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If you can't love yourself...

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If you can't love yourself...

lowpath

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One afternoon, when I was in the 7th grade, it became so warm by the time we all went out for recess that my group of friends made a huge pile of our unneeded down coats out on the field. When it was almost time to go in, one of the boys put on several of the coats, until he was a massive puffball, and then wriggled mine over top and announced, "Now I know how it feels to be Rachel!". I confess, I don't remember his name, but I remember the comment, and probably always will. This occasion certainly wasn't the beginning of my insecurities, and far from the last cutting and humiliating comment I would receive in my lifetime. Honestly, they continue to accumulate to this day. But this isn't a pity party, this is the story of how I learned to chuck them in the corner like so many coats and move on with my life.

Nearly everyone has at least one pain point when it comes to their appearance. For me it's always been mostly about my weight - for someone else it might be their nose or their skin or their age... anything really. I've even heard of women who are fixated on their thick ankles. Considering how socially acceptable it is to comment on every aspect of a woman's appearance, it's really not all that surprising though, is it? If you've had the experience of someone making that one comment that cuts so deep it makes you feel like you might throw up or pass out, you know why someone might spend a good deal of their waking hours trying to figure out how to avoid that ever happening again.

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My friends, I know how scary it is, but worrying about that one thing is a waste of your precious, precious life. I'm not saying that to make you feel guilty on top of feeling bad about this aspect of your appearance - that would be highly counterproductive. I'm saying it because I really hope that you will see how important it is to get okay with yourself - your physical self. If you only love the you that's a brain in a jar, you're missing a massive piece of the puzzle. Did you know that doing certain poses for just a couple of minutes has a major effect on your brain chemistry? I've certainly been guilty of seeing my body as a thing that transports my brain to the mall, but that's just not the truth of the relationship. Not accepting your body is, in fact, the same as not accepting yourself, period.

But how can you, really, if you don't already? It's not like you can just talk yourself into loving your body just because you think you're supposed to, otherwise, you'd have done it already. I spent a long time stuck in this mind loop. I wanted to be okay with myself but I couldn't let go of the mindset that somehow I was going to get another body, and then I'd like me. And then I felt bad for still wanting to look like something else. Which brings me to my first major breakthrough.

lowpath

STOP THINKING YOU'LL BE HAPPY WHEN...

You know this story, and it's certainly not limited to your appearance. I'll be happy when I lose 15 pounds. I'll be happy when I get the promotion. I'll be happy when I can afford a bigger house. And it's not just happiness that gets postponed. I'll start auditioning again when I get back in shape. I'll start dating when I can afford that boob job. Everything's on hold for that one thing to happen, and then after that, we're sure it's going to be all puppies and unicorns dancing on rainbows. We play out the vignettes of our perfect future lives in our minds like a perpetual rom-com ending on steroids; we walk down the street and turn heads, dive into pools of money, and tearfully accept our award. Meanwhile, the present moment, should we deign to come back to it for a moment, seems pretty hopeless compared to the seductive yet highly improbable vision of the future in our minds.

The most irrational part of the "I'll X When Y" mindset isn't even the brain crack. It's the underlying implication that the future can only be good by virtue of the present being inherently flawed. You may have deduced, however, that the present moment is always the one you are in, and therein lies the rub - when never arrives. The ONLY time at which you have the capacity to be happy, or indeed, to do anything, is right this very minute.

I only know one way off this ride, and it's gratitude. If you want to stop waiting for that kitchen renovation to be happy, try being grateful you have a kitchen. A little bit of perspective goes a long way here, so let me tell you how I got some.

lonelypathWRITE A LOVE LETTER TO YOUR BODY

I haaaaate stuff like this. No one could possibly have wanted to do this less than me, or thought they were above it more. I feel SUPER weird even telling you I did it. But I have to say, the transformative power has been amazing. You may be sitting there thinking that you have nothing positive to say about your body, or at very least that this is going to be a very short letter. I might have said the same thing, but once I got started, I ended up handwriting 15 pages until I felt like my hand was going to fall off.

If you have legs that walk you down the street, eyes that see the sunset, a nose that smells the air after it rains, or arms that hold your loved ones, you have more than enough to be grateful to your body for, today. If function is all you can be thankful for right now, fine. I bet you have more in you. Maybe you have the softest hair, elegant feet, or the cutest little beauty mark on your left hip. I promise you, if you write it down, you will be one baby step closer to getting over that one thing. With so much to be grateful for, right this very minute, there just isn't as much room for negative preoccupation anymore. It may be that you are in such a mode of judgement that this process will be nearly impossible for you.

I'm not pointing a finger, society tells women it's okay to refer to both ourselves and the girl behind the checkout counter as "fat asses" and so on. That kind of hyper critical behavior is the default - it requires a concerted effort to do and be otherwise. Sometimes, what we need to make such a shift is to take the whole thing one step away from ourselves and get a little distance. Meaning -

focusonrainIF YOU WANT TO STOP JUDGING YOURSELF, LEARN TO STOP JUDGING OTHERS FIRST

We do it as easily as breathing, abuse the fact of the privacy of our thoughts. We focus on all the wrong things about a person, her big nose or thick legs, and forget to see the person as a whole, or as a person at all. There's often an implication of inherent responsibility for the offending feature, which is varying shades of ridiculous, when you really think about it. If the environment is somehow competitive, such as at a night club or a gym, the atmosphere between women of sizing each other up to find every flaw can make the air almost ripple with tension and anxiety.

Winter that I am, my perfecting eye makes me excellent at finding fault in virtually anything. It's part of what makes me so good at what I do, but I have a responsibility to wield that gift with discretion and compassion. Any energy I expended criticizing the wrong thing was at best wasted and at worst highly destructive. So here's what I want you to do. Every time you catch yourself thinking something negative about someone else's appearance, forgive them, and then come up with a positive counterpoint, all within the safe confines of your mind. Force yourself to find something beautiful about each person you meet. Stretch your idea of beauty, learn to appreciate different faces and bodies as you would different landscapes in nature.

Adopting this practice will most certainly effect your relationships with others, but perhaps most importantly, it will effect your relationship with yourself. One day, you will wake up and look at yourself through these new compassionate eyes you have molded by all that practice on everyone else. And suddenly, the things you judged about yourself, and most especially that one thing, will fail to have the significance they once did. You just won't be able to raise the frenzy of anxiety you once did, because you've learned how to truly see beauty - not just the absence of flaws.

Loving yourself isn't about never feeling insecure, just like courage isn't about never being afraid. I have learned from my brilliant teacher Christine Scaman that at some point, one must either "do it scared or don't do it". The thing about doing it scared is, each time you do, it gets a little less scary, even if the fear will never go away entirely. In the same way, each time you face down insecurity with love and acceptance, you get a little less insecure.

Birds

I was asked to write the story of my my personal journey as it pertains to style, as a sequel of sorts to the one I wrote about my color journey, and someday I may. I would honestly say that most of the work on my style journey was done here, with my quest to love and accept the one and only body I will ever have in this life, and what I learned along the way. If you come to your Personal Image Analysis having put in this kind of work ahead of time, it will just feel like confirmation of what you already know. Even if (maybe especially if), you never have an image consultation, you need to bring love and acceptance of yourself, and most especially your body, into the dressing room with you in order to make rational choices about what enhances you.

I would go so far as to say you need it to make fully rational choices about your life. I know beautiful women who can't see themselves that way who stay in disastrous relationships, petrified they'll never find another one. Who postpone starting their dream business, because they can't imagine putting up their own picture on their website, or how they'd be a role model for anyone. Enough. You owe it to yourself to make peace with the body you have. You owe it to yourself to do everything you can to step over whatever hurdles stand between you and being fully engaged in your life. This ain't no dress rehearsal, honey.

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My Color Journey Chapter Three: I Don't Want to Believe

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My Color Journey Chapter Three: I Don't Want to Believe

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Umm... Sometime in the early fall, when I began my yearly search for a good coat and something to keep me warm, I realized I had become paralyzed from buying anything. I don't know how I hadn't noticed sooner, but it finally hit me that I would never wear at least two of my eight colors as anything but accessories, leaving me with six, which as you can imagine is pretty difficult. I began to rail against the orange energy color in particular, which I was SURE looked hideous on me. As ever, the ladies in the groups assured me, with the absolute best of intentions, that the problems I was having with my palette were effectively in my head. My initial misgivings about the archetype he gave me magnified, and I felt strongly for reasons I probably couldn't articulate properly that I was not the person that palette was saying I was. After months of ignoring or writing off "Sci/Art" as not having a category for me, I started to wish ardently that I could see a different analyst using that system and find out once and for all whether I could do better there. I just wanted to SEE some colors next to my face with an experienced set of eyes looking on with me. At the same time, my previous attempt to become a trained analyst had obviously fallen apart, which set me searching around online.

Originally, I researched being retrained in another Caygill style system, but worried that I would feel as I had using that system thus far: not feeling that I truly knew that I was giving clients the correct results. Somehow while poking around on facebook, I saw that one of my friends from the groups, who has a long history with color analysis herself, had been draped by one of Christine's trainees. I asked her for her review of both the analyst and the drapes, and she was very positive about the experience. Poking around on Christine's website, I was impressed at the progress she'd made with her training and drapes in just a few short months since I last looked - she even had luxury drapes available! reading through her description of training, I realized that I would also be redraped by Christine and my co-trainee. I discussed the options for my future as a color analyst with my mother, who knows little about this whole world but is very similar in many ways to a typical client and an excellent business mind besides. After several hours of combing through websites together, we decided I would train with Christine, and sooner rather than later as she had misgivings about me traveling to Canada any later in the winter (it was currently early November). I convinced Christine to allow me to train in 2 weeks time, which she partially allowed because of my fashion and art background.

Err... Diligent preparation for my training course?

I booked my flights and hotel and spent the next two weeks mostly agonizing about my own upcoming analysis, when I probably should have been thinking about my training. I doubted, FINALLY, that I'd be a Light Spring, hoped against hope that I'd be a Bright Spring, and feared but was ready to accept Dark Autumn or Dark Winter. Perhaps most importantly, I decided whatever I was on the flight home, I'd be forever more. Thankfully, upon arriving at the hotel, I quite quickly settled into the work of learning to be a color analyst. Christine had such fascinating things to show me, I was able to forget about my own issues and history for a while, which was good because I was not scheduled to be draped until the end of the second day. Just by reading the training manual, I knew I was going to be able to accept whatever the result was, because no decision would be made without a "better than" comparison, a fact which was only confirmed to me after seeing Christine drape the first model for our course.

1487800_914118711957_436367608_oBy the time my draping rolled around, I wasn't very nervous anymore, partially because my skin is so reactive that even though I couldn't see myself draping in the mirror, several of the observers coming and going were noticing that even as I held the drapes up the the client faces, my face was changing as well, in ways that hinted we were going to go bright. Much of the draping process was pretty decisive and quick, because as I said, my skin is highly reactive. In many ways, the early tests weren't that different than they were with Nikki, except that here no one liked the silver drape or Summer at all - I lose all definition and become "one big silver/grey circle". Things started to get tough for me once we reached near the end of the red test, and in comparing the neutral warm to neutral cool, (BSp to BW), everyone liked the neutral cool better but me. Still, at this point, I clung to the belief I was warm somehow. We pressed on, being left with a definitely neutral heat level, and not Autumn or Summer, tested the neutral Springs and Winters to each other and came out Bright in both. I just want to reiterate that I overpower Light Spring so much that in a one-to-one comparison you would be hard pressed to miss Bright Spring being miles better. The final test between Bright Spring and Bright Winter, however, took quite a while, mostly because I had to be convinced. I wailed that I had tried that well over a year ago to ardent insistence online that it was wrong, but eventually I just decided to put the Bright Winter makeup on, and it did look excellent. I took the Bright Winter palette to my room that night, and by the morning, I was over any reservations. At this point, I hope you'll see that if I'm not convinced of something, I will search to the ends of the earth and never give up. On the flip side, once I've seen that something is true, and why it is true, I'm past it and will never unsee it. It is my opinion that clients should come away from an analysis with knowledge, not beliefs. It is my opinion that I do color analysis, which happens many times to also be a spiritual and emotional experience, not spiritual and emotional experiences that happen to be color analyses.

1485939_914119166047_1169663090_oAs a bit of a post script, I had the pleasure and privilege to meet the incredibly skilled Terry Wildfong this past weekend, and I asked her to do a little mini redrape on me, not because I had any doubts but simply because I wanted to hear her "drape talk" and see her point out reactions as a learning exercise for me, and I was an available subject. As you probably guessed, I am and probably always will be Bright Winter, but the interesting thing was that Terry felt that unless she had a specific reason to show me why I wasn't a Spring (such as, I came in thinking I was one), she would not have needed to check the neutral Spring comparison, because my coolness and darkness were so definitive at that point, which is quite true. On the other hand, she would have checked back against True Winter, because while most of the drapes were clearly too cool, a couple were passable.

1501328_914119310757_2131599046_oI'm telling you this last bit because I want to answer the question I know you'll have - "How did so many people see you as warm?" and "What about the fact that you look kind of yellow?". I have an apparently warm overtone, it is true. If you scan my skin at Sephora, you get a color that looks like smearing dark fake tanner on my face, and carries the most warm color designation. This machine, and the eye with no help, cannot distinguish undertone. We need to harmonize against something else to know what we're looking at. I'm proud to analyze others using a system and tools that do this methodically and accurately, the one that brought me home after so much wandering.

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One last thing I'd like to address: how you can shorten up your journey and be a smart consumer. Don't want to believe, want to KNOW. Expect your analyst to be eager to tell you why and how he or she is making decisions. Don't be so eager to "get" any season, archetype, or set of colors that you accept them despite every red flag being raised. Don't be so eager to avoid any season, archetype, or set of colors that you reject them despite having been handed all the evidence to prove it. Don't mistake information about your personality, decor, or candle preferences for information about your coloring. Ask questions and don't leave the room without understanding why you're leaving with that particular palette or a follow up appointment to help explain it to you scheduled. Don't expect any human to be infallible, either. Come into this as the savviest consumer you can be, knowing that even with the most thorough analyst, it may take more than one analysis to get it right. Be open, be curious, and be ready to have to learn what right feels like. And finally, may all your color journeys lead to as happy a conclusion as mine.

Back to Chapter 2

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My Color Journey Chapter Two: The Ecstasy and The Agony

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I fully expected David Kibbe to see me as a Winter, but was not entirely surprised when I arrived at his studio and saw bags of makeup labeled "Autumn" next to a card with my name on it. After all, my previous analysis had pointed to warm colors, and I knew he would see me as a dark season, as I would be by the rules laid out in the CMB books. He did show me his Spring colors (which were mostly quite pastel) compared to his Autumn colors (which were mostly quite saturated), and it was true, the Spring colors did not look good. Even then, I convinced myself that David's Spring colors were just too chalky for me, that I did better in the juicier colors of the LSp fan.

599128_810172625747_257154898_nWhen my friends from the color and style groups saw me in the dresses and makeup David Kibbe chose for me, they told me the palette looked really great on me. I decided to just use the makeup I'd purchased and wear the clearer colors from David's Autumn palette for a while. I convinced myself it was just a little difference in semantics as I was just a "darker light spring" who could handle more darkness, and some unexpected colors like Aubergine. Still, the whole thing didn't sit right with me. I wasn't really using either my LSp fan or my Kibbe Autumn fan to make decisions, and it started to feel like I was choosing anything remotely warm and bright looking rather arbitrarily. I heard that John Kitchener, a Caygill style analyst who worked from body colors was coming to DC from California that May, a 2 hour train ride from where I live. The women on the groups who had seen him were incredibly dedicated to him and loved their results. I had begun to think I was more complicated than just being a season or a blend of two seasons and wanted to see what his idea of percentages of each of the four basic color harmonies could do for me.

905747_10100549693506984_1564827721_o (1)When my the day of my appointment rolled around, and after a few travel snafus I arrived at the friend's home in which John was doing his appointments in DC, one of the first things that struck me was the relatively dim lighting of the room in which the analysis would be conducted. I had, however, been instructed to wear a neutral top and was situated in front of a neutral backdrop across from him. From the first swatches he put down, a series of reds and pinks called "Romantic" colors, I could tell where he was going and became quite nervous. Each swatch he was considering was picked up, held to my face, and then either affixed to the page or put back in the drawer. He tested many I thought would be good, and rejected them. My dear friend who drove me to the appointment and observed the whole thing tells me that he appeared quite intimidated by me, probably because I said mostly nothing throughout, just waited to see what he was going to do. In the end, he pronounced me 70% Striking Contrast (Winter) and 15% each Lively Bright (Spring) and Subtle Blended (Summer). I would describe the palette in my terms as a mix of all three winters and soft and true summer, with the majority of the palette being Dark Winter and Soft Summer.

581172_321648347966113_715432867_nKnowing what I know now, many of the colors in the palette would work for me, though probably more than half would not (which, to be fair, it's massive and includes colors with a wide variety of properties). I was convinced the palette was both too cool and too muted for me. I had already accepted that a fair bit more darkness than my Sci/Art analysis indicated would work for me, but everyone had seen me as warm thus far and felt too much softness did not work for me. My illusions of any consistency in how various analysts saw me thus far finally broke down. I rejected my Kitchener palette for the most part, stating publicly that I felt everyone makes mistakes and that possibly the travel scenario, working in a different space, had put John out of sorts. As with the Kibbe scenario, the people I spoke to online tended to feel that the analysis was correct and that my problem was "resistance", though some trusted my judgement. And as in every case, I did not understand his method truly or ask him enough questions about it, either before or after. I will say this for my friends online - again and again the conversation came back to Sci/Art and I was asked if I was SURE I couldn't be a Bright. The intensity of Nikki's reaction to that sapphire drape was burned into my mind and I remained convinced that the Sci/Art method had nothing better to offer me than Light Spring.

581683_145926268927949_694803791_nMere days after returning from my appointment with John, I scheduled an appointment with David Zyla. I was feeling incredibly conflicted and even though part of me didn't want to throw any more money at the problem, I felt compelled to seek another opinion. Many of us had been discussing his book for months or years, but only very recently had three women from the group been to see him for appointments, and opened the door for that as a possibility. Each of the three had also seen John Kitchener, and each came back from David Zyla with a palette that they felt was a refined and highly condensed version of their Kitchener palette, which made sense as they are both analysts that work in a style inspired by Suzanne Caygill. The word was that David Zyla was an incredibly intuitive person with a very refined eye for color. I felt that surely he would know if John Kitchener had made an error, and even if he hadn't, that David would give me a more workable version of the winter palette I received from Kitchener. Further, I decided not to tell anyone I was going - after the reaction from the online community to my issues with my Kitchener appointment, I wanted to be allowed to say nothing of my Zyla appointment publicly if I didn't want to.

photoAt this point it probably goes without saying, but I arrived at my appointment in Gramercy, NYC with enormous trepidation. I had no idea what was going to happen, and just felt like I was stepping back on the merry-go-round. I wore the same neutral outfit I had worn to see Kitchener, terrified I might do something to influence the result of the analysis. As soon as he started to put paint chips down, however, I relaxed. The colors were looking eerily similar to the one I had made for myself using his book, and to what I had expected to receive from John Kitchener. I was not surprised at all when, once he had all the cards filled in, he pronounced me to be a Spring, though admittedly I felt the "archetype" choice, Buoyant Spring, was a bit odd for me. Having interviewed him online about his process, I did not ask him about his again, and assumed his previous answers regarding his experience, excellent eye and intuition guiding his decisions pertained to me as well. Having got loads of validation for why I felt so determined that my Kitchener palette had been a mistake, I was finally, for a time, happy with my palette. I gladly showed it off to the ladies online, and at first went out and bought a few items in those colors. As I was coming into the part of the summer where I spend much of my time at the beach, I have to say, I spent a couple months not thinking about the palette very hard, which was a welcome relief.

CONTINUED

Back to Chapter One

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My Color Journey Chapter One: A Simple Question

You may recall that in my intro post on 12 blueprints, I mentioned that my personal color journey started with a blog post, but that the rest was too long to share in that space. Today, I'd like to continue where I left off. 182165_788862710987_2028851647_n

After lurking on yuku for quite a while, I finally decided to take some pictures of myself "draped" in various colors (many of you know exactly what I mean) and post them so people on the forum could help me discover my season. I wondered how anyone could see anything from them, as even though I stood in the same spot at the same time of day in each one, the lighting shifted dramatically, but I posted them nevertheless. I could have posted any pictures of me and would probably have heard the same response; as a dark eyed dark haired  woman with fair skin, most people inevitably saw me as Dark Winter. A few suggested to try Dark Autumn lipsticks too, and maybe one or two felt Soft Summer was possible, but mostly not. I went out and bought myself some makeup and a swatch book, and started living as Dark Winter.

71485_802964206477_1194519589_nA few months later, I started feeling like something was wrong. I was struggling terribly with dark circles under my eyes, and at first I just bought some more concealer and told myself I was getting older, but eventually I started to get the idea I might be in the wrong season.

183338_788864053297_1079786304_nAround that time, I ordered the Color Me A Season analyst starter kit, as I knew I wanted to do color analysis and that at the time there was no training available in the Sci/Art System. Reading through Bernice's book, I came to a bit about searching for your body colors in the fan, and having looked in my eyes with the included magnifier, I could not find the yellow in my eyes in the CMAS Winter fan. I did find it eventually though - in the Spring fan. That made me wonder - could I be mixed with Spring?

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I went out and bought Cherries in the Snow, and very happily posted pictures of myself wearing it on yuku... Only to be told it was too bright. Frustrated, I finally did what I had been dancing around for months - I booked an appointment with Nikki Bogardus for a Sci/Art PCA. I drove myself to her home one October morning, fully expecting to be a Dark Winter, but hoping I might be a Bright Winter.

521958_802964660567_1002189365_n Nikki is a very charismatic and lovely woman, and we got on right away. I told her about my background, and that I wanted to be trained as an analyst and she was very enthusiastic. Eventually, after some chit chat, it was time to get down to the draping. We started with the same thing I start with in every one of my PCAs - the key drapes. I have very reactive skin and I certainly saw things right away. No one liked brown or gold all that much. I preferred black, though I could see it was too dark, while Nikki told me she preferred silver. Admittedly, I know we did some version of a further test of the 4 true seasons after that, but I can only remember some of that bit. I do know that after that, Nikki determined my heat level to be cool neutral with the "blood color" drapes.

At that point is where the process truly diverged from what I currently practice. I was tried in some luxury drapes from Dark Winter, where Nikki liked some things, particularly the ice pink. Then, a sapphire drape from Bright Winter was tested and the entire season was rejected in half a second. Next, True Summer was tried. Then, the Soft seasons. Then for some reason, Light Spring, where Nikki saw something she liked - a medium value coral drape. Afterwards, she tried Light Summer, and True Summer again. Finally, it came back to deciding between Dark Winter and Light Spring, and after going up and back a bit, she decided on Light Spring. We tried some makeup and snapped a couple of pictures, and that was that. I honestly don't know on what basis this was decided, but at the time I had no reason to doubt it, and probably I didn't want to. Nor did I ask Nikki if this was her usual method, or any more penetrating questions. I had blinders on and I ran out of there with my palette like a bank robber who was getting away with something and not sure how but sure not going to question it.

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I'll admit I was ecstatic with Light Spring at first. I did find it a bit hard to make outfits, as the neutrals in the palette never seemed to look right. When I finally got my draping pictures emailed to me after a terrible storm hit NJ, I was disappointed with how they looked, but blew it off, deciding you can't see how something looks in a picture. However, I mostly wear dresses and didn't think of it much, until I decided to go see David Kibbe the following March. I knew he used a four season system comparable to Color Me Beautiful, and I had a strong feeling that there was no way I would be any kind of Spring to him. Everything I'd ever read had discounted 4 season systems as not having accuracy due to the lack of neutral categories, and I already knew that he decided immediately upon seeing you what you'd be and that any comparisons he did show you would be under poor lighting and intended only to show YOU, as he already knew. I decided to see him anyway, and just planned to ignore his color advice, as I wanted to confirm my type and see how he worked.

CONTINUED

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