Outfit Post: The labels we wear on the inside

This past Saturday night I went to see the Black Angels with Erin of Work With What You've Got. It was loud, and hot, and the audience was at capacity with bearded and ponytailed twenty-something hipsters in black concert tees, skinny jeans and Chucks. The venue smelled like beer and pot and cigarettes and a million other unidentifiable odors. I wore a fetching ensemble composed of a Forever 21 hot-pink leopard sports bra under a lace trapeze top, paired with a thrifted vintage black skirt and black leather platform sandals. With my tattoos and bright red hair, I thought I blended in pretty well, despite the fifteen year-age difference between me and the rest of the crowd. After five hours of talking and singing and yelling and dancing and people-watching, I eventually crawled home after one o'clock in the morning. All in all, it was a fantastic night.

However, on Sunday morning I was in serious pain. I couldn't hear out of my left ear. My throat was raw. My head ached something fierce. And my feet were sore from hours spent in those platforms (which I wore despite warnings from my husband that they'd make me a cripple before the night was over. Okay, husband, you were right. There, I said it.) I spent most of the day popping Advil and lying on the couch curled in a fetal position.

In the wake of my post-concert trauma, I started to question whether I should have attended the event in the first place. I wondered about the condition of the other concert-goers the next morning. Were they suffering from pounding headaches and sore throats? Did their feet hurt? And the came the inevitable questions: Was I too old to have been there? Did I look ridiculous? Were my days of late nights behind me? Did I belong at home, watching depressing sitcoms on CBS and clipping coupons for things like Sunsweet prunes?

While pondering these questions, I was reminded of a recent post on Psychology Today about the internal labels we carry. The author explored the life-long struggle many of us have to shake off the limits we think define us. Often these labels have been internalized for years, and the fight against them can feel like a never-ending challenge.

Reading this article led to some fairly deep introspection. I mentally flipped through ways I label myself.

"You're too old to stay up until all hours."
"You're too fat to wear those skinny jeans."
"You can't shop in that store."
"You're not talented enough to be a writer."
"You can't make a long road trip by yourself."
"You're not stylish/cool/youthful enough to wear that outfit."
"You're not fit enough to run a 10k."
"You shouldn't leave the house without make-up."

Labels have a way of sticking around. Often they've been adopted following a traumatic event or conversation with an important person in your life. My mother was a strict enforcer of rules, and I grew up believing that there were certain things I just couldn't do because they were inappropriate, unbecoming or unladylike. That included wearing certain types of clothes, staying out late, or even going places alone. Growing up with such strict limits also discouraged me from even trying to challenge them - why have hope when I'm just going to fail? The defeatist, pessimistic nature of labels keeps us confined and crippled by self-doubt and insecurity. Criticism from a boss, close friend, or teacher can also reinforce the ways we label ourselves. Sometimes it only takes the slightest reminder to trigger our biggest fears and doubts.

Thankfully, I'm determined to challenge the ways I label myself. Despite the fears that I was going to look redonk, I wore that neon leopard bra. I danced and sang at the top of my lungs and stayed out late. And I had a fantastic time. My morning after guilt is inevitable after challenging myself, but it's no excuse for me to continue to abide by labels.

Do you believe that you have internalized labels that limit yourself from being who you are? What are some ways you label yourself? Are there things you believe you just can't or shouldn't do? What do you do to challenge these labels?

Thrifted Target tuxedo jacket; Forever 21 lace tank; Forever 21 sports bra; thrifted vintage skirt; White Mountain sandals; thrifted vintage Coach satchel; TIKKR watch; Forever 21 rhinestone bracelets


  1. WOW. If I could wolf-whistle across the internet, I totally would. This outfit looks amazing on you!! I actually find it rather inspiring. I'm totally going to copy it.

  2. Your DEFINATELY talented in writing! If you had no pictures at all I'd still read because you write so eloquently. You write things that are current, valid, and need to be said. And you do it with humour. Plus, since meeting you at the TxSCC I know your online persona to be sincere. Love that. Your Awesome, now don't you forget it!

  3. I definitely think we all follow the labels that were assigned to us by others (or ourselves) but it's so important to challenge them sometimes. This was a very interesting post!

    And yes, I always feel like hell after a late night out, despite what I was doing, drinking, etc.

  4. Love this outfit and love this post! I started a second look project because I set so many labels and rules for myself that I was sleeping for so many years not experiencing what everyone else was! So true! Thanks for sharing!and would love to have you link up today for Thrifters Anonymous no rules just link up this super hot outfit!!!Love that skirt!


  5. You're such a star, Elissa. Way to be introspective AND brave. We can't break free from the things that hold us back until we know what those things are.

    Also you looked smokin' hot. The end.

  6. Another amazing post and frikkin' great outfit. You look fab-u-luscious! Please keep this up. You encourage me (and others too) to dress and live with courage!

  7. I am terribly sorry about the serious pain you were in. I know what it is like not being able to hear sometimes. I had kawasaki disease as a child, caused my palms and feet to become very swollen. hough, being older, I know what a raw throat feels like. It is not fun. Sometimes you are like: god, just kill me.

    I hope you are feeling much better. I'm glad you had a fantastic night.

    Labeling happens far too much, I think. As a boy, I'm subjected to a lot less labels toward fashion, but our personalities, we do get subjected to a lot of labels.

    "You are not handsome enough."
    "Your a boy. You have to play sports."
    "Boys need to be atheletic, so do you."
    "You don't look cool."
    "You aren't cute."
    "You eat too much. You're going to become fat."
    "Brush your hair."
    "Keep your hair short!"
    "Tuck in your shirt."
    "That shirt is not male enough, change it."

    Labels are very subjective, and they are adopted and they for sure follow people around.

    I hate labels. I've been labeled several times, when I was a child I had glasses and I hated it.

    Great post Elissa. The outfit looks great as well. :). Very good post, made me sit down for several moments to think.

  8. Miss Elissa, you are always so interesting. And you look HOT to boot!

  9. Let me start off by saying- one of my favorite blogger outfit posts- EVER. you look stunning cool and fresh all at once. I wanna party with youse.

    Then you throw down some seriously thought provoking ink that reasserts my questioning about how we identify ourselves through our ways of dress. GREAT POST.

  10. Love this outfit! And I love your hair so much! You are so super cute!

    Lindsey Turner

  11. ~ * ♥ * ~

    I love how insightful this post is; thank you Elissa ~ you are making me think again!

    bonita of Depict This!
    ~ * ♥ * ~

  12. Yes, I think I label myself. And I'm really trying to get out of that habit because you're completely right, it limits who you can be and that's a terrible thing to do to yourself. Wonderful sentiment and post.

    Also your outfit is pretty damn hot. I would like to own it.


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