you figure out a way to spend more of the money you make. So when you’re making $40,000/year your budget is tight. Then, when you make $80,000 your budget is tight because somehow you managed to figure out a way to spend that $40,000 extra – without really knowing where it’s going. Because, let’s be honest, lots of us are not increasing the percentage we save by the exact same percentage raise we get (if you do, kudos to you!).
So yes – are my bills covered? Sure. Am I saving? Mostly. But I realized, I was spending a bunch of money I didn’t really have on a bunch of stuff I didn’t really need to keep up appearances with a bunch of people I didn’t even really like all that much. The perfect example of this was my car. My beautiful BMW, Ruby. I loved that car. I did. And when I got it two years ago I did need a car. Did I need a BMW? Absolutely not. I have always wanted a beamer, but i did not NEED a beamer. However, when the dealer had a pre-owned one that was less than 5 years old with less than 50,000 miles i pretty much convinced myself I needed it. And, I could afford it – because yes, I was doing well for myself. Of course, I totally failed to consider the cost of the gas and maintenance on this foreign beauty. And, when exactly 6 weeks after I bought the car I was in the shop for $1000 worth of repairs, I started to realize what I was in for.
But everywhere I went, work, church, HU, meetings, wherever, people were SO impressed with my car. There are a couple people I know who, quite literally, call me “Beamer.” They have no idea that I ran through over $12,000 in repairs (not one of which were covered by the powertrain warranty I bought with the car) in the two and half years that I owned the car. I could have, quite literally, paid for 3/4 of a less expensive car in that time. It took me a long time to save that money and in two and a half years, it was gone. On a car. That I loved. But I also hated.
There is a special kind of honesty that is reserved for the moment you have to look yourself in the mirror and admit that you can no longer afford your car or what that car really represented – the lifestyle I was portraying. I wasn’t, by any means, on the verge of having it repossessed. But, I also wasn’t in any type of financial situation to withstand the cost of the kinds of repairs I was making to my vehicle. I had dwindled my savings down to practically nothing – for a car! I had to borrow money from my parents – for a car! I’m 32, making more than many 2 income households, and I’m borrowing money to repair a car that I know shouldn’t have bought in the first place. I work at a finance firm and present workshops on financial goal setting and budgeting and I have to admit that financially, I BLEW IT.
And this isn’t the kind of quiet “blew it” where you can sheepishly fall back until the whole thing blows over. This is the kind of “blew it” that everyone is going to ask about when they see you get out of a new, but downgraded, vehicle. This is the kind of visible “blew it” that was so reflective of the areas of my life where I was living as my most inauthentic, dishonest self that I got physically ill at the thought of people finding out the truth and thinking I am a failure. Talk about JACKED up priorities! For months I decided I’d rather go into debt instead of admitting that I bought a car that I just wasn’t ready for at the time.
Around this same time my Pastor started teaching a series about honesty – mostly about being honest with ourselves. What keeps us (ok me, really me) from being honest with ourselves (myself)? Pride. Fear. Anxiety. Other people. Reputation. Hard-headedness. The list goes on. But in that series of teaching I learned so much about the benefits of being honest with myself. About seeing myself for who I am and where I am. About taking the blinders off – so that I could see the bad in my life but ALSO so that I could see the good. It was during that series when I got rid of my BMW and leased a much more reasonable car (with a FULL WARRANTY). I let go of people that I was holding on to and shouldn’t have been. And I had to make some phone calls to others to apologize for some things that i had done. I unburdened myself from the expectations of others.
Most importantly, I unburdened myself from my own expectations.
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As I prepare to step into 2016 here is the only thing I can promise – I will live a truthful and authentic life. That might mean that the YCS blog has extended hiatus’ because I simply didn’t feel like blogging. Or I might post daily because I’m feeling so inspired by my more edited wardrobe. It will mean that I will turn down clients and I won’t feel bad about it (there is no rule you have to work with everyone). It will mean I will say no more than I will say yes. But it will also mean freedom. And happiness. And being at peace with myself.
I don’t actually know what 2016 will bring but you can bet I’ll be authentic all along the way!