Let’s be clear. I am not a regrets kind of gal. In retrospect, some parts of my life have been fall to my knees and weep utter shit, whilst other bits have been like rosy-toned movie trailers, complete with heart-rending soundtrack. That, I have come to realise, is not extraordinary, it’s just part and parcel of living a real life.
Yet there are so many things I would have liked to know when I was younger – that no matter how preposterous your dreams may be you should never give up on them, that you are not immortal and so you should try and make every day count (even when nursing a monstrous hangover and lolling on the sofa in your jammies moaning, “Never again”, yes, even THAT day). Oh, and that fantastic sex should always, always be accompanied by a great sense of humour and a handy box of tissues. (Laughing is sexy, trust me.)
Most of all I wish I understood back then that what others thought of me really didn’t matter. The most wonderful thing I ever did to change my life for the better was to get happy with myself. Despite my je ne regrette rien outlook, there’s one BIG thing I wish I had learnt when I was much younger, and that is the art of being unafraid. That is what I want to share with you.
As a girl growing up in the 1970s and 80s I was bombarded with all kinds of media advice and direction on what I should and shouldn’t look like, say, eat, and even think. These were turbulent times and over the decades I saw women getting a stronger and louder voice, succeeding in business and making huge advancements in all areas of humanity … and yet … still we were, and ARE, judged on what we look like and what we wear.
For a long time, all through my teens and twenties I bowed down to the ‘norms’ for a plus size body. I wore a lot of black, thick tights and man sized aran jumpers seeking to drown my curves in as much wooly fibre as possible. I slouched around in my 80s art school style in an effort to disappear from the crowd and found myself increasingly marginalised by main stream fashion. My wardrobe became a gloomy pit of darkness, and deep inside of me, a little spark went out.
I stayed cocooned in this colourless world until my thirtieth birthday when … well … I almost died. For a near death experience it was suitably dramatic – a cloudless day, a flooded river and a miscalculated step leading to an argument between my head and a large slab of granite saw me fighting for breath stuck in a pool under a waterfall – the day I finally understood that it’s actually very possible to drown in just a few inches of water. Thanks to my brave friends I survived to tell the tale. As you can imagine though, the event and its aftermath was something of a game changer for me.
It was a slap in the face to realise that life can be very short and that given by narrow escape I should concentrate on doing whatever made me happy, and doing it right now! Across the board, from the friends I had, to the people I spent time with, my hobbies, and my job, I made sweeping changes that focused on me making decisions based on how things made me feel. For the first time ever I focused on making positive choices based on a new set of priorities and it quickly saw a seismic shift in the clothes I chose to wear.
For me, colour makes my heart sing. Every single colour, from rich scarlet to muted blue, emperors purple to baby pink. ALL the colours, then add in bold graphic patterns and prints aimed at small children … now that’s my kinda style. On the toughest of days a pair of banana yellow shoes and a kitten print dress really do make my world a little bit better. Now you may find that your happiest colour is black and it brings joy to your heart by swathing yourself in its inky depths. You see, it doesn’t matter what it is that makes you feel good when you wear it, the point is to wear whatever YOU love!
Yet you’ll need to be brave
Clothes do matter, but not in the way that the fashion industry repeatedly tells us. It is hard not to let their influence seep into your choices. And it’s not just the fashion industry either … I have had some close friends say some very wrong shit about my clothing choices over the years. You must stay strong and stick to what YOU like. After all, who cares if clothes are flattering, slimming, appropriate or all those other cliched phrases that get trotted out by the media and well intentioned friends. You need to try something on, look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Does this bring me joy?” and then head on out there into the universe to do your thang. Trust me, it’ll change your life.