Outfit Post: On self-awareness and being different

I am child of New York City. I rode the subway alone when I was fourteen. I know the difference between a bialey and a bagel. I can hail a cab in the rain like no one's business. And I'm a master at the fast walk without looking anyone in the eye because I'm very very very important, I have important places to go, can't you see how IMPORTANT I AM?

In the New York City of my adolescence, oddball and eccentric behavior was both welcomed and encouraged. I thought nothing of wearing neon fishnets under my ripped jeans and layering Catholic schoolgirl skirts with vintage lace blouses, leggings and Doc Martins. Conformity was a four-letter word, a disease best left to adults, or those that had the unfortunate condition of living in the (gasp!) suburbs.

And now, at 37, I live in the suburbs. I am nothing like my housewife neighbors, with their bedazzled capris and designer bags and bleached hair and penchant for gardening and sharing recipes and hosting Southern Living kitchenware parties. I stand out. I have bright red hair and an affinity for wearing vintage sequins while fetching my dry cleaning. I am pale, refusing daily trips to the tanning salon. Instead of scrapbooking and organizing neighborhood potlucks, I skulk around thrift stores. And I have many, many visible tattoos. I get looks when I venture into my suburban neighborhood - second glances, curious side-eye, or blatant, outright staring. And the majority of this eye contact isn't exactly friendly. A trip with my kids to the mall yesterday resulted in so much staring that I felt embarrassed, even ashamed, by the time I left.

It takes considerable courage to be different. Of course, being different extends far beyond what you chose to wear, or whether you have tattoos. Being different means embracing the opportunity to chose where your heart leads you. It can also include the freedom to start doing what you love, following the things you are interested in, and discovering the things you've always wanted to find. 

When I got home from the mall, I jumped on the computer to try and figure out others handled being different. I found that the key to embracing your uniqueness, the things that make you different, is self-acceptance. Self-acceptance means being loving and happy with whom you are NOW. It is an agreement with yourself to appreciate, validate, accept and support who you are, even those parts you’d like to eventually change. Self-acceptance is the willingness to embrace all the things about you that make you different, regardless of how you might compare to others.

When you lack self-acceptance, you’re more likely to struggle with low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and problems in relationships. The refusal to love and accept yourself might lead you to believe that you’re not rich enough, beautiful enough, loved enough, lucky enough, or successful enough. It might lead you to doubt who you are, and entice you into conformity.

Being different may set the stage for a lifetime of side-eye. But it's what makes you, you. You should be different. If there weren't people different from you, you would not be an individual.

So what makes you different? What are your quirks? Have you ever faced criticism for being different? Do you enjoy feeling different, or are you more comfortable blending in? Leave a comment, and share the things that make you different here!

Thrifted The Limited silk blouse; Gap bra; thrifted Escada skirt; Lucky Brand wedges; TIKKR watch, Charming Charlie bracelets


  1. Kudos to red hair, tattoos and unique style! I couldn't agree with you and this post more. It is our differences that make life worthwhile. Once we all start to embrace our inner outcast the world would be a greater place.

    Love the line "lifetime of side-eye" haha. It's something I'm quite familiar with. My love of crazy prints, 40s and 50s style and my refusal to be anyone but myself are what make me different.

    Great post Elissa!

  2. I am born and bred Tennessee. The boonies, the outside of nowhere. At least the only New Yorkers I've ever known said so. But I'm not totally unaware of regional differences. I am also not into tattoos. Both my girls have them and that's their choice. Not something I'm going to make a big deal over. I am like my neighbors to an extent because I haven't been transplanted to another part of the country except for a stay in Fla many years ago.

    All that being said, I couldn't do tanning beds(my Dad died of melanoma), I couldn't stick rhinestones on everything I own, and big hair isn't my thing. So I'd probably stand out in your setting too. So look for a smile and smile back. There are those out there that think you look terrific(including me) and you'll find them.

  3. first of all, adorable adorable outfit. second of all, i love how you said it takes courage to be different.

    Probably what makes me different (other than my voice) is that I'm an unusually passionate person, which isn't an outward, physical quality. People are usually taken back by how involved I am in my passions, which they don't really get. I am who I am, though.

  4. I love differences! I found my ability to stand out when I left my high school to go to a performing arts school where no one thought it odd to wear a tutu with doc martens for class topped with a nirvana tshirt. We were all freaks and geeks together. I loved it. As an adult I have to put a little bit of that away because of my profession (I'm a school counselor in a JHS/HS) and because my husband is the superintendent for our school and I have to be presentable when I leave the house. But that doesn't mean I wear blouses, pearls, and slacks every day (or ever!). I just put the tutus away:). And when we travel, all bets are off. Today I am wearing a funky, ruffled floral dress, a bow in my hair, and frye boots. Tomorrow who knows! We only live once, so be you and let the world be whatever it wants to be!

  5. I enjoyed every word, thanks!
    Great outfit, and I love your hair!

  6. I love that outfit on you...so cute!

    While I don't usually push the envelope too much in clothing anymore, I was rather used to being different growing up. I was a farm kid. My clothes were either thrifted, handmedowns or I made them myself. I had some interesting ensembles. I had a hard time relating to the other kids in the suburbs. During summer weekends they went to the mall...I competed in rodeos.

    I dye my hair red, too. I used to have really long hair and that made me stand out, though the side looks were more in amazement that I had healthy thick hair to my butt than anything mean.

    Over the years I have noticed that I rarely look up when I am walking...more that I don't like to make eye contact and seeing strangers looking at me. It makes me uncomfortable.

    I love seeing people dressed differently. Sometimes its a wonder to me, but then I step back and think, "more power to ya!" If they want to dress in an usual fashion and express themselves I think that is a great!

  7. The fact that you are "different" is exactly why I enjoy reading your blog. I generally try to blend in myself - so as not to draw unwanted attention - but I've got nothing but respect for those with a braver attitude.
    Shine on - you are beautiful.

  8. What a difference location makes -- in that outfit, in my suburban neighborhood, you would be a very well put-together mom! I also don't see you as being all that pale -- you have a little color, but it's obvious your skin is the type that shouldn't be tanned anyway. I think the South is much harsher on non-conformists than the rest of the country (I lived there for 4 years and that was my experience, anyway).

    I agree that conformity can be blah. I recently had my hair highlighted -- it had so much overlapping dye, it was too dark and unflattering to my skin tone. Now I get a lot of compliments on it, but the truth is, I have mixed feelings about that. It IS a much better color for me, but I suspect a lot of people like it just because it's expected. It's a conformist look. I'm keeping it for the summer, but I already find myself plotting what ridiculous color to put on it come fall. It may be conventionally attractive, but it isn't ME. I also care less and less about what I look like as far as attracting men -- not only because I'm married, but because I find myself thinking what a limited way to live.....

  9. Doing what is expected is definitely easier and, dare I say, during certain seasons of life, may be the better choice. It comes back to balance.

    That said, I rarely fit in with the way I dress. When I was growing up, most of my clothes came from thrift stores and were severely outdated. Even new things somehow managed to miss the mark. Now, I try to dress in a way that makes me happy and at work, at least, that makes me slightly overdressed, but I usually receive compliments for that.

    More than clothing, however, I stand out by refusing to participate in many "required" work events. Whether it be not wearing a name tag (safety and respect objections) or declining to participate in required social functions, I struggle to be polite and kind while still making the choice that is best for me. So while I may not get many looks over how I dress, I do catch wafts of incorrect statements about me.

    I understand it can be intimidating, but I really wish people would come talk to me instead of spreading conclusions without first finding out the facts.

  10. I might be guilty of staring at someone's fashion choices, but it's usually because I'm staggered by their bravery and wish I could express myself as colorfully. Stares aren't always bad!

  11. Well...it's McKinney. I grew up right down the road in Fort Worth, and you describe the grown-up version of most of the girls with whom I attended high school. And that was in the poor neighborhood...

    About the only "normal" thing about me back then was my hair--big and blonde. Still, once I found a group of friends, I found I could live pretty happily. Perhaps some people perceive the south as less tolerant. However, I find, once you get past the superficial conformity in appearance, that the south is remarkably tolerant of all kinds of behaviour and interests.

    Since moving to the midwest, I find that people don't much care what I look like, but really seem to care deeply about whether I "go along" and behave "normally." My purple haired, heavily tattooed friend is more acceptable than me because she is a conservative Republican and a Cub Scout den mother. In contrast, people seem to take it as a personal insult that I appear "normal," but the contents do not match the apparently safe package.

  12. I LOVE how your are the complete opposite of a "suburban housewife" keep up your awesomeness! I really like this outfit too! Very cool.
    No Guilt Fashion

  13. Were in the world do you live? I have huge tattoo's on both arms...then the big one on my back... I can't remember the last time someone looked at them. Here in Phoenix you'd be considered well put together. But then my doctor has her nose pierced....things ain't the same in a big city, I guess.

  14. So I went back and looked at your pictures again. You do have quite a few tattoos. I swear to you I have hardly noticed. Which means you wear them very very well. You know how some people seem to BE there tattoo's versus the tattoo's are a part of them? You own those tats! Good for you.

  15. I just discovered your blog!Aren't you just so fun!!!
    Have a PRETTY day!

  16. What a great reminder for us all - thanks for posting!

  17. This is a great post. I have been hiding my individuality most of my life, unless I'm home alone. Can you believe it? Now I'm 51 wonderful years and I'm just now coming out of my own closet (pun intended) ;-) I'm enjoying fashion and where my "heart leads me" for the first time in my whole half century. Glad I found you!

  18. You are beautifully unique! Flaunt your stuff, lady!!

  19. OK..I know I have only followed for a short while but this is MY FAV outfit...love it. I did something similar last week..tying a silk blouse up w a fuller skirt...made me feel so skinny..I plan on wearing this type of outfit all the time now, lol.

    OK...totally love your post...and you are right..you aren't really comfortable being different until you figure out what makes you YOU and learn to accept it..and that takes a while..I feel like I am still trying to figure that out......

  20. Thanks for featuring Charming Charlie in your blog!! We have added your blog to our blog mentions page on our website. It’s a page we created exclusively for showcasing Charming Charlie blog mentions!

  21. The sad thing is you're not trying to be 'different' - you're just being yourself.


  22. What a beautiful blouse. It sounds to me like YOU are GOOD for your neighborhood.

  23. Well I AM big blond hair, big boobs, lots of bling and I get stares 'round DFW too. :) Personally, I enjoy seeing different styles, and I think you are a beauty!

  24. Oh my! I have always felt that way - I've never wanted to blend in, and besides, never felt like I possibly could. I never wanted to do the things everyone else did or look the same as they do. It's why I didn't go to college, why I moved off to the Big City (Chicago), and how I got to be self-employed doing what I love (tailoring).
    Turning thirty next year, I'm much more accepting of all lifestyle choices - sometimes, the suburbs and a minivan are just what works. But I do love my adoptive city, my job, my vintage-mall furniture, my tattoos, my freedom, my ever-growing closet, and the fact that my boyfriend loves all these things about me too!
    Also, Elissa, I can't tell you how much you inspire me to believe that once kids come along, I don't have to be like everyone else either. You're amazing!

  25. Oh, and BTW I have those same Lucky Brand cork wedges!

  26. I am mostly outed as 'weird' because of my personality. I'm childfree and do not care for children, I'm not a touchy feely kind of person.
    I guess mostly I was a goth/weirdo growing up and the angsty personality only really got stronger with age.
    Appearance wise I'm generally the gal in a skirt or dress which is strange in a land where everyone seems to wear jeans (nothing against them just not my preference)


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