What to wear ... you’re not wearing that, are you?

How the energy in words can control us, long after they are spoken.

What to wear ... you’re not wearing that, are you?

I grew up in a house with four brothers and no shortage of feedback on the way I looked. I can remember getting dressed to go out one day and feeling good about how I looked, only to go downstairs and be greeted by one of my brothers with,

“You’re not wearing that, are you?”

It was a simple statement, but it had an effect I am only now beginning to appreciate – if that is the right word for describing something that I’ve consistently undermined myself with ever since.

The amazing thing is, it was spoken once and yet it stayed with me ever since.

It wasn’t in my conscious thoughts every time I dressed; it had become part of the way I thought about myself, activated when I dressed, distorting how I saw and confirming any doubts I had about how I looked in what I was wearing. This is science – a living example of cause, effect and relativity.

There is plenty of research to support what is innately known by all of us – that words are powerful[i] – but it is what we do with them that allows their effect on the way we think about ourselves to be destructive or enriching.

How amazing is what we choose to take on and let stick?

I can’t remember which brother said it and I’m sure they’d have no recollection of saying it either. It was a throwaway line designed to dress me down regardless of what I was wearing. It worked then and did so for many years because I didn’t stop it or let it go.

I’m sure that we can all relate in some way to that sort of experience. It might be different in each person’s case, but isn’t it true that we often take on what others say about or to us?

In my case, I felt that I was clear about saying no to serious forms of abuse (being hit, pushed around) but low-grade verbal abuse, I seemed to not only accept but also to hold onto.

Is it possible that we hold onto things and go over them millions of times in our head as a way of keeping ourselves small or less?

If that is so, could it be that we are avoiding knowing, accepting and staying connected to something grander, felt deep within that no outside opinion can sway?

Wouldn’t it be great if we knew ourselves so solidly that we were not swayed by what others said?

That is really worth considering, when we consider the harm done otherwise. In fact, how destructively powerful does one comment become when we don’t stop to bring it into the light of day and discard it, but allow it to literally become part of the way we think about ourselves, and our sense of self-worth?

An enormous re-shaping of the way we think happens during childhood and adolescence and we start to take on what others say as being the rules we need to live by. In doing this, we stop living freely – and come to live in self-abuse and, worse still, we come to know this as ‘normal’.

What I have found, through connecting more and more with myself, is that at any stage we can stop and bring awareness to what experiences such as the above have set in place and start to come back to just letting ourselves be, without all those imposed thoughts, ideals and beliefs.

There is a part of us deep inside that knows we are precious, understands how we forgot this feeling, and is there for us to reconnect to.

In this way the grip of, “You’re not wearing that, are you?” is released and can be let go of, for good, as we start to appreciate and self-love instead – leaving the question of what to wear to be answered freely from our sense of preciousness.


  • [i]

    Fields, R. Douglas, Ph.D., www.psychologytoday.com: "Sticks and Stones--Hurtful Words Damage the Brain": Published October 30, 2010, in The New Brain.

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  • By Adrienne Ryan

    I’ve always been interested in understanding the underlying cause and effect behind what we experience in life and for this the heart is the greatest teacher any student could have.