What Time Are We Upon And Where Do I Belong?

When I was a fashion blogger, no one in the industry liked me. I didn’t dress the way they did, and when we were at events, I always felt like I didn’t measure up. Even if I had walked out of my apartment feeling great about my outfit, something about being in a room full of people who got dressed professionally made me feel self-conscious. Like I was covered from head to toe in dog hair or something.

I started blogging about fashion and personal style in 2006. Every day, I would get dressed up, drag my tripod out, and start snapping pictures. My style was really a lot. I wanted to look like Jem, or some kind of superhero. It was all about evolution. I wasn’t interested in trends: I wanted to create a character, through clothing, that I could then step into and embody.

It worked. After a few years of dressing like the imagination of a Japanese animator on LSD, I was able to free myself from the limitations of who I had always been. Mostly.

As I had been willing myself to become a bigger, better version of myself, my industry — fashion blogging — had been growing, too. What started as a world for outsiders began to become populated with insiders: modelesque blondes with wardrobes full of Chanel handbags were experiencing instant blog popularity. Fashion week, to which an invitation had felt like a fun, subversive secret, started to feel like a competition of who had more followers, who had more disposable income, and who looked the most perfect.

I had loved the world of fashion blogging because it was an escape from pretense and self-importance — it was a space where we could play, wear weird outfits, and experiment. My goal had always been to encourage my readers to wear what made them feel good, and try new things without fearing the consequences. I believed you could be stylish no matter how much money you had in the bank. I had always tried to create an online space that made you feel good about yourself, but the newer blogs felt like Vogue. They seemed to be all about aspiration and lifestyle lust. It was bumming me out to see so many people wearing labels head-to-toe in the name of “personal style”, and to see their audiences eat it up.

At the same time, I was starting to become more interested in the concept of self-love. I had been practicing it very actively in my own life, but it was beginning to overtake my interest in getting dressed up. When it came to personal transformation, I had used style to take me as far as I could go, and I had written as much as I could about using it as a tool to assist change. Now it was time to experiment with other methods, and I was excited to share my discoveries with my audience.

But the challenge was this: I didn’t know who I would “be” if I stepped away from fashion blogging. Isn’t it funny how we are desperate to belong to a group, even when we know we’re not welcome in it? I had never fit in with those girls. We didn’t send late-night texts or go shopping together. Even back in the beginning when fashion blogging was all outsiders, I was still an outsider!

The idea of belonging to a group — even if it was a group that I didn’t click with — felt very important. If I left that group, I wondered, who would my “new group” be? Would I even have one? Was I doomed to roam the earth alone forever? I really wanted to be part of the new self-help movement, with people like Danielle LaPorte and Jonathan Fields (and a lot of other people who have since packed up shop and disappeared). But I didn’t know if I would ever be accepted by them. I didn’t know if I had the knowledge or talent to even be in their stratosphere. What I did know was that I couldn’t keep pretending to enjoy something that made me want to claw my eyeballs out.

I started to slowly transition over my content. As tempted as I was to make a grand proclamation (“I’M FINISHED WITH FASHION BLOGGING!” *dramatic pause*), I knew that my feelings could change from moment to moment. What if I changed my mind next week?

So instead of saying something, I acted. I started to behave the way I thought someone in this new self-help movement would. I turned down fashion week invitations and stopped going to boring showroom appointments that I had never enjoyed in the first place. I turned down sponsored posts (gulp) even though I needed the money. I started writing more about happiness and self-esteem, and I stopped sharing my outfit photos so much. And, like any kind of change, some people resisted it, and some people embraced it.

We often stay with a group because it threatens our identity to do otherwise. What will it mean if we leave? How will it reflect on us? Maybe all our fears that we are unlovable, boring, whatever, will be proven true. Our desire to belong is so great, and our fear of being alone is enormous. When you’re changing your lifestyle — maybe by eating healthier, or working on your self-love practice, or staying in instead of going out every night — the hardest thing is feeling alone. So we often revert to the behaviour we want to escape, just because the pain of being lonely is so massive. ‘Fuck it,’ we think, ‘I’d rather eat pizza with my friends than eat salad on my own.’ And we stay locked in that same place.

But the truth is that when we’re alone, we are free. Free to discover who we truly are and what we want. When I stopped thinking about what outfit I was going to shoot, I freed myself from those expectations I’d placed upon myself, and I started to feel creative again. My blog became a place where I could experiment, just like it was in the beginning.

And when we’re alone, we’re free to make real, meaningful connections — to find people who resonate with us at a deep core level, who share our mindset. Those friendships are the ones that will transform you and your life. But you won’t find them as long as you’re tolerating the status quo, trying to fit into an uncomfortable social scene, or pretending to be something you’re not.

The same year that I decided to unplug from fashion blogging, I got an email from Jonathan Fields, inviting me to be a guest on his Good Life series. Danielle LaPorte came to town, and we ate burgers at The Standard. Gabby Bernstein invited me to lunch, and we ended up working on multiple projects together. I went from wanting to be part of a group to being mentioned in the same breath as my heroes.

It’s never over, even in this moment. I am actively creating my identity and moving away from the labels that I once dreamed about. I’m asking myself, who am I aligning myself with, and what have I outgrown? Where can I change, become better, stretch my own limits? It’s wonderful.

Here’s what the process looks like for me.

The first step is always to notice what sucks. This is easy, but not if you’re in denial. Being honest with yourself is a practice, and a lot of us have given up on being truthful in favour of feeling comfortable (or fake-comfortable, which is much more common). Start by asking yourself what makes you tense, what makes you cringe? What keeps you awake at night? What are you putting off or procrastinating on? Make a list. Don’t censor yourself.

Even if that seems impossible! If you don’t aim for something absolutely insane, there is no way you’ll feel satisfied. Always look around for people who are doing outlandish, creative, wonderful things. The people I look up to these days have transcended the idea of specialising in just one thing, and they have the confidence to know that their divine spark will translate into other arenas. They have their hands in all kinds of projects! That is what I want to be doing too! Yes, yes, yes!

You can think about what you want to do all day long, but the magic really occurs when you get out of your head and into your body. You have to — for lack of a better term — “put your money where your mouth is.” This may mean literally. When I was making my transition, I turned so many ludicrously well-paying gigs because I wanted to move into a new industry, and I knew that the longer I kept taking money from a haircare company, the longer I was their captive.

Perhaps the most crucial step is this one. You have to keep noticing what sucks, keep thinking about where you want to go next, and keep acting. This process is never over. I am always looking at what I’m doing and asking, ‘Do I enjoy this?’ I keep my eyes on the horizon and seek out people doing interesting things, and wonder whether I can take that idea and put my own magic on it. And then I keep acting as if I am the person of my dreams.

Love and big dreams,

Love and appreciation to Francesca Lia Block. The title of this blog post is from my favourite book, Witch Baby. I was really inspired by James Altucher while writing this. Photo by Lydia Hudgens.

My favourite project, Radical Self Love Coven is open right now! Enrollments close on Sunday at midnight (Eastern), so don’t miss out! We would love to have you join us. Click through for all the information. It’s delicious! xo