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How I Learned That Being Confident at Work Has Nothing to Do with What I Wear

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I overthink everything. A simple task like picking out an outfit can become a full-on travesty in a matter of seconds. Questions like, “Oh, I like this shirt, but will people think I’m a hoe because a bit of my bra is showing?” and “How much of basic bitch would I be if I wore leggings?” take over my brain. There have been times when I literally just said “f–k it” and got back in bed, then realized I had obligations and went back for another round of endless overthinking.

After starting my internship at xoJane, these thoughts while getting ready went into overdrive. Our work area is mixed in with that of the editors from Getmebeauty, so if I ever had a fear of having a fashion faux pas, this environment certainly isn’t helping.

I was having a particularly terrible bout with overthinking my shoe options a few weeks into the internship. I was torn between my old trusty white Converse and a pair of strappy platform sandals. I stood in front of my full-length mirror for at least 10 minutes, wearing one shoe from each option.

Did I want to be comfortable, plain-Jane me in the Converse, or did I want to miraculously transform into a clone of Rihanna in the badass platform sandals? 

Finally, a decision was made.

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I headed out the door in the badass Rihanna platform sandals, and I was feeling fierce, hunty! As I walked past reflective windows in Lower Manhattan on my way to work, I couldn’t help but notice the extra lift in my booty and the pink rims on the soles that tied in seamlessly with my pink Beats headphones. I thought, My damn, did I make a good choice with these babies! as I flipped my hair and strutted to Drake’s “Pop Style” like it was my introduction in a blockbuster movie.

As I approached a huge crowd of postal-service workers — random, but a big USPS office is nearby, so I guess they had some sort of mailman gathering — one of the straps on my sandals went “pop,” right out of its socket. Good thing I still had my music playing loudly to drown out the laughs from those damn mail people. If only I had worn sunglasses to block out their smiles and knee-slapping as I walked in the opposite direction like an injured NBA player.

There I was, limping down a busy street during the morning rush, going in the complete wrong direction of my job, with only 15 minutes to spare. Just when I got into a good limp rhythm, the strap on my last good shoe decided to turn on me as well. I gave into the embarrassment and leaned on the side of the closest building, completely discouraged. Then I saw three people sitting on a bench in blue USPS uniforms, one of whom was waving me down to get my attention (I still had my headphones on).

“There’s a shoe-repair place right up the street,” the woman said. Her voice’s “I’ve been there before” tone gave me a small boost of courage, enough to continue my now double-limp for one more block to the repair shop.

The shoe-repair guy was gracious enough to give me some women’s shoes that he happened to have so I could make it to work on time while he worked on my sandals. I spent my whole day walking around the office in some else’s shoes: nude, pointy-toe kitten heels to be exact.

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As you can imagine, these shoes seemed like just the right blow to throw my wandering mind right over the edge. But I refused to feed into my thoughts of self-doubt every time I thought I saw someone in my office of fashionistas look down at my shoes.

I decided not to let something so simple as shoes distract me from doing my work. I realized (after my first two hours of walking around in self-pity) that, in a busy magazine office with tasks constantly being thrown in all directions, people were too occupied with their own overthinking minds to care what was on my feet. And even if they did shun me for my shoes, they didn’t know the challenges I went through to get these shoes (and still make it to work before everyone else *flips hair*). I was damn proud of those kitten heels, and I decided to strut them with confidence.

It’s crazy how much thought I put into picking out those sandals, how many times I walked in front of the mirror seeing how they looked with my outfit, just for them to break. It took me wearing a stranger’s ugly shoes to see that being confident and self-assured in my new work space wouldn’t come from what I wear.

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There’s no “right” choice — no choice that can spare me from the mishaps, mistakes, and embarrassments of life, especially with little stuff like shoes.

Basically, living requires a lot less thought than I give it.

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