Do it anyway: Improving yourself and dealing with those who don’t understand

December 11, 2011 · 34 comments

in Apparel, Timeless, Tips

I recently started reading The Flinch, by Julien Smith. The basic idea is that we humans have this inclination to protect ourselves. This self-preservation, this flinch, is a defense mechanism meant to keep us alive and safe. It’s the flight in “fight or flight”.

The problem is that in our modern society, rarely are we humans put in a situation where we need to flinch. Rarely are we ever in THAT much danger, relatively speaking. We have longer lifespans, modern medicine, homes that shield us from the elements, the absence of dinosaurs and flesh-eating mammals roaming the streets.

Yet, we still flinch. We let these fears prevent us from doing awesome shit, making great change, and improving our lives.

That fear of speaking in public? Of doing a Skype call with someone you haven’t yet met? Of going up to unfamiliar yet attractive strangers in bars? Of losing weight? Of dropping bad habits?

That fear, that’s the flinch.

What does this have to do with personal style?

Glad you asked.

I get a lot of emails and comments that allude to this issue of insecurity. They say things like “I can’t dress like that with my group of friends,” or “Not sure what my girlfriend would think if I suddenly started wearing blazers and nice shoes.”

These comments are clear indicators of the fear in these gents’ minds when it comes to change… and this fear prevents great change from happening.

The flinch.

In reality though, if you REALLY think about it, what do you have to fear when trying to improve yourself? At the most, one or two jeers (from poorly-dressed peers, naturally), maybe a couple confused looks, some questions based on curiosity (“Whoa, when did you start dressing like that?”)… but I’m confident that if you keep at it, most of the reactions you receive will be positive, uplifting, and supportive.

The first step is pressing on despite any fears you might have.

Here are some common issues and internal questions that tend to come up

What will my friends / loved ones think?

You’re likely to encounter one of three reactions.

One: Negative, either of the “Eww, I don’t like your new look,” or “Who do you think you are?” variety.

I don’t understand either, particularly the latter. Since when is it bad to want to improve in every aspect of your life, especially the most outward-facing one, your appearance? And the former is usually said by people who have little or no knowledge of good style, so how much weight do their opinions really hold?

Two: Ambivalence, unsure of what to think or how to react. They’re not negative, but not necessarily positive either. These people will come around, if you keep evolving, learning, and doing your best.

Think about it. It’s a drastic change to go from ripped, faded jeans and dingy tees, to dark denim and button ups. People won’t know how to react when they see you. So those who are unsure but mostly okay with it will come around and turn into supporters eventually, trust me.

Three: Positive, the ones who are like “Hell yeah! you look great!” are the folks you want to keep around. Why? Well, for support, and because it’s good to keep positive peeps around you when you’re making an effort to do things differently.

Who gives a crap?

Side note: When I first started writing this, my first inclination was to proclaim, “Who gives a crap what people think? Even your closest loved ones? If they hate, then forget about em.”

I still believe this, don’t get me wrong. If they’re truly your friends or loved ones and care about you, they’d be supportive of you no matter what, especially if the changes you’re making in your life are for the better.

But, I know this is easier said than done; every situation is different, and dynamics can vary drastically. So the above is my more thought-out answer. If you’re more pragmatic and no-nonsense like me, you can go with the “Who gives a crap?” answer.

Can I really pull off a new look?

Dude, of course you can. The toughest thing to get over is that feeling of being overwhelmed.

Take your time; evolving your style and improving yourself isn’t a Sunday afternoon project, complete in a couple hours. It takes commitment, true interest, and the desire to learn and make changes where necessary.

It also takes an open mind, because a lot of the things you believed to be true about how to wear clothes will be challenged. More times than not, you’ll realize you were wrong all along.

I don’t know what I’m doing.

Good thing you found this site then, right? Like I just mentioned, self-improvement (not just in style, but in every aspect of your life) is a marathon and takes consistent action to see any results. Just keep learning and practicing and trying and doing. Ask lots of questions, make decisions, and figure out what you like.

There are too many options. How do I know where to start?

You’ll know where to start once you know where to start. That sounds super vague, but if you keep learning and reading and going to stores and trying stuff on, you’ll easily learn what fits and what doesn’t, what constitutes well-made versus shoddily constructed, etc.

I’ll tell you one thing, every man needs a great pair of denim.

Once you’re ready to start making some good purchases, make sure you consider these things.

There are too many options. Who do I listen to?

Well, me, for one. Though to be honest you’re doing yourself a great disservice by listening to me only. There are a bunch of great writers / bloggers who are super knowledgeable about men’s style, and you can learn a lot from each of them.

Here are some of my favorites, ranging from basic style advice to more advanced topics and ideas.

Ultimately, you dress for you

Sure, part of your motivation to dress better is to impress so-and-so who’s caught your eye, or maybe because your significant other gives you dirty looks every time you leave the house and you’re starting to feel her deep, seething resentment.

Maybe mommy and daddy are treating you like a child still, and putting on a collared shirt and ironed chinos might get you more respect and adult-like treatment (you’re still five years old in their eyes, and probably always will be).

What it really comes down to is this: you need to dress better for YOUR own good.

If you’re in this deep, reading practically every article on this site, learning as much as you can about menswear, quality clothing, where to buy what, buying less but buying better, then your primary motivation should be to improve your life and style and appearance because YOU want to.

Impressing others and gaining approval as a source of motivation only lasts for so long. Eventually, that drive fades, or you lose interest in the other person, or you stop caring about what others think.

The only thing that will bring long-lasting change is the desire for constant self-improvement and the motivation to present yourself better.

Make sense?

What’s holding you back?

I’m sure a few of you can relate on some level. What are your hang-ups? What’s holding you back from experimenting or discovering your own personal style and taste?

Is it the feeling of overwhelm? Not knowing where to start? Not sure who to trust? Or maybe you just need more time to read, absorb, and learn?

Let’s hear it down below in the comments. I’m curious and maybe I can help.

 

ps — if you have a minute, please like Effortless Gent and Fifth&Brannan on Facebook, wouldja? You rock.

About

Barron is the founder and editor of Effortless Gent, a site dedicated to helping guys figure out what looks best on them. He's based in San Francisco. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

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