Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Building Confidence with Color: Starting with Your Purse

Fear. It can be a constant companion, with such a strong presence it almost feels like you have another person walking beside you. It can overwhelm you, leave you gasping for air. For me, fear often brought me to my knees through panic attacks, until I started standing up to fear and building confidence. Tackling fear is a momentous feat and one I began by choosing a purse (a purse you can win).


I used to never give my purse a second thought, after all it's just a convenience to hold one's phone, keys, and other stuff. I'd typically pick up one or two good sized bags in a neutral leather (brown or black), a small crossover purse for going out - also in a neutral leather - and one or two clutches for more formal affairs not necessarily in leather but in neutral colors with maybe a bow or some crystals for embellishment. Then came a bold BCBG Magenta clutch, and my life started to change.

Flashback to the 2005 holiday season. I was working at a software company, struggling to be noticed for the work I was doing. I was a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. I wanted to be innovative. To be creative. I kept getting boxed in. (Not helping me was the fact that up until this role I'd worked for startups or myself for the past decade.) I felt invisible, my confidence was at an all time low.


To save money I was going to go to the holiday party wearing a gown I'd had for a few years. It was a nice dress. It was flattering, but it was a safe dress. The type of dress one wears to corporate functions (it had indeed been purchased for another corporate holiday party). I had a nice clutch that went with it (a clutch I carried with me to my high school junior prom). Everyone was going with dates, I had none. A colleague from out of town also didn't have a date, we decided to go together. I didn't want him to feel like he had settled, so I headed out to the mall to brighten up my attire.

I walked into the BCBG store, wives of colleagues had recommended it for appropriate attire. I told the clerk my problem. She returned with a Magenta clutch. I laughed and asked for something a little more conservative. She said why not try it. I remember replying, "It's too bold. It's not me." Yep that was me to a tee, mousy, boring, and trying not to offend anyone with an opinion that might not be popular. I complained in private about how much I hated the status quo, but I did nothing. I was anything but bold.


I tried on a black BCBG gown paired with the Magenta clutch. I wasn't sold. In fact, I was still pretty sure Magenta wasn't my color and that I was going to look like a fool. And then I did something bold. I asked for the dress I was wearing in the matching Magenta. If I wanted my date to not feel like he had settled, why was I here settling? And I walked out of that store and into the rotunda of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco in a Magenta halter dress with a Magenta clutch and strappy gold sandals.

To say that I strode boldly into the museum would be an exaggeration. Not used to heels and walking on marble I was far from sure footed. (I also just wanted to throw up for the first hour of the party as I imagined everyone was looking at me and thinking I was a clown.) My date never noticed me, but that didn't matter, others saw me differently. Not because I dressed differently, but because I started seeing myself differently. That night I took a step towards facing my constant companion--fear. And for once, instead of walking in front me, obscuring who I really was, that night fear cowered behind me.


Choosing Your Power Accessory

Whenever I need a confidence booster, I grab one of my brightest purses from my closet. I have vintage bags in Magenta, Red, Orange, and Green that I frequently choose. When picking a bag I don't care if it's supposed to be for an evening out or a day at the office. I go with the color that's speaking to me.

You might be thinking how does a purse boost confidence. Here's how. You're picking a color and a style that's not your everyday go to bag. If you don't yet have a colorful bag or color scares you, get a ribbon or a scarf and tie it around your bag. This act of defying expectations (you're only supposed to use clutches for the evening or neons are too bright for a corporate environment) and living (seriously have you ever heard of someone dying of embarrassment? Nope, I didn't that night in 2005 and you won't either) while BIG for you--it takes so much COURAGE (give yourself a pat on the back for doing it, you deserve it), will probably go unnoticed by colleagues. Start doing it again and again and people will notice, not that you're carrying a bright bold purse, but that there's something different about you, confidence.

What's your power color?

"[A handbag] is the biggest secret that you carry around, but it's a positive secret. It can hide everything and reveal some things. It is an extension of the person, like a second skin. It must move effortlessly and not be rigid or restrictive. A bag is a holy object. A sacred, personal space. One doesn't go looking in the bag of another, after all. A bag is a reflection of how people think, how they do business and how secure they feel. Some bags are nonchalant while others are more formal." -Hester van Eeghen, Bag and Shoe Design: Hester van Eeghen(*affiliate link), p.23.

genuinely eden

Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.

DISCLOSURE: This post contains an affiliate link, followed by (*affiliate link). I feature products that I own or that I am considering purchasing. I own the book quoted in this post. All opinions presented are my own.