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Last week we had a follow up appointment with a client we’ve been working with over the last month. Her service was complete and we just needed to drop off some final pieces at her home. As she came out of her front door wearing one of her newly purchased outfits, she had a smile on her face and an err of confidence in her step we hadn’t seen previously. There was a shift in her demeanor almost impossible to put into words, but so apparent that she couldn’t help herself from mentioning it. She spoke about the change she felt in her state of being, how she had always known this person was still inside of her somewhere but had gotten lost along the turbulent path of child rearing and professional development. She shared a huge risk she’d decided to take in her career and cited her new found identity as the driving force. Calling herself only somewhat of a fashion enthusiast, she explained how the beautiful clothing was a plus for reasons of aesthetic purposes, but that the gateway it provided to allow her to reconnect with herself and take chances she otherwise wouldn’t have was priceless.

How Psychology and Fashion Intercept

If you happen to be a Psych 101 savant, you’ll recall Maslow’s theory on the hierarchy of needs – the very popular framework for assessing human behavioral motivation. Arranged in a 5-tier pyramid, he argued that baseline physiological needs are necessary for survival and the most essential yet primitive human need, followed subsequently by safety, love and belonging, esteem and lastly self-actualization. While Maslow and fashion aren’t typically covered under the same umbrella, the two are inextricably intertwined as we reach the top of his pyramid.

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What is Self-Actualization?

Self-actualization can often be seen as identity refreshment, and is the need to connect one’s self with who we are in order to achieve our greater purpose. Often going unrecognized, this highest level need is achieved when we can identify with our deepest rooted desires and live to our truest human potential. Frequently discarded as materialistic, fashion plays a huge role in getting to the top of Maslow’s pyramid when used as a tool to create congruencies between our inner and outer being. In today’s hectic world with the demands of a busy schedule, it’s easy to be pulled in so many directions and start to lose sight of ourselves. Priorities are placed on bottom of the pyramid needs such as feeding our children, providing food and shelter for our family, earning a necessary income, and just trying to keep our head on straight while time seems to escape us. Our personal identity, and certainly our desire to search our soul to find our truest self, not only gets left to the wayside but often lost altogether.

Style + Human Potential

The very beautiful thing about personal style is that we can use it as a vehicle to share our truest identity with those around us and feel that we are seen and understood. It’s not the high-price designer items, latest trends or even meticulously planned ensembles that matter in and of themselves, but rather the impact our wardrobe can have on the image we project when it matches our internal state. Clothing we feel good in, that represents our uniqueness, brings with it an unstoppable power and magnificent force of confidence. It allows us to operate personally and professionally on a higher level and gives us a trust within ourselves to take chances and make bold moves. This association to fashion and style transcends the idea of clothing as just something we put on to function in the world, but rather one tool in our kit to help become the best version of ourselves possible.

That beautiful client who smiled on her door step as she prepared herself for another busy day, subconsciously associated with Maslow’s teachings, and found a way to begin reaching for the top of her pyramid. Change can happen in the blink of an eye and it almost always comes from an internal shift. When we start to look at ourselves differently, feel a sense of empowerment and believe that we are capable, there’s almost nothing that can stop us from achieving our goals.

Photo credit: Glamour Magazine, 2018

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