7am Monday morning and my alarm goes off yet again, the fourth time since I pressed the snooze button thirty minutes ago. Finally I drag myself out of bed and dash into the shower. I have just under an hour to get dressed, made up, run out the door and get to the train station in time to catch the 9 o’clock train.
Dressed to the nines in my designer suits, hand bags and stiletto heels, I was always the perfect picture of a successful city worker. Deep in the midst of the hustle and bustle of London commuters scurrying to grab spaces on the jam packed trains, I fitted in really well.
On the outside
I had what appeared on the outside to be a dream life; I was earning a very decent salary having acquired a degree in Accounting and Finance on the ‘advice’ of my parents. “It is a reputable and well paid profession“, I remember them saying. But the saying never judge a book by its cover swiftly comes to mind. Although my life was nice and glittery on the outside, the truth was I was deeply unhappy in my career.
Living the life
After years of studying and building a successful career, I was desperate to get out of the industry, but I was at a total loss as to what else I could do. I had made several attempts to change careers, but each time meant having to start at the very bottom and working my way up. I really could not afford a pay cut; I was heavily in debt with huge bills to pay. Who I was and how I perceived myself was defined primarily by my job status. My lifestyle was built on the premise of how I thought a woman of my “calibre” and “status” should live; expensive lunches, fancy health club memberships, regular shopping trips at Harrods and Harvey Nichols, spa breaks and holidays etc. True to form I ‘lived the life’ well, but deep down I was extremely miserable and totally unfulfilled.
On the inside
Relief for me always came at night after work. In the comfort of my home I would binge on food to my heart’s content, only to make myself sick afterwards. I did this almost every night for hours on end but no one knew about it. One night after a huge binge session, I caught my reflection in the bathroom mirror and cried my eyes out. My life was a mess and I knew I was living a lie, pretending that I was happy and in control of my life. Far from it! I desperately needed help, but shame would not let me muster the courage to tell anyone.
A difficult decision
One morning in one of my many uninspiring finance meetings, I found myself firmly holding my legs down to stop me from running out of the meeting room, screaming and shouting “I’ve had it! I’ve had it! I’ve had it!” I simply could not take any more of living like this. I was fed up of attending meetings that I could care very little about. I was done with talking about balance sheets and financial instruments that meant absolutely nothing to me. I was not prepared to spend hours doing something that I dreaded so much. This most certainly was not what I wanted for my life. That day I decided I needed to seek help and make changes.
Journey of discovery
I sought counselling, life coaching and spiritual guidance. I knew I had to deal with the root of my deep seated unhappiness, my bingeing and excessive shopping addictions. I was encouraged by my counsellor to go on a personal retreat, a journey inward to discover who I really was. I discovered layers of amazing truths about me. I had no real personal definition of myself, who I was and who I wanted to be. My desire to conform to family, cultural and societal expectations caused me to gravitate towards whatever I thought other people thought I should be.
But why did I do the things I did? Who was I really doing it for? Why did I feel the need to only wear designer brands and labels? Why was I so paranoid and overly obsessive about my weight and appearance? Why could I never leave my house without wearing makeup? Why was I spending thousands of pounds on hair extensions when I had perfectly beautiful natural hair? To my horror I discovered that I had spent the equivalent of a small mortgage deposit on hair extensions alone, over the past ten years.
Why did I worry so much about what people thought of me? Why was I so afraid of disapproval as result of not meeting other people’s expectations of me? Why did I always want to fit in? Why did I feel the need to be liked? I simply did not have the courage to dare to be different, to go against society’s status quo.
After a barrage of soul searching questions, I decided to take the bull by the horns and redefine me. It was time to ‘fix’ my self identity, this time not according to anyone else’s evaluation of me, but according to my own personal convictions, desires and ambitions. What I needed was a Make-under!
I took out my 18 inch hair extensions, and reverted to wearing my own natural hair, which with every passing day I have grown to love immensely! I weeded out my wardrobe and started wearing clothes that reflected my true personality and unique style. I was done with following expensive fashion trends. I ditched some of my 5 inch heeled stilettoes for more comfortable flats. I learnt how to love my body and totally accepted that I didn’t have to look like a super model!
A career change was definitely what I needed. I went on a number of courses, studying subjects I really enjoyed, including handbag making and a diploma course in Styling. I have recently started a Counselling course.
Setting up MY business
My greatest achievement to date is setting up a Style Consultancy called “Style ‘n Shine” which is focused on helping women discover their authentic style as part of their journey of self-discovery. Today I am so much happier and fulfilled in doing what I love most – making a difference in the lives of women like myself. I have come to appreciate my natural affinity for the fine things in life, beautiful clothes, hair, bags and shoes. The difference is now I understand that these things must never be acquired at the expense of one’s true happiness. What I wear and how I look is simply an extension of me, not a definition of me.
About the author: Oby Bamidele has years of business experience and now runs a successful style consultancy helping women with their journeys toward self-discovery. email her at oby @ stylenshine.co.uk or visit her website www.stylenshine.co.uk