Vanity or Sanity?

I have been struggling with the idea that fashion blogging carries a connotation of vanity. I mean, I take great care styling my outfits in the morning and taking photos of myself and then posting them on the internet for strangers to view. I suppose many would consider that vain. As a result, I was hesitant even before I started my blog. And I had to come to grips with that view. But it has been a struggle for me. I’m not one who generally feels the need to justify my actions, but for some reason with this blog, I do feel that need. So I had to look inside myself and figure out why I pay such close attention to my outfits and why I want to share them publicly. What is my purpose with this blog?

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This is what I have discovered…fashion is my therapy. And it started at a very young age. When I was in middle school, we did not have a lot of money for designer clothing. I could not keep up with the latest trends or afford the same styles that my peers were proudly wearing. This was at a time before discounted retailers were cool and trendy. These days it’s praise worthy to find that amazing skirt on clearance for $3 or that fabulous jacket at the thrift shop. But during my teen years when girls were so harshly judging one another, we did not have the funds for me to “fit in”. So I decided at that young age that I didn’t need to fit in, but I did need to express myself. It is important to know that I was extraordinarily bashful, so the best way for any sort of self-expression was through my clothing. So I began finding creative ways to dress myself…this included thrifting and pairing together unexpected combinations of clothing. And my love of fashion grew from there.

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Then in my mid-twenties, my life started to spiral out of control and I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. It seemed everything inside of me was completely crazy. And everything around me felt equally chaotic. Fortunately, I had a wonderfully brilliant therapist who gave me this piece of advice that has stuck with me these past fifteen plus years: what is inside of you and what is outside of you will reflect each other. If you are feeling chaotic inside, your surroundings, your living space, your appearance, will reflect this chaos. And they did. My apartment was a disastrous mess. My life was a disastrous mess. I was a disastrous mess. And the reverse of this is true as well. If your surroundings are a disaster, you will feel emotionally and mentally chaotic.

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Here was the advice: if you can’t control the one, control the other. I could not control the inside, so I had to find a way to control the outside. So even in the deepest of depressions, I forced myself to get up in the morning, shower, put on makeup, style my hair, and get dressed. Even on days when I never left my apartment or never came in contact with another human being. I did this. Every. Single. Day. I demanded order in my appearance. I started to organize my living space. I did this to the point that it bordered on obsession and over the years it became a habit. And you know what happened? I started to feel mentally and emotionally in control. So much so that I was able to cease my medications and live a full and rewarding life. So now, years later, getting dressed and maintaining my appearance is done not out of vanity but for the sake of sanity. There is a deep seeded fear that has grown out of that darkness that demands I maintain control of my outside so my inside never goes to that place again. And the result: I feel great every day that I get up, get showered, get dressed, and get on with my day. There is an energy and an exhileration that comes from taking care of myself.

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Because of the fantastic results of doing this, fashion has become a passion and something that I just really enjoy. So I offer you all the same advice. And this is my purpose with this blog: To inspire and empower you to make time for yourself. Make time to take care of your appearance. It is not vain, it is essential for good mental health. And it is especially important on the days when you feel particularly horrible. Take the extra time on those days to put yourself together. Get dressed. Put on make-up. Do your hair. Your inside will directly reflect your outside. I promise!

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Outfit details:
Dress: Old Navy (no longer available, but same dress in blue stripe here)
Shoes: Kohl’s (from last year)
Scarf: Talbots (from about 15 years ago)
Necklace and earrings: Cato Fashions (no longer available)

What keeps you ordered and in control every day? What makes you feel fabulous? What is your therapy?

Staying sane on the edge,

Shelbee

Linking up with: These Fabulous Link Ups Where I Link Up

Follow shelbeeontheedge@gmail.com:

I am a 40 something Army wife and stay-at-home mother of 2 boys and 2 cats named Dave and Frankie. I have a passion for helping other women feel fabulous in the midst of this crazy, beautiful life.

90 Responses

  1. So true about outside reflecting inside. When I was first diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos, I wore all black, all the time. Black top, black yoga pants. I felt no control over the illness, no cure, so I was depressed and felt angry. I think 8 yrs later. I try to make the best of the good days and do hair makeup daily, as it does help. I understand! Love your shift dress , the color and your very unique and pretty necklace!
    Thanks for linking up with the Tuesday
    Jessxx
    http://www.elegantlydressedandstylish.com

    • Thank you so much, Jess! You have been such an inspiration to me and recently a wonderful blogger mentor as well! I love everything you represent and the way your style yourself always make me smile! And you always look so fabulous that I could never tell the chronic pain that you battle! It is a testament to how strong we are and how we can take control of our lives…every little bit helps…especially sharing our stories with one another.

      Thank you again!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  2. Nice dress!Love that color on you

    http://chicglamstyle.com

  3. The vanity issue was a pre-blogging concern for me too. How fabulous for you that you’ve been able to deal positively with you struggles through style and fashion. Your story is a marvelous example of how it can change our perspective and perhaps improve our life. Thank you for sharing your journey.

    Rena
    http://finewhateverblog.com

  4. I really appreciate this post; probably because I can relate to so much of it. Thank you for sharing these pieces of yourself and life. I agree, it isn’t vanity but sanity!! That is a perfect saying. Your outfit is adorable here! I love the printed dress and red lip.

    Jane
    http://www.unextraordinarilyjane.com

    • Thank you so much, Jane! I spent so many years feeling “unrelatable” that it is so rewarding and relieving to have people relate to what I’ve been through, my experiences, my thoughts, my feelings. This is why I share these pieces of my life now. So others may relate and find comfort, companionship, and solace in it. Thank you so much for validating what I do! That is a priceless reward!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  5. Shannon Jenkins

    Such a fun dress! Love the print and the neck scarf looks adorable!

    <3 Shannon
    Upbeat Soles

  6. love the tunic dress!! so effortless!

    Have a great day!
    Animated Confessions

  7. Such cute necklace, Shel!

    – Seyra x
    http://www.pavementsarerunways.com/

  8. so summery! love the color of the dress!
    Irene
    http://www.thedailylace.com

  9. Andrea @ Living On Cloud Nine

    Amen!!! Fashion is like therapy!! nd talk about beautiful inside and out…you are!!! And LOVE that dress, the color is fantastic!!

  10. Awesome advice! I struggled trying to fit in as well, being different from everyone else. I was a tomboy and didn’t get voted for anything in my senior class and got picked on for several things. Being older, I know now that I could care less who I’m accepted by. My blog is the perfect avenue for me to show that and it makes me smile every time I’m behind the camera or computer! 🙂

    http://www.thebeautybeau.com/prints-charming/

    • The wisdom and confidence that we gain through years of experience is absolutely amazing, isn’t it? I so relate to you on this, Candace. I am so glad that you found your creative outlet through blogging as well. It just reassures me that what we do is important. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  11. Shelbee, I think fashion and blogging can be so many things. When I was a teen, as you, my parents didn’t have the money for me to be one of the fashionable popular girls, which was OK because I was a Drama geek at heart. But I loved art and designing clothes and Mom would buy me all the fabric I wanted so if I wasn’t at school practicing a play I was in my room sewing my dreams. The art lead to teaching K-12 art for 32 years (I finally hung up my art apron and retired four years ago) and I am a teacher at heart and teachers share what they know. I think that is why I blog. It can be great therapy and vanity has nothing to do with it. It is taking care of what you need and having a good, healthy life. Take care, love you posts.

    • Thank you so much, Terri! And thank you for sharing your story and your wisdom. I think that is what we need to give back to others…our wisdom. If what I have learned the hard way can make it a bit easier for someone else, then it was worth the hard lesson for me. Life is a rough road and no body gets out of here alive, so we really do need share what we know and be kind and supportive. This wonderful blogging community is made of so many thoughtful, genuine, positive, encouraging, and empowering women. I want to be a part of that. I am a part of that. And it’s true, vanity has nothing to do with it! Thank you for reading!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  12. Wonderful post. I can so relate to your feelings during your teen years. I am older than you but shoes were a big thing, everyone wore Bass Weejuns, but me of course, cardigan sweaters with circle pins. lol Most of our clothes were home made, both our mother and grandmother sewed for us. What I carried over to adulthood is the shoes, I probably have 150 to 200 pairs of shoes. And yes fashion is therapy.

    • Thank you so much! I definitely have a shoe issue as well. My collection is probably in excess of 100 pairs, too! It’s like filling a void of some sort, but unlike a lot of voids, this one actually can be filled! Thank you so much for reading and I am so happy that readers can relate! We carry so much with us over the years that it really is refreshing to be able to discuss all the baggage without fear or judgments.

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  13. You have a beautiful way of writing, and I always enjoy reading your words. You look beautiful and I love the scarf! Have a great rest of the week!

    Shauna

    http://www.lipglossandlace.net

  14. Lovely dress, you look great in this color!

    XoXo,

    Tamara – LoveofMode.com

  15. Love this outfit, Shelbee! Hope you’re having an amazing week <3

    Blessings,
    Edye | http://gracefulcoffee.wordpress.com

  16. What a nice post Shelbee. Your story is so touching and relatable. I, too, struggled with the vanity and blogging thing. But, I think age has gotten me to the point where I am going to do what I need and want to do in life. I have always styled everything around me so why stop now!! The red dress is the perfect statement color to pair with the theme of your post. Great choice. Keep on blogging and don’t look back.

    Cherie
    STYLE NUDGE
    http://www.stylenudge.com

    • Cherie, thank you so much! It means so much to receive validation from so many fabulous bloggers, like yourself, whom I have been following for so long and hold in such high regard! I aspire to create a space with the same unique and interesting content as you and so many others. I am so honored that you read my posts and can relate to them. Your words have truly made my day! Thank you so very much! I am honored to be in such wonderful company in my blogging pursuit!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  17. Great dress! Also, this is such a relatable post & it was so nice to read!

    http://michellespaige.com

  18. Right on spot, I can relate to your post in SO many ways.
    I had a hard time in high school, like you say, when trying to fit in was all about the cool brands and clothes. These were not a possibility for me. A pair of expensive Reebok tennis shoes and a few Esprit tshirts were my highest peak.
    I also question myself sometimes about the “reason” mostly because my husband it not very keen on the idea, but I have been doing this for years now. I enjoy it, its a hobby for me.
    I find it therapeutic, I feel its something I can control.

    • Thank you so much, Lorena, for sharing your style story with me! I really am overwhelmed at the response I am receiving from this post and how many other fabulous, gorgeous bloggers are relating to my story. It is so comforting and empowering to know that we aren’t alone in anything. I appreciate your reading my post and commenting. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  19. This is such a thoughtful post, and you make so many good points. I’ve always seen fashion as a form of artistic expression, just like someone who paints, etc. I also agree with you about getting showered and dressed every day – I have to keep my outer life orderly for the rest of me to feel good. Thanks so much for sharing this with us!

    • Thank you, Lana, for reading it! I’m more than happy to share what I have learned in my life…I sort of feel like this is my purpose. I’m just so happy that people are relating to it and responding in such a positive way! Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I am overwhelmed with gratitude!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  20. You look great and I would not say you are vain if you care about how you look, I think we all should care how we look, as long as we are happy with the result.
    Nora
    http://www.jacketsociety.com

    • Thank you, Nora! Yeah, that’s kind of where I am now…vanity and self-care/pride in appearance are definitely not the same thing! I just needed to reconcile that in my own head! Thanks for reading.

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  21. Love me a good summer tunic and sandals. Adorbs!

  22. Great look! Love your dress!
    Hugs,
    Love from http://www.trangscorner.com {a lifestyle, fashion, beauty, and food blog}

  23. I view blogging as a creative outlet and hobby, so try and look at it that way 🙂 Love this color on you!

  24. Fashion is like therapy to me, too. I think its different things for different people, but I think there is so much more to fashion blogging than being vain!

    Carrie
    curlycraftymom.com

    • Yes, Carrie, I agree! And the deeper I get into blogging, the more I am realizing that it is about feeling great and being the best versions of ourselves! Thank you so much for reading!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  25. Well said and so true. Thanks for sharing.

  26. First off, you look amazing! Love that color and dress on you! Your post is so relatable! I truly do not feel my best if I don’t get up, shower and get dressed. It’s not being vain, I just get a sense of being more productive and I honestly do get a lot more done!

    Have a great day!!

    Xo, Erica
    Casually Styled

    • Thank you, Erica! I am so glad that my post is so relatable to so many fabulous women out there! It really is a tremendous validation for me to keep doing what I do! Thanks for stopping by!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  27. I love this! Thanks for sharing xx
    xx OHIAMIHT BLOG

  28. I absolutely love your shoes! I think that as long as you are blogging for you and it is something that you enjoy, then that is all that matters. 🙂

    Rachel
    Simply Rachel Nicole

  29. I never thought of fashion as being my therapy, but you are right. I feel so much better when I get up, get dressed in something that makes me feel good, and get out the door. Blogging is such a fun way to share our love for fashion. I felt strange too at first, but I have started owning it!

    Amy Ann
    Straight A Style

  30. You gotta do you, babe- I love that fashion is a form of therapy for you. YES.

    Love the neck scarf + the blousy dress; such a fun summer look!

    -Ashley
    Le Stylo Rouge

  31. I struggle with those same thoughts and worries sometimes. But, if it makes you feel great, it’s worth it!!

    Brooke
    Pumps & Push-Ups

    • It is totally worth it, Brooke! And the wonderful response I am receiving to this post definitely makes me feel like I have succeeded! Thank you so much for reading!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  32. I love how open you are about everything. I too struggled with feeling “vain” about starting my fashion blog. But at the end of the day… it makes me happy! I had to stop feeling embarrassed when out taking pictures in front of people and start feeling empowered that I’m making my dreams happen. Thank you so much for sharing. I really enjoyed reading this post!

    Love, Lindsey
    http://thenomisniche.com/

    • Thank you, Lindsey, for taking the time to read my post and comment. I am pleasantly surprised at many people are responding to this particular post. It really was a struggle for me to reconcile this vanity thing. And one thing I will always be is open. I want to share what I have learned through my own struggles and hopefully help others along their way…even it only lets someone know that they are not alone. Blogging definitely makes me happy, too!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  33. I think every fashion blogger has asked herself that very question and each of us has a very different answer. I love that you do this to help yourself maintain order and control. I think it’s a form of therapy for us all. And it helps us to not feel so alone in this great big ol’ world.

    By the way, I love that color!

    • Thank you, Daenel! There definitely is an amazing connection of positivity that permeates this entire blogger community. I am so honored to be a part of it. And I am so glad I chose to stick with it!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  34. I love this post!! I agree with so much of what you said. Fashion is my therapy as well. I often find that when my surroundings are a mess I am also a mess. I feel like I often need to re-evaluate things, tidy up my space and mind. Lovely post. And you look Beautiful! Love those shoes!!

    xx, Elise
    http://www.sparkleandslippers. blogspot.com

    • Thank you, Elise! I am seriously overwhelmed by how many people are taking the time to respond with how they personally relate to this post. Thanks so much for reading!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  35. Now I understand the basis of the name you chose for this blog, Shelbee. I feel the precise same way you do, with writing. Words have always been my solace. Through childhood sexual abuse, eating disorders, every obstacle thrown my way. I admit there are days when there’s nothing I’d rather do than lounge around with unbrushed teeth and pajamas (and on days when I don’t have head to the office, I sometimes do) but it is the prospect of getting up, sitting by my laptop and the ability to string words together which keeps me going 🙂 just as dressing up does for you 🙂 xoxo

    • Thank you so much, Sheela! Thank you for sharing your story. I think it is so important for us feel connected to each other rather than isolated in our darkness. Writing, talking about it, pulling ourselves together in whatever ways we can, and sharing our little tricks with each other is so key to surviving this crazy life. Like all my mom friends constantly remind each other, it takes a village. And it is so true. And I am starting to really feel like this community of wonderful blogger friends is one of my villages. Thank you, thank you, thank you, so much for reading what I feel the need to share and for taking the time to respond. You truly are an inspiration, Sheela.

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  36. Good advice! I agree that if you take the time to put yourself together you’ll feel better! Love the red on you and your neck scarf! This is such a cute look!

    Jill
    Doused In Pink

  37. What a great post, Shelbee! Yes, putting in the time and effort to look nice can brighten up your mood and your whole day and the way your interact with others. I totally agree! And personally I think even if it is vain, so what? We’re not forcing anyone to read our blogs, right? Other ladies our age want to see what real women are wearing these days!
    BTW, you look fab in RED!

    Thanks for linking up, Dear!

    OXOX
    Dawn Lucy
    http://fashionshouldbefun.blogspot.com

    • You are absolutely right, Dawn Lucy! Vanity Schmanity! I like to dress up. It’s fun and it makes me feel good. And compliments brighten everyone’s day anyway, don’t they?! Thank you for the compliment! I am finally realizing red is one of “my” colors. I never wore much of it in the past! Thanks for stopping by.

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  38. Thanks for linking up to Top of the World Style

  39. Such a great post!! I am a firm believer that if you like who you see in the mirror – you will make the time to take better care of yourself. This includes dressing , your living and working space, even the interior of your car, fitness, nutrition etc. – all contributing to a healthy lifestyle. After my accident – I didn’t like who I saw looking back at me in the mirror .. and it wasn’t until I started having the energy to actually get dressed and add a little make up, get my hair blown out – that I started to wanting to move forward. When I realized the important role everyday/ordinary self care was having on my healing – body, mind, spirit – I knew I had to share it with others – and that is how I stumbled into the world of Self Care mentoring. I recently launched a day planner that weaves bits of self care prompts to help inspire women to practice self care on the daily – you can check it out here: http://www.resilientista.com/e-books–guides.html

    One of the reasons I started joining fashion linky parties was to ensure I got dressed at least a couple of times a week in the early days … a few years later, it’s in hopes to inspire others to do the same – get up, get dressed, show up in their life!
    This look is gorgeous on you! keep up the great inspiration and good work! You are amazing … a true Resilientista ( a term I created to describe women and their resilient with sass in over coming what life throws their way).. 🙂

    • Celia, what a fabulous and inspirational story you have to share as well! And I love that term Resilientista! We definitely have the power within ourselves to overcome, we just need to tap into it. I remember in the early, early days looking for someone else to save me. It took a long time for me to realize that I had the power to save myself all along. Once I realized that the climb out of darkness became a little easier and a whole lot more rewarding! I am going to say this again, I am so overwhelmed with the response to this post! I am grateful that so many are relating to it and sharing their stories, too. This is the process of healing…sharing our stories. And thank you for sharing your link, I will be sure to check it out and I hope others do as well!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  40. Wow! I am so glad you were able to hear the advice and do it! Fashion is my therapy too and as growing up being one of five kids and my mom staying at home everything was hand me down or thrifted. In my early 20s I began to shop like crazy. I realized what was happening and have pulled way back from what I used to spend. I love fashion but now it’s in moderation. Thank you for being brave and sharing your story.

    http://www.mylittlenest.org

    • Thank you, Ruth! And thank you for reading my story and sharing yours as well. I need to start controlling my shopping habits as well. It became like an addiction at one point, but I am pulling back now, too! But I also am having fun styling what I have in my closet.

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  41. Shelbee, thank you so much for sharing! I love that you’re using your passion and chanelling your creativity through this blog. While it drives me insane a lot of the time, tidying my kids’ mess at the end of the day gives me a sense of control and order. And getting rid of excess stuff too.
    Eileen
    http://5feetofstyle.com

  42. Great post! I have always felt that having a fashion blog could be interpreted as being shallow to care so much about clothes. But what I’ve found is a wonderful group of unique friendships that love clothes too. It’s not about having the latest style but sharing something about yourself. I have really enjoyed meeting women from all walks of life that have a similar interest in fashion.

    Thank you for being a part of TBT Fashion link up and hope to see you soon!

    Alice
    http://www.happinessatmidlife.com

    • Thank you so much, Alice! I agree with you 100%. The clothes are just a tiny part of it. Sure, we love clothes and fashion, but I think it is so much more about feeling great and helping others feel great as well. I also have discovered such an amazing community of women through blogging who are so willing to lift each other up and appreciate each other’s unique style.

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  43. I love that fashion and words have had a transformative and healing power for you. No matter what issues anyone has or doesn’t have, the way they present themselves on the outside reflects what is happening on the inside. We’re animals, and animals reflect their health and their mood in their grooming. I can see how some people may view clothes and blogging as vanity, but I believe it is all about vitality rather than vanity. I’ve recently found your blog and I look forward to reading more! xx

    • Thanks so much, Lisa! It is so true that the way we present ourselves communicates so many things about ourselves. I like your phrase as well…”vitality rather than vanity”! I have a new post for ready for tonight about how we communicate…words, action, appearance. You should definitely check that one out, too! Thanks so much for reading!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  44. How brave of you to write this very personal piece. Bi Polar affective disorder can be massively destructive and completely wipe away hope and order, and yet you have battled on through. I applaud you. Vanity or sanity is a great terminology. I too struggled with the vanity element of blogging, and do write about it from time to time. I hate having to justify something which seems so acceptable to thousands of other bloggers. While I was growing up, brains were what were rated in our household, therefore worrying about how I looked and dressed always felt so shallow. And yet it was what gave me a sense of self, knowing how I wanted to look and achieving it made me feel good. And continues to, to this day. In my battle to contain, control and bring chaos to order in my life, I love the feeling of a perfect outfit and how it can make empower me in other areas of my life. Thank you for sharing.
    Anna x
    http://www.annasislandstyle.com

    • Anna, thank you so much for your kind words of support and encouragement! And thank you for sharing your story and your struggle with this same issue of vanity in blogging. For me being open and honest and making connections is also a huge part of blogging…I think this is how we find ways to heal, by seeing what has helped others. And I so want to share what I have learned and what has worked for me. Thank you for reading!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

  45. Ahhh…Shelbee…you and I share so much more than an undying phobia of the avian population…lol! Seriously though, I totally feel what you’re saying. I come from such an ugly dark place and fashion/clothing was always my way of making everything a little bit prettier. My appearance was the one thing I truly could control which led to a pretty major eating disorder among other things, but clothing was the one healthy way I could channel my need to control my appearance and in my mind, my world. Now I use my blog as a way to not only share my stories, but also to inspire/help other women to see that fashion goes so much deeper than vanity. So glad we found each other!
    Debbie
    http://www.fashionfairydust.com

    • Thanks so much, Debbie! I was just reading your comment on Sheela’s post and thinking, “Oh wow! I didn’t realize how much we had in common.” I was going to hit reply in those comments, but I quickly checked backed over on my page and here was a comment from you! Not only are we kindred spirits, apparently, in fashion as therapy and ornithophobia (that is fear of birds, and yes, I just looked it up because I knew there was a word for it!), but in timing as well! Thank you so very much for stopping by my little place on the internet and I am also so very glad we have discovered one another!

      xoxo
      Shelbee

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