Defining Yourself...in a Marketable Way?
“What kind of ____ are you?” - it’s a question we’ve all gotten in one form or another, and it’s always bothered me, no matter what you put in the blank. I mean, Buzzfeed quizzes and the like have posed the question in listicles for years. What kind of blogger are you? What kind of journalist? What kind of girl are you? And, whether we realize it or not, this question, in whatever form it takes, also asks us to narrow ourselves down to one, easily recognizable ‘thing’ - it puts us in a box.
Now, after sharing my style on a public platform like Instagram, the question seems to be even more solidified in my own brain. It seems I’m doing everyone else’s work for them now, because for years, I’ve been asking it of myself. And I don’t think I’m the only one.
And I’ve seen it firsthand: our journalism, PR, or marketing classes teach us, it’s important to brand yourself. To find a niche - the more specific, the better. But what does that mean for our generation, who grow up with social media that asks us to do the same? That asks us to craft our lives to fit a certain aesthetic? That tells you, post after post, to find your niche - that’s what works.
What does this mean for fashion? What about your style, originality? Does it just go away once we decide this is where we belong? Do we ever stop searching for other parts of ourselves to unlock and explore?
I think especially in a community and the corner of Instagram that houses fashion bloggers, influencers and the like, it’s so easy to get lost in the branding. I felt myself trying to figure out my style for a really long time, up until a few months ago. I knew that I could maybe define myself as a fashion and style blogger, sure, but what kind of fashion and style blogger am I?
And what I’ve found throughout our isolation in quarantine is that social media provides us many, many voices, presenting us with all kinds of style, aesthetics, niches, and really asks us to define ourselves in 150-character bios (in the case of Instagram, at least).
I do think that our specifics are what make us unique, but most of those don't lie on the surface and require a little digging. I think that those layers that make up who we are are the most interesting thing about us - much more interesting than my major and my age, or whether I’m a cat or dog person (I’m both).
But I hate the idea of only being one thing. Of only standing for one thing. Of only styling myself one way, to fit into a certain style, and put myself into a box that way, as easy as it may be. It makes me feel restless and trapped.
Social media makes you feel like there is only one way to be, and that you have to decide (sooner rather than late). Are you boho? Are you preppy? Beachy? More grunge? Luxury? Because a lot of what we see is perfectly curated to match all together and present a very unified front. And that works for some people - there are plenty of people who really love that and enjoy sticking to it, because that's what speaks to them.
But that also doesn't mean that that's the only way, that once we’ve decided our 'platform,' or style, or what kind of ___ you are, that’s it. There is too much to explore that you might also love, whether it be things, experiences, lessons, ideas, or anything in between - and just because it doesn’t quite match up with everything else in your life doesn’t mean that it doesn’t deserve a place in your life. If it feels like you, it’s for you. But don’t let anyone tell you what ‘you’ should look like.
I started this hashtag to embrace every part of myself and my style, and encourage others to do the same. Especially now, I see more and more people talking about it, before they were able to figure out ‘who’ they were and how their style defined them.
Your personal style may not be what’s currently trending, or what you see fashion bloggers or Pinterest boards are posting, but that’s okay. That’s more than okay. And if it is, that’s awesome too. But remind yourself that you can be bits of one thing, and bits of another - your style doesn’t have to be exclusive to only one kind of anything. Like what you like, explore what you want to explore, and remember at the end of the day, being true to yourself and what you love is so much more freeing than putting yourself in a box.
Share your favorite looks with #meloutsidethebox and I'll share them! I'm excited to see what pieces and expressions of your style speak to you (whether they fit into your feed or not). Authenticity and exploration are so much more fun - we really are ever-evolving and growing as people, and maybe it's easier to market yourself when you're easy to define, but no one is, not really. That's what makes us all so amazing.
See you outside :)