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Style, Vanity and Personal Expression

The last time I remember having a “style” is around the third grade. During that year, and all the ones leading up to it, I had a definite style. You could look at certain items of clothing or jewelry and think, “That looks like Jen!”

What was that style?


If it had ruffles, lace, pink, purple or in any way resembled a ballerina or bride, it was for me. The foofier the better. My bed was covered in Pepto-pink ruffles from floor to ceiling. Literally. It was a canopy bed. I could, and would, wear dresses and “gowns”

Once I hit about fourth grade, though, peer pressure hit. The teasing began for wearing “baby” dresses, and the pressure to wear a certain brand of jeans or shoes mounted higher and higher. So I, of course, began to embrace the popular styles.

Not giving any thought to whether or not I actually liked the look. As long as the look got me liked, I liked it.

In high school the peer pressure for brand names and the like lessened quite a bit. But quite a bit of damage had been done by the ever-sought-after “popular” girls in late elementary and junior high school.

I could not step outside without make up on. Especially lipstick. If I had to go out without it, I felt naked. I would get asked if I felt okay because I  “looked tired.” And that was mortifying to me. Whatever “style” in clothing I picked was more to try to look “grown up” rather than have an actual look.

This continued through until late college, during which time I started to put together my “professional” wardrobe.

I graduated with an early-elementary education degree. So I threw myself headlong into the “teacher look.” You know the one: denim dresses, empire waistlines, silk-screened sweatshirts, and those awful work trousers with the pleats in the front. Yeah.

Then came kids. And my style became “early motherhood.”… AKA survival. Comfort. Ease. Oh, I would dress up on occasion  but my default was comfortable, easy to wear, easy to clean.

Then recently I was dressed up for one such occasion and I received a compliment that was not intended as back-handed, but it felt that way.

“You look nice! You’re not really the type to wear dresses, or outfits, really, so this is a huge change!”

It really took me aback. I thought to myself, “But I am the type to wear dresses and skirts and look pretty!!”

Since then, I’ve lost 15 pounds, had another baby and gained that weight back – and then some. I’ve yo-yo’d over and over, and my self image has taken a beating. And my style-resurgence has taken a back seat to that all-famed time of “when I’ve lost the weight…”

Somewhere in there, as well, I have sort of prided myself on the fact that I’m comfortable enough to go to the shop or drop the kids at school with a pony-tail with more fly-aways than an air field, pilling track suits, and perhaps even a pajama top under my coat. I’m so comfortable in my own skin this doesn’t bother me.

Yeah, right.

Truth is, I think I was thinking I wasn’t worth it. I mean, what right do I have to want to look pretty, wear nice accessories and shiny lip gloss when there are moms halfway around the world just struggling to feed their kids, or put any clothes on them at all??

And so I in a way, I think I prided myself on “suffering” like those less fortunate than me.

Sickening, right??

The past couple of years have been a journey of rediscovering who I am. As a person. As a wife. A mom. And a child of God. I’m still discovering it. I’ve been spending more and more time in prayer, meditating on Scripture, and discussing the messy journey of faith with people of all walks of life, faith and system of belief. I’m making an effort to make healthier, wiser choices with my food and activity level (note, I said an effort…)

Through all of this, I’ve discovered that expressing myself through the written word, song and movement is a need for me. Just like water or breathing. I wither when I neglect those things; and I thrive when I incorporate them into my life in a healthy balance.

And I think that maybe, just maybe, I need to do the same thing with my appearance. I don’t want to swing the pendulum so far that I become truly vain, or my appearance becomes an idol; an obsession.

Trying the red lip look. I think I love it…

But I’m going to start the journey of rediscovering who I am in my style. I’ve been experimenting the past few days. Some looks have worked – I may just be addicted to the red-lip look I didn’t think I could pull off; and the side messy bun is cute if I say so myself. And some looks…haven’t worked so well – the brown-toned outfit with my purple Doc Marten’s to add a pop of the unexpected…yeah, not so much.

I honestly don’t really know the point of this post other than the transparency of where I am in this journey. It’s hard for me to hit “publish” on a post that is so jumbled and seems like just a bunch of discombobulated thoughts, feelings, doubts and memories.

But, hey, this is where I am; who I am right now.

What about you? Do you have a style? Have you lost a little bit of who you are? What are you doing to find it?

I’ve linked up with Time Warp Wife

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14 Responses to “Style, Vanity and Personal Expression”

  1. Laura Forman says:

    I love you Jen and I am so proud of you and the journey that you have taken through the years. You are an amazing woman and beautiful inside and out!! 🙂

  2. jbwcactus says:

    Jen, thanks for your transparency and honesty. �This is a journey most of us make. �I rebelled against what was expected of girls “to look like and wear” when I got into high school so I succumbed to a different type of peer pressure. �In adulthood I remember someone at church commenting on my “style” as being “Joni’s style”. �I think she meant it as a compliment not so much in the style but that I was comfortable with who I was at the time. �(Picture Mother Earth-Burkenstocks. �

    As time has passed I miss that look and cannot really wear the clothes that are in style because I’ve discovered I had a bit of the sensory disorder and really prefer loose clothing and only cotton. �

    Your picture is beautiful and more importantly, when I see pictures of you I see deep contentment in your smile. �

    I always encourage people (men and women) to determine their “color” (fall, winter, spring or summer) and try to dress in those colors even if they are not in style. �The difference in how people see you is amazing. �I’m a winter and when I wear black, royal blue, or fuchsia everyone is like “wow you look great today” even if I haven’t slept in 3 nights. �If you are not sure about your color palette just take note when people comment on how great you look. �

    thanks also for sharing about how you need to express yourself through movement, writing and song. �I need to reflect on that for myself because I feel stuck right now and that might help, especially in my relationship with God. �

    Anyways, God’s wisdom and blessing as you move through this phase of life rediscovering who you are. �Be aware this is actually the journey from now on because God is not stagnant but ever moving us on to what He has for us to be. � Blessings, Joni


  3. Dawn King says:

    You look beautiful. I am thinking about being on this kind of journey too……… might even inspire me…………..

  4. Kendra says:

    You must be hanging out in my closet. I am right there with you. As a stay at home mom, when I do dress up and have put forth the effort, the compliments seem to come. I think to myself, I must have been looking pretty shabby.

    Why can’t mothers who are not on a payroll look cute? Why do we have to be relegated to “mom jeans” and pony tails?

    I know the complimenters mean well. I know they do. If I didn’t hear the compliments, then I’d think I must be looking awful or stuck in a time warp.

    • Haha!! Yes!! I know laziness is a lot of it for me, too. I don’t “have” to look presentable for anything…except life! Ha!!

      And now it’s awkward b/c the kids will be like, “Where are we going, mommy?” “Nowhere” “Then why are you all dressed up?” hehe

  5. roseytina says:

    WOW! First – the red lipstick? SMASHING success! It was where my eyes were drawn..your smile and it’s a pretty smile.

    I related to your post in a big way on one concept. “what right do I have to want to look pretty, wear nice accessories and shiny lip gloss when there are moms halfway around the world just struggling to feed their kids, or put any clothes on them at all??”

    Okay, not exactly the same but work with me. You know I’ve battled breast cancer for 2 years. I have struggled with reconstruction and there’s a mentality….”Deal with what you got (results) because after all you could be dead.” Or “you’re whining about less than perfect reconstruction when this woman here has just been told she has 2 months to live. How selfish are you?” Yes, these are the voices I hear. Some of the human and some of them in my head (hmmm, it occurs to me this would be a good post on MY blog. haha)

    After my battle, I’d had people ask me why I bother buying bras…I buy beautiful bras (on amazing sales) because they FEEL like medals for bravery. Even if no one sees them, I FEEL better and I FEEL feminine, even though I have gnarly reconstructed breasts! Isn’t that a good enough reason?

    Perhaps you were drawn to write this post and hit publish to encourage other women (like me) who feel for whatever reason, they don’t “deserve” the chance to be pretty, girly or feminine.

    (Oh and MY signature? If it’s rosey, pink or has roses printed on it…all my friend will say they see my name scrawled across.)

    • Rosey – (((hugs))) You are always such a ray of sunshine!! Thank you for your sweet words! And, yes, your connection makes absolute perfect sense! But you go in and wear those pretty bras! 🙂 You’re a beautiful lady, inside AND out!!

  6. Julie Anne says:

    I love when someone else posts a “jumbled thoughts” post… and hurray for finding YOUR style! 🙂

  7. Janine says:

    wow, you are so pretty! that red lipstick is a keeper – I’m looking for red – what brand & shade is it? loved your “jumbled” thoughts.

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