2020: A Lesson in Letting Go

This year has essentially been one long lesson in relinquishing control, shifting our modes of operation, and figuring out how to rebuild again. I asked y'all on Instagram what you've been letting go of in 2020 and I got a slew of juicy responses, everything from misaligned partnerships to paychecks, but the most resounding answer you're letting go of is perfectionsim, and the idea that we are all supposed to be sane and not fall apart while we experience a pandemic and all it's repercussions. What a relief to know I'm not alone in feeling this way!

For me, the concept of letting go has been most challenging, and the reason for my long delay in writing to you. I've been processing what letting go means, how it can free us to develop new paths of thinking/feeling/action, and how all this letting go might affect our style and how we choose to express ourselves in general. This month I am going to share what I've had to let go of in order to get my mojo back, some of the tools I've used to help rewire my thinking patterns, and how this work can be applied to our personal style.

Goodbye, Old Life

Remember when we used to be able to meet up in person? Go to the mall and touch everything we wanted to without thinking? Remember getting dressed to go out somewhere? This pandemic has shifted so many details of the work I do that it really took me six months to figure out what to do next. I spent a lot of time grieving what I missed: face to face exchanges, those fitting room moments where something inspires a happy dance, being able to quickly replace a weird-fitting dress with a more perfect one without waiting 4-6 weeks. It was overwhelming trying to imagine where my career would fit into this new world, let alone how to recreate a fitting room experience for my now virtual clients (I talk more about this on the From Jen to Zen podcast). I found myself replacing my losses with these shiny new negative ideas (no one cares about style anymore, I'm not effective if I'm not in the same room as you, online shopping is hard, etc etc) which filled the void and blocked me from moving forward...nice, right? It's a very similar process of barrier-building that my new clients develop when faced with rebuilding a wardrobe: it's hard, so you think of a million reasons to not do it.

I thought I had done such a good job in the early days of quarantine of letting go of the notion that being alone with myself is a terrible affliction (it's actually not that bad), but what I realized is that the real challenge is shifting how I think about change in general. I had to let go of the hope that everything might go back to normal. I had to let go of the thought that I can only help you if I can stand next to you in the store or closet. I couldn't hide behind this undocumented idea that no one cares about style anymore if I also wanted to stay a stylist.

So I let my heart lead me away from what I thought I could never let go of: my home in Austin, my process, and filling my time with constant movement. And guess what happened? It took a few hard months of emotional flailing, but I got to work and developed virtual services tuned to the new way we live, shop, and dress now. Letting go and making these changes has actually opened up more possibilities for shopping ethically and sustainably, to help like-minded clients all over the world, and in the end my styling services are now more aligned with my personal beliefs. Whew!

Boxing it up safely

One strategy I have been using to help process grief around letting go is to meditate on the idea of a box. Yes, a physical box. Mine is cardboard but has a removable lid. I guess some would say this is compartmentalization, but I'm not advocating avoidance. I use the box concept to gain control over the contents and to rid myself of the shame I attach to feeling those tough feelings. Giving my thoughts a container, something I can open up and climb inside of if I want to, allows me to also confidently close the lid and walk away, because I know it's still there.

On Halloween I was struck with sadness, missing my dog Penny, who was always oh so magnificent in a host of curated costumes over the years. Instead of shoving the "shameful" feelings away, I took a bath and allowed myself to open up my Penny box, to sit in my sadness, missing every minutiae of her Penny-ness. The thing about the box is that you can safely allow yourself indulge in those painful feelings as long as you keep control of that box. After a few minutes of sitting in my tub of sadness, I visualized myself getting out, closing the lid, and focusing my attention elsewhere, comforted by the fact that even though Penny wasn't there, that box still is, and I can open it up when I'm ready.

I think it's interesting that just as I have guided so many of you to put clothes that don't make you feel great (because they aren't the right size for you now, or they remind you of your first date with your ex) in a box out of sight, you can use the same approach your thoughts.

Less Woo, More Action

Ok was that woo woo enough for you? I've been living in Taos, spending a lot of time alone, and learning to read Tarot cards, ok? But for real, I think a lot of us are grappling with the many changes in our day to day lives, and having to let go is a huge part of that. One very positive style side effect is that there's far less pressure to dress a certain way, to keep up with trends, to wear anything that doesn't stretch. Some of you refused to dress your best because of how it might make your peers feel in comparison, some of you missed events because of not having the "right" thing to wear. These barriers to self-expression no longer exist!

So, while we are probably going to be in this strange state of suspended wait-and-see for a bit longer, we may as well use this time to hone in on what we would wear if we let go of all our old beliefs about dressing. Take some time to examine how you've historically felt about what you wear, how you feel now, and how you want to move forward with your style in the future. Perhaps you see yourself wearing more comfortable, practical pieces or maybe you've been supressing your boldness far too long and it's time to wear hot pink and bright red like you've always wanted. 2020 burned a lot down to the ground, and now we get to rebuild. This can be competely overwhelming or completely exhilirating, depending on how you choose to think about it.

What are your thoughts on letting go? As always, I would love to hear from you, so email me at hello@laurelkinney.com to shoot me a note!