Questions and emotions can inundate the mind when preparing to walk out of the door and brave what can feel like exposure and judgment. The energy drain of facing a new day starts before we even leave the house. It is common for PTSD sufferers to experience varied levels of social paranoia and discomfort, and often for good reason.
Do I look good enough for you?
I was trained at a young age to believe if I looked the part people would believe I was something other than I was. Suffice to say this dress-up game never actually worked, despite my parent’s best efforts to make me appear as if I was from a different socio-economic echelon than we were. I felt as if I was trying to run after a normal life and a level of social acceptance that was ever out of my grasp.
I wish I could say the ambition to be accepted was something that shifted as I transitioned into adulthood, but those of you reading this who are survivors or allies know better. Rather than diminishing, my drive to adapt myself to be acceptable to others only increased. Over the years I have amassed a formidable collection of civil costumes in an attempt to fit-in.
I regularly host clothing swaps for women in recovery. After one such gathering a friend told me her sister exclaimed upon seeing the mélange of clothing, “This can not have all come from the same woman!?! It’s like she’s all these different women…” After hearing this I smiled; feeling validated in my efforts to become whoever you wanted me to be so that I could be acceptable to you. And then I truly heard inside of myself what that meant: I did not have the right to exist. I will come back to this point time and time again as it is the quintessential aspect of being a survivor of abuse – regaining our right to exist.
Dressing “becomingly” in recovery
“Just For Today” is a pamphlet available in various 12-step recovery fellowships reminding us to keep our focus on the day ahead, with suggested guidelines for being centered in our programs of recovery. It has been an excellent resource for me to refer back to when I need a recovery realignment.
I have, however, struggled with the suggestions in this helpful reminder, but none so much as the suggestion concerning “dressing becomingly.”
be·com·ing – adjective
1. that suits or gives a pleasing effect or attractive appearance, as to a person or thing.
2. suitable; appropriate; proper
Triggered much? There are 2 sides to this that disturb me as a survivor in recovery:
1. I am no longer interested in forming myself into sticky lascivious flypaper, in order to dissociate through sexual exploits and intrigue.
2. To whom am I appealing for acceptance now?
One of the golden keys in recovery is that we are encouraged to “take what you want and leave the rest.” There is no one size fits all for recovery from abuse or substances, it is a journey where we follow paving stones set before us & lay down new ones where needed. We have the right to tailor our path, just for today, to be safe and “becoming” to OURSELVES.
Clearing out the Closet Weeds
I want to encourage you, if you’ve been like me and have felt the need to appeal to others for validation regarding your physical appearance – in relation to clothes, to venture out and try an experiment of clothing liberation.
1. Bravery & Willingness to Let Go of what isn’t YOU.
2. A box
3. 15 minutes
1. Set a timer for 15 minutes
2. Start with one piece of clothing and ask yourself: Does This Feel Like Me?
3. Take as much time as you need to answer the question, you’re not going through everything right now, this is only for 15 minutes at a time. If you begin to feel triggered, STOP, and then GROUND yourself. You do not have to do anything alone! I’ve done this in the past for hours at a time & have always had a friend help me to stay centered & not lose myself in triggers or overwhelm. It helps!
4. If it feels like that piece of clothing represents who you really are…then KEEP it!!
5. If that piece of clothing doesn’t feel like it is in sync with who you are…put it in the BOX. You don’t have to get rid of it or give it away, right now. This is about giving yourself a break from what doesn’t feel like you.
6. Over the next week, try to do this activity a few times. How does it feel for you?
7. Try to wear the clothes that “feel like you.” What is that like for you? Write about it & share here!
Thank you for your bravery and courage to come closer to who you are on your journey.
© Amanda Lee
A very interesting look into how abuse effects the way we dress. I am glad I read it!
So great! I love the suggestion! It gives permission to be variable if that is one’s truth, rather that forcing one’s self to be one thing for someone else’s approval. Well done!
I think you’re a brave and wonderful woman. The breadth and depth of your understanding and the willingness to let your voice be heard delights and inspires me.
Thank you Fran for your supportive feedback! I am blessed to know what I am doing is reaching your heart & moving you! xxx, A.
Thank you, I understand my fashion crises so much better now.
I was so used to sweep them under a rug, but now I start to
identify them as fears and learn to accept them and see where
they are coming from.
I always thought it was “just” a matter of not really fitting in,
a fear that people would detect there is something off about me,
if they’d take a closer look. But is goes indeed much deeper than that.
It really does boils down to “I do not have the right to exist.”
Your article helps me to take those luxury vanity issues more serious
(or is that seriously?) from now on.
And with this insight, I can now run frequent self-tests to check
if this negative statement is applicable for me and when it is,
I can let go of it more easily.
The contents of the pamphlet you shared are really helpful in this
process. And I recognize the pitfalls and triggers you mention.
Amanda, thank you!
Light and hope and joy,
I’ve just loved reading this post Amanda. It had me thinking for days! I went through a period where I thought labels could buy me respectability and class. What a laugh!
Since reading your piece I’ve been digging up all these labeled items and putting them up for sale on the internet – some of them are worth a small fortune which comes as a very pleasant surprise. At last I’ll be getting some real value out of them. Ironic, non?
I love it! Feeling great and a little economic padding…sounds like a wonderful outcome to the process – gaining true value in every sense!!
Amanda, this blog is really great. I very rarely read blogs and I NEVER forward them, but I sent this to a sponsee who really struggles with abuse issues because so much of your writing matched the issues she is dealing with, I feel powerless to help her. Thank you for your service!
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