“How do you feel about heels?”
The stylist waved towards an array of shoes, complete with a few pairs of stilettos I wouldn’t wear in a million years, red, flat loafers with a gold buckle and some silver trainers with sparkly toe caps.
I began to wish I’d brought my beautiful, shocking pink high heels with me.
I really don’t mind a good set of heels, but nothing in the collection before me was calling to me even remotely.
Before I could answer, she pointed to the loafers.
Oh. My. Gods! Noooo! I was wearing a shocking pink two piece. Flat, red loafers with a pink suit?
And anyway… loafers? They might be red, but they’re still ‘sensible shoes’, right?
“We thought you might be more of a flats woman; we can try these if you like?”
I forced a smile and gently shook my head, doing my best to make a joke of it: “Look, I might be a lesbian, but that doesn’t mean I want to be a stereotype.”
I held my breath. She laughed. I laughed. The whole world felt lighter.
Sometimes it’s good to stretch our comfort zones. As a coach, I’m always saying the growth zone is just beyond the place where we feel totally at ease, and that’s how I ended up being styled, in a studio, complete with a make up artist and hair designer (actually, the guy was an artist!) and a photography team.
The call had come the previous week. A national newspaper was doing a feature on women over 40 with “rebel hair” and someone had suggested yours truly.
I’m all about personal branding and visibility, so I wasn’t about to turn that opportunity down, was I?!
The challenge, for me, was that I’d always been a bit wary of stylists, personal shoppers, other people turning me into their idea of what looks good… you get the picture?
It’s taken me a long time to develop a style and image that looks and, more importantly, feels like me.
I know which colours to wear, how to funk up my hair just enough, which style of tops and jackets camouflage those flabby bits and how to use accessories to distract from the parts I’m not too happy with.
I also have stupidly sensitive skin, so I know which cosmetics I can slap on without triggering a flare up that would create pink, sore, swollen, raw patches all around my eyes.
Add the fact that my personal style is so recognisable into the mix, and that it’s so connected to my business brand, and you can, perhaps, understand why this was such a big deal for me.
While all my pals were telling me how exciting the experience would be, I was realising that I’d rather swim with sharks, sans cage and wearing one of those Lady Gaga style meat dresses!
I spent the week preceding the shoot reciting a mantra to myself: “Remember the comfort zone, Taz. This will be good for you.”
By the time Friday evening arrived, I almost believed it.
You might be wondering why I was putting myself through it, if the idea was about as appealing as Christmas shopping on Black Friday…
I’ve admitted before that I’m naturally far more of an introvert; I’ve had to learn to be confident in order to let the world see me.
You know how much my personal mission is tied into helping, supporting and motivating others, right? Well, I can’t be of service to all those people if they don’t know I exist.
It’s nigh on impossible to be a secret and a success at the same time, so that’s why I throw myself into so many media opportunities.
It’s not really about *me* – it’s about getting way beyond my personal ‘safety’ barrier in order to inspire and encourage more people to step into their own power.
Back to the studio…
Back to that studio, in the heart of London. It really was Black Friday, and the newspaper offices really were in the middle of Knightsbridge – one of the capital’s top shopping zones.
I was feeling lousy. I’d been fighting a lurgy for weeks and I sounded like Darth Vader’s chain-smoking cousin.
I turned up with all kinds of fears and concerns. The newspaper in question is at the conservative end of the scale and I was having nightmares about being squeezed into twinsets and pearls and seeing my punky, pink hairdo being turned into a rose-tinted cauliflower head.
The hair stylist strutted over to me, ran his fingers through my hair and grinned: “Oh,” he said, “I love it!”
Nowhere to hide!
First step was make up. And my make up artist was utterly lovely. She asked about allergies, then used my own cosmetics, making sure to only use some of hers with mine as a base. My anxieties swiftly melted away.
And then came the clothes stylist. She was also really amazing, though one of my fears was confirmed when she pulled out a tight, white T-shirt for me to wear. Worst still – I wouldn’t be allowed to wear a jacket over it for the first part of the shoot.
Folks, I work out, but my shape is not nearly forgiving enough for a tight, white, T-shirt!
I glanced across at the other lady on the shoot. Also in the standard, bright, white tee – but not an ounce of fat on her. She cut *the* perfect figure. She was throwing poses for the camera team, looking amazing and absolutely in the zone.
I know I tell people not to compare themselves with others, but this was turning out to be nigh on impossible for me.
Anxiety tapped me on the shoulder and grinned.
Phew! Getting easier
The second part of the shoot allowed me to wear my own pink jacket over the brilliant white tee, and I instantly relaxed – even though I’d also been poured into a pair of bright pink trousers in place of my trademark jeans. I was wearing my own sparkly, cerise Doc Martens and the silver trainers had been selected for a third set of shots.
By now, the master of hair had funked up my do to beyond my wildest dreams and the make up lady had given me eyebrows. And pink nails!
What’s more, the lady being snapped before me (who really was friendly and great to be around) had left the building, so I wasn’t being visibly reminded of what could be possible if I upped my exercise routine and quit my carbs addiction!
The shoot was loads of fun. The photography team were experts at positioning me to disguise the bits I didn’t like and show off the most awesome elements. Getting me to jump in the air, whilst maintaining the upper body pose they’d created for me, was a challenge and a half though!
At the end of the night, I was buzzing. My wife was with me, telling me how amazing I looked, and that obviously helped as well. For the journey home, I almost forgot I had been feeling like death warmed up a few hours earlier.
Why am I sharing this with you, dear readers?
A) I reckon it’s important to practice what we preach. There’s no point in me telling everyone to stretch their comfort zones if I’m not willing to do the same.
B) Confidence grows through DOING. You might have guessed, I’m not really body confident and I’m a long way from having abs like a radiator, but that doesn’t mean I should hide myself away. Neither should you!
C) I want to remind you that even those people who seem to have it all together are sometimes panicking beneath the surface.
You know that old analogy about swans looking so graceful above the water, but we can’t see their feet, paddling madly underneath? That was me on the night of the shoot.
Most people assume I’m overflowing with self-confidence but, let me tell you, it doesn’t come naturally.
Before you start comparing yourself to someone else and assuming everyone else has it made, let me encourage you to scratch that surface.
I promise you, even the richest, happiest person, living THE most abundant life, has anxieties, fears and sorrows like the rest of us. Don’t be taken in by the Fakebook and Instaglam fib factories!
Get out there and stretch your comfort zones, people. Give yourselves a confidence boost. Prove to yourselves that you *can* tackle that thing you’ve been putting off, that task that scares you a little.
You never know how much you’re capable of until you give it a try. And then try again. And again. Until you’ve smashed it!
You’re welcome to draw the line at flat, red loafers though! 😉
Until next time,