Written by Kasi of The Peahen
Last week, I told you about my personal journey with perfectionism when I started in shopping and living more ethically. I’m back to share the tips that have helped me achieve more balance in my life.
Shopping ethically, especially for fashion, is a bold endeavor. Each time you buy you’ll face difficult choices and you’ll have to make compromises that will cut to bone. I hope the things that have helped me will also bring you some peace of mind.
Adapt them, add your own, whatever works to keep your own worst critic at bay!
Write down your intention and think on it.
You know how you wake up in the middle of night consumed by an unresolved conflict? A shrink would probably tell you to write it down. That’s because it feels cathartic to translate the problem from perception to paper. Getting it out is half the battle.
Same goes for your ethical intentions. When they get overwhelming or you find yourself committing to too many things, write them down, let them ‘marinate’ and come back to them with a clear mind.
For instance, something like this may happen if you learn that your polyester clothes are shedding toxic microplastics into the ocean. Your instincts may tell you to purge your closet. But then, what happens to waste? Then, where do you get new workout clothes? Then, how do you afford them? What’s better bankrupting yourself of the environment? See this train of thought?
When you come back to your list of concerns you can start by crossing off things and ranking what’s most important to you. And, please please, please don’t shame yourself for things you can’t manage.
Focus on one thing.
This follows my first suggestion. The field of ethical fashion is broad and it’s easy to get overwhelmed when you start learning all the details. Before you dive in, figure out one thing you care most about. Is it water pollution, human rights, animal rights, etc.?
Once you figure out what makes you tick, dive in and look for brands (try my shopping list) that focus on this one thing. You can also adapt your habits accordingly. So if water is your utmost concern, can you look for jeans with zero water technology and adapt your washing habits at home?
You inner perfectionist may come out, but if you focus her narrowly she’ll be more manageable. Trip up along the way, talk about, adapt. Then, once you get the hang of one thing you can take on another.
Be willing to wait.
In my experience, there’s been a direct correlation between the amount of time I’ve waited to buy something and how much I wear and love it. They are: an Elizabeth Suzann dress, a MM.LaFleur Blouse, and a Vintage Phillip Lim Coat – and they’ve become part of my style uniform.
Typically, when you force yourself to sweat it out a little, you’ll do research. You’ll give yourself time to get over perfectionist thoughts and you’ll consider if you actually need something or if there’s a competing voice in your head telling you to buy it.
This doesn’t mean you have to stop shopping or beat yourself up when you do. It just means slowing down and considering what you’re buying and if it’s the best fit for your ethics and life.
Oh, and the same goes for information! If you watch a shocking documentary (like the True Cost), you’re bound to feel depressed after. Then a surge of motivation will hit telling you to take action. To avoid burnout, pause, think through your game plan before you leap in and take on too much.
So often we’re hell-bent on the idea of “what can I do next?” that we forget to celebrate what we’ve accomplished.
Right now, for instance, I’m so hooked onto learning more about fair trade and buying from artisan brands that I forget how much work I’ve already done to research brands, learn what goes on behind the scenes in fashion, and, ultimately, convert to slow fashion.
Peruse your closet, maybe even your pantry, (because I find food and fashion decisions often go hand-in-hand), and take a moment to be proud of yourself for a past ethical or conscious decision you’ve made. Pause and take a moment to be where you are because it will fuel where you are going.
This means living in reality. If you’ve got bad habits, know them and own them. Are you more likely to buy fast fashion if you get invited to a party last minute? Do underlying emotions cause you to shop? If so, what are your triggers?
Answering these questions requires deep insight that might be difficult initially. But, ultimately, I think you’ll find that knowing the answers will help you let go of perfectionism and make ethical choices come more naturally.
Kasi is a fashion writer and founder of The Peahen, a site dedicated to ethical fashion for the mainstream consumers. She’s a fierce questioner and advocate for brands with a conscience. Sign up for her emails.