For the first few years of college, I really enjoyed the freedom of getting to wear whatever I wanted (that was athletic wear to class, all day, every day). I think it was actually good for me. We had a stricter dress code in high school, and I never really got to feel comfy at school. It wasn’t the dress code’s fault… but I just felt so much pressure to look “right” every day.
A lot of it, I put on myself, because I never felt like I measured up. I never, ever skipped mascara, and my outfit had to follow all the school rules but still make me look perfect. On a day when I didn’t feel super skinny, or my hair didn’t fall just right, you’d better believe it was even harder to get out of the house. You’d never be able to count all the mornings I spent stressing in front of the mirror, changing one more time, running to the car, and wondering “what will people think of me today?” all the way to school.
Enough re-living that. I really embraced RAE again in college, and I realized I can be proud of who I am without so much smoke and mirrors. I love not having to squeeze into stiff, tight jeans if its just not my best day. I love not having to worry about getting carded in the hall because my shirt is 5 fingers below my collarbone instead of 4. It’s amazing to be able to use my own judgement on what is and isn’t appropriate.
This year, I feel like I’ve realized something huge – Being proud of who I am allows me to take care in my appearance. It can actually be fun picking out a nice outfit and trying on new eyeshadow colors. Instead of trying to impress others, now I like dressing cute because it shows how I feel on the inside. It shows that I feel good about myself, and it makes me feel empowered to accomplish a lot and make other peoples lives better.
You know what else? Dressing cute doesn’t mean you have to dress “up” every day. I feel good when I wear things that make me smile! I read a book during Christmas break on the art of tidying – the author insists that you only need things in your closet that spark joy when you pick them up. You know what really sparks joy? My otter socks that my friend Naomi got me for our team sock-swap. The snowman sweatshirt my “might-as-well-be-family” friend Tiffany got me for Christmas this year, along with the matching fuzzy socks and my sweater leggings. I pick things I like no matter if anyone’s gonna see them or not, because now I’m dressing for me. When I honor my appearance, I make better choices (diet is better, more school work gets done… I even clean more).
There’s also this thing we have called the Trojan Way – It involves dressing appropriately for the occasion. Like you’re proud of yourself. Like you go to Troy University, and you love it. Like you’re happy and you’re going to go big places in life. Each occasion calls for something different – maybe a dress, maybe jeans, maybe tights – but you ultimately get to decide each day when you wake up what you want to look like. And… even if you don’t get to choose what you wear, you get to own it with a smile. It really is the most beautiful thing you can wear – and it took me a long time to actually believe that was true.
And you know what’s behind a really beautiful smile? An honest one, that lasts? Confidence in something greater than you. Because, if you’re anything like me, you’ll never be enough. But when you remember that you’re chosen, pursued, and loved by the God of the universe – worth dying for (thank you, Jesus!) – that’s when you have the ability to truly shine and sustain it for the rest of your life.