Reconciling the confidence of my style with the confidence found in my true self
Written by Leah Lou of Leah Lou Style
I have never liked being told what to do, and from an early age, I didn’t ask for permission. I was more preoccupied with doing exactly what the boys were doing than with brushing my hair, bringing home field-trip permission slips or remembering it was picture day (sorry Mom!). The undercurrent of rebellion has always lured me, and even now it’s central to my identity, constantly reminding me that I am alive and in charge of my whole being.
Of course, growing up, I still struggled with things like body image (being told you are President of the Itty-Bitty Titty Committee at the middle school bus stop adds salt to that wound), social pressure, parental guidelines, my own criticisms, and other insecurities. But it was always my ability to try new things and form my own opinions that shaped and supported how I expressed my views.
My early sense of self-assurance first manifested itself in my sense of style. I would wear clothes, jewelry, and accessories that I deeply loved. I would gravitate toward certain pieces that I couldn’t wait to figure out how to wear. I developed a special love for “pulling things off” and making dressing myself look easy.
While this external sense of confidence came naturally to me, it wasn’t until after college that I discovered there was another layer to confidence. I knew how to take up space outwardly with my style and outfits, but not how to use my voice to support my body and the love and behavior it deserved.
I learned there was a new confidence to discover within my “true inner voice.”
So I began the arduous journey to understand myself more fully; to uncover inner qualities I could explore and rely on. I decided to FEEL rather than PROJECT; to sit alone rather than escape into a full social calendar. Most importantly, I stopped using sex as a tool of power and control. I stopped using my body and the external layers of myself to avoid the vulnerability of revealing the inner layers of myself.
When I was finally able to merge my inner and outer voice together, that is when I found my unified confidence.
My personal style evolved into an extension of my true identity--one I was willing to share freely and unapologetically.
And what have I learned from this reconciliation between the confidence of my outer body and the confidence of my inner self?
I’ve learned that confidence begins with an invitation to see yourself AS YOU ARE -- to explore your inner dialogue of opinions, desires, feedback, ideas, and then to examine how you express those attributes to the world.
When you assemble those words, values, and viewpoints about yourself, you form and shape “your truth.” The examination and expression of your truth will perpetually lead you back to your voice and your vision; they will lead you back to who you are and how you contribute.
Often we are told to “be who you are” but only on certain terms, according to social norms and familiar ideals, and in limited arenas. Therein lies the fundamental problem of confidence and exactly what has the potential to hold you back: the second you allow others to dictate who you are, you lose the strength of your voice and the stronghold to your identity. This unspoken negotiation is not only detrimental to our relationships, but to our self-worth and our ability to be vulnerable, tender or honest.
When you decide to see yourself as you are, you can also take ownership of what you discover. Personal ownership is an unapologetic process. Ownership does not make excuses, say I’m sorry reflexively, or ignore reality. Ownership says “I know EXACTLY who I am: someone deserving of love and deserving of understanding.” Confidence replies, “I’m qualified to love you and I am doing the work to do so unconditionally.”
So let’s do the work. Once confidence has asked you to make a conscious decision to claim the truth of who you are through ownership, it then asks you to have the courage to share that identity.
Honesty, trust in your unique abilities, and the desire to make your voice heard, will fuel your capacity to step into your fears and insecurities. Stepping into your fears and insecurities requires commitment to the joy, comfort, and yes, confidence, that waits for you at the other side of this risk.
Confidence requires you to work to understand your darkest corners and love those spaces generously.
Cultivating this ability to be vulnerable, honest and loving with yourself, will give you a gateway to your soul that you can always revisit. As you build upon your courage, you secure your strength. With courage set in motion, and your unique set of experiences and history in tow, you shape what you want for your life and you go after it.
Don’t focus on the work of others or the progress of their journey; instead stay focused on the environment you require to stay on your path of self-assurance and self-expression. Utilize your inner strength to adjust outwardly to your surroundings. Secure the tools you need to traverse novelty, unpredictability and change. Inner confidence will see you through so long as you put in the work and trust its ability to do so.
In order to see this courage in action, my advice is to take one week, and try something brazen each day -- offer a new idea in a meeting, post a piece of your art or creativity to social media, don a bold lip color, ask for what you need, value your time and say “no” to a few more things, wear those crazy shoes or rock that hairstyle.
Be mindful of what shifts happen in your ability to receive compliments, to feel comfortable in your skin, to wear your inner truth outwardly. Quiet any personal or outward negative “noise” and listen for the feedback your own body gives you. Remain open to the idea of joy, expression, gratitude and rebellion. Practice reminding yourself, “This is me, whole-heartedly. I’m showing up as my truest self and it does not matter whether someone likes, understands, or refuses to accept me.”
I like to think of it as a both hands above your head, double middle finger to the world moment (complete with motorcycle jacket and badass pyrotechnics) --Maybe your visual is a “drop the mic” scenario where you stood your ground and vocalized your truth in one big swoop or maybe it’s a musical playlist that builds you up and sets a tone…whatever it takes to make you feel like you run the show. I’ve learned that confidence awakens and expands when you utilize the truth of your identity to take up space and claim your worth.
Once you have accepted your invitation to explore your depths, claimed your unique identity, and engaged in the courage to share and show your truth, then you can continue the practice of growth and expansion. Confidence will require maintenance as every scenario brings a new set of emotions, history, and tools required to feel comfortable with your unique self.
There are times where confidence is a muscle-memory and other moments where it is an active (if not agonizing) process of reinvigorating what you have to contribute to the world. You’ll need to revisit why you’re brave, magnificent and the only version of your being you can bring to the table. Once you reveal your true self enough, you’ll learn it’s the only way you can be.
And, even better, the more you suit up and show up, the more you cultivate the space for other unique individuals to join you with their own confidence safely and earnestly.
You become your own anchor and a stronghold for the love and authenticity of others.
On my own journey to owning my inner self, and as I started to experience the joy of cohesive inner and outer boldness, I also started seeing other women question their confidence, if not struggle to find it.
In my retail career, I began working alongside women in the fitting rooms and meeting them with compassion rather than sales goals. I decided to show up for women in a way that was supportive, honest, and collaborative. Through these conversations and experiences, I was able to step fully into what I believe to be my truth and use my own confidence discoveries as a means of connection. Through this role, I’ve made a conscious commitment to a lifelong sisterhood of vulnerability AND empowerment, which continues to guide my energy and efforts today as a friend, daughter, wife, and personal stylist.
Moving toward the depths of your identity means sitting alone with every part of yourself, asking tough questions and listening for the answers (no matter how hurtful the response).
Specifically: What conditions have you placed on your worth? In what arenas are you honoring the voice of others above your own? What stands in the way of the love you deserve to give yourself? What have you decided about yourself that is not true? What are you willing to let go of, to allow self-love to serve?
Once you illuminate the truth of who you are and learn to love yourself generously and courageously, that’s when you begin to wear your inner truth confidently, not as armor, but as a badge of love and honor for the unique person that you are.