Recently, I’ve been on a roller-coaster ride in terms of emotions. On one hand it’s the new year, and on the other I’m seeing a lot of changes forthcoming in my personal life. And so every time I’m tempted to lose my calm and call or text my friends in a state of absolute panic, I’ve been repeating this quote to myself: “Self-command is the main elegance.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson). I say to myself, “for elegance’s sake, command yourself now!” And that tends to calm me right down until I can call or text my friends with some semblance of composure. 🙂
The idea of elegance is definitely a better motivator for me than just telling myself to cool it. I have such a longing for it–and consciously or subconsciously, it’s driven many of the choices in my life. My elective language *had* to be French; I was into dance, music, literature, and I majored in art history. But while the deliberate study of such things certainly reinforces the penchant for beauty, I think true elegance is more than culture and good taste. Like Emerson so rightly put, elegance is a state of mind, an attitude. It emanates from within and can’t be masked or bought. Here are some ways to become more elegant, inside and out, in 2015.
1. Strengthen your will and self-command.
Elegant people, as a rule, don’t run around in complete lack of self-control, whether it’s positive or negative emotions they’re dealing with. Self-command, however, doesn’t mean just bottling up emotions and acting like a robot/ice queen–it means processing your emotions and knowing how to nurture yourself internally first. The ability to self-soothe requires maturity and emotional intelligence–some of the most elegant qualities around.
Bonus: Self-command also has the added benefit of increasing your mystery. Remember, you don’t have to tell everyone everything about yourself (so says I–ha). Anyway, who doesn’t want to be mysterious?
2. Be self-aware.
In my early twenties, the idea of elegance was still quite far out of reach (and not just because I shopped mostly at Forever 21). Elegance comes with self-awareness: your likes and dislikes, your taste, passions, your signature style, even the knowledge of your own body. (For example, I’ve just learned in the past few years that my right hip is more open than my left–a small detail, but details matter.) With self-awareness, your choices, from your style to personal life to career, become simpler and more confident–and what’s more elegant than confidence? Self-knowledge also lets you love yourself more fully–another elegant quality.
3. Say no.
As the “most elegant woman in the world,” Coco Chanel, once said: “Elegance is refusal.” The greatest change comes the day a woman decides she can say No to things she doesn’t want. No to unhealthy relationships; to a boss who expects you to pick up an unfair amount of work; no to dysfunctional family members who always take, but never give; no to friends who never show up for you, but expect you to show up for them. Don’t feel guilty or add a string of excuses after your refusal–“No” is a complete sentence. Boom.
4. But be kind.
Just because you have no fear of saying no, doesn’t mean you don’t act out of kindness. Good style means nothing if you don’t have sincerity–not just charm-school etiquette, but a genuine wish to be kind. It means answering emails and calls even if you get nothing out of it, actually listening to someone, being respectful whether someone is rich or poor or old or young. Contrary to misconception, an elegant person is the opposite of snobbish.
5. Make self-care a part of your deal.
I’m not a picky eater–but once, my dad told me that people will pay attention to how carefully I feed my body, and give me the same level of treatment, too. This doesn’t mean you have to become high maintenance, but I think it serves a point: that the way you take care of yourself will send out a signal to others. Nourish yourself with healthy, delicious and happily prepared foods and make exercise your daily priority. Make your personal time a non-negotiable (even if you have small children!). Invest in things that make you feel good, whether it’s nice sheets, beautiful lingerie, night cream, or season tickets to the ballet.
Elegance is about looking exactly like yourself no matter what you’re wearing. Whatever your signature style, stick with it–I always find that nothing is more memorable than someone who can make a silhouette, a color, texture, a haircut, or an item of clothing her very own. Experimenting with accessories is fine as long as everything still looks natural, effortless, and un-fussy. (Alas, this means no headbands for me–but I can wear as many rings as I like!!). Once you find that, resist the urge to branch out into different colors, cuts, and patterns–get used to looking like your best, most confident self all the time!
7. Walk with confidence.
I firmly believe that how you walk can make you look like the most beautiful person, no matter what you’re wearing. To walk elegantly, keep your chin slightly lifted, head over your shoulders (not forward), shoulders open and resting down, chest open; core engaged; step lightly and confidently, straightening your knees, like you have mile-long legs (it helps if you have your best stilettos on!). Bonus points if you can maintain a slight “spring” in your steps while wearing heels.
Do you also ever think about becoming more elegant? And any words of wisdom?
Related: Beauty Resolutions for 2015
Photo: _RoScO_ via Flickr