Ruby, Inc. asked a number of exceptionally confident women what it took to boost their confidence. You’ll quickly find it wasn’t that they magically became confident when they lost a few pounds, when their breasts became even or even when they thought they were finally perfect. It was something far greater and far more achievable. To read the first installment, click here.
By Professor Virginia Kugel-Zank
When I think about the word persona, it’s about creating an image which is distinctively yours–a unique style you can use no matter what size you are or how clothes in the market change.
Your persona is you.
Developing a persona comes from observing the world around you.
I started developing mine with my Aunt Helen and Aunt Sandy, who were both were women of strong stature and confidence. They spoke eloquently and carried themselves with grace. When they entered a room, they were noticed. They didn’t create a scene you just knew they were there.
To me, that personified confidence and I wanted to emulate them.
When I was in junior high, Aunt Helen took me under her wing and taught me some valuable lessons about decorating homes, which is really, if you think about it, quite similar to developing a persona.
I learned early in that experience how she studied her clients and created homes for them as extensions of their personas. I was fascinated by what she knew about the inner workings of people and how graciously she could create lovely home decor, which reflected the people who lived there so much that they thought they had done it themselves. What an art! I have used those lessons in all the spaces I have created for myself and other people. My offices are warm, creative places with lots of color, comfortable chairs, a large variety of books, and a smattering of knick knacks–even a room needs a little fancy jewelry to make it personal.
Aunt Sandy gave me an example of classy dressing style. She was from California and had that West coast flair. She was subtly gorgeous, not showy or flashy. She was what I would call a “plain beauty.” She was always in place not matter what occasion she showed up for she was there. The comfort she felt with herself was real confidence.
So what is the persona I created from all that I observed?
I became the lady of the Christmas House from all of my art collecting. For several months of the year my house is on display filled with all that there is about Christmas–28 trees fully decorated, 500 Santas, 450 Nativities, and a myriad of decorations. Everything in my house comes down to make room for all the Christmas. The tour through my home is like hearing the story of my life. It’s become a living a family museum. It is hard work (and it takes me about 180 hours), but every year it’s my gift to those who want to see it. In my current home I have had a dozen open houses, a story on the local TV station, and served lots of people coffee and tea that just want to visit. It is a happy place full of glitter and glitz. It instills in me great confidence because I have kept this going for more than 45 years.
People are disappointed when I show up someplace without wearing purple because it has become my signature color. For at least 30 years I have been known for wearing purple and it colors all facets of my persona—from home decor, jewelry, and all kinds of clothing, to pens, and note cards. You name it and I probably have it in purple. It is just who I am.
Now I would like to tell you a wonderful story about how all this began, but I can’t. I was buying yard goods to make a suit for a workshop I was doing, and I had chosen a piece of purple material. A home economists, who was standing beside me, said that she wouldn’t by purple it was too much of a fad and would not last.
Well, I’ve been doing for much longer than fads last. Everybody loved the suit and just went on about how good I looked in purple–that did it purple was my entry to the world as a non-threatening way to embrace the world.
I used the poem “Warning” by Jenny Joseph (1961) to introduce workshop, speeches, classes, whenever it fit the point. Notice the last line I have been wearing purple so long that it is my image and will continue to help me age gracefully. Confidence is having a ballistic.
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens . . .
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
These days I shop at Dressing Gaudy and Grand Glitz when I’m decorating my persona. I shop in stores no one has ever heard of because this way I don’t have to worry about someone else mirroring my persona. My style only fits me. Now that’s confidence.
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