In my Monday-to-Friday job, I am a personal stylist. I work with people who desire to refresh their wardrobes for a number of reasons, from seasonal trends to job change or weight loss. I love it! I get to meet so many different people. Not too long ago, I met Jane. Jane was in her mid-sixties and was in good physical shape. She had a small waist and wider hips, a typical pear shape. She stood approximately 5’7” and had an exuberant personality. She was looking for several new party dresses. I pulled a half dozen dresses as a start for her to try on.

Right away, she began to tell me why she would not look good in this dress or that dress due to the physical features she would need to hide. I don’t budge that easy. I made her try the dresses on, anyway.

Jane looked fantastic! She was not a difficult shape or size to find a fit. She stared at herself in the mirror, pleased and happy at first, but then told me she couldn’t wear the dress since its hem came right above her knees. My expression must have been questioning, because she proceeded to explain that her mother had told her she had “knobby knees” and that she should always cover them. Yes, her legs were not that of a girl in her twenties, but Jane was in her sixties and she had lovely legs.

We benched that dress for a while and tried another. Again, it made her glow and smile when she looked at herself in the mirror, but as she stood there critiquing herself, she explained that she would not be able to wear this one out in public either. Her arms were too thick, she said, and her mother had always said to never go sleeveless because of the shape of her arms. She then went on to tell me that her ex-husband had always agreed that Jane had “knobby knees” and “thick arms” and how much it hurt when he’d tease her.

I’ve seen many women in dressing rooms, and let me tell you, most women are carrying around inaccurate perceptions of themselves due to words their mothers or others have said. When I was growing up my mother would look in the mirror and express her dissatisfaction with her “short” legs, her “varicose” veins, her “unmanageable” hair, her weight, and her “wide” feet — and on and on. Then, on another day, she would sincerely and sweetly recognize that I had a physical feature like hers. I’d think, “oh no, she hates that feature; this is a bad feature!”

We, as mothers, have to guard our mouths, and more importantly, guard our thoughts. Our children are beautiful one-of-a-kind artworks created by God. In my early thirties, I noticed my body changing. Others noticed it, too, because when I’d get together with extended family for holiday visits, they’d say things like, “wow, you’ve changed!” or “you’re not a little girl anymore.” The only thing that had changed was that I had gained weight. It caused me to become self-conscious and overly modest, trying to cover up. I began to look in the mirror and say things like, “I wish I had so-and-so’s waist!” or “I hate my double chin!” One day I realized that my young daughter was standing next to me, and that I sounded like my mother harshly critiquing herself. In that moment, I knew I had to shut up so I wouldn’t pass the same negative image thoughts down to my daughter. I needed to change the way I envisioned myself. This has been a process, not a quick change. I started concentrating on the features I did like about myself. I began to look for clothing styles that flattered those features. As my daughter went through her awkward middle school years, there was opportunity for her to be hard on herself. Her hair went from straight to tight curls. She fought acne and sensitive skin issues. There were times I could see an issue that could cause her anxiety, but instead I would draw attention to another feature that was special and beautifully unique about her. She is grown now and she is beautiful but, more importantly, she’s comfortable with who she is. I love that! That’s how it’s supposed to be.

Shopping that day with Jane went well. We talked about her features. We looked at women around us in the mall, comparing their arms to her arms. Should they cover their arms? No, that was silly! Her thoughts about her body changed a little that day. She was being much too hard on herself. She bought several dresses, including the first one that showed her knees.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned as a personal stylist:

1.    Varicose veins are rarely noticeable to anyone else but you. But when you complain about them, others suddenly see them.

2.    Part of becoming a woman is the thickening of triceps. It’s God’s way of giving us the strength to carry children in our arms. There are some women who don’t show this as much as others, but they are not the norm. You’re a woman! This is what a woman looks like!

3.    There are several different body types; hourglass, pear, and apple. I am an apple. I cannot wear what an hourglass shape would wear, as it wouldn’t be flattering, and an hourglass shaped person cannot wear the styles of clothing an apple can wear, either. That’s ok. Embrace your shape and know what styles are best for you.

4.    Don’t tell your husband that you have saggy boobs, a fat butt, or wide ankles. Most of the time, all he sees is the woman he loves and he thinks you’re HOT. Let him continue to see you that way.

5.    I’ve always noticed the girls wearing clothing way too small, but as I’ve grown as a stylist, most women are wearing clothing that is too big for them. I’ve found this is often out of fear that clothing will look too small. Fit is to fit. If an item is too big, it looks frumpy.