Does your outer appearance reflect who you are on the inside? This is a question I asked myself this summer and of course, I turned it into a journaling exercise. There was a chart involved. It’s how I do.

You may remember that my friend Salma and I went on a bit of a shopping spree last spring; that whole shenanigan got me thinking a lot about how I show up physically in this world. Over the last few years I’ve covered some ground emotionally and perhaps even spiritually, but my physical self always gets put on the backburner. Sound familiar to anyone?

To be fair, I don’t think I ever really did pay much attention to my style. Shopping for clothes and accessories was never a priority and definitely not something I thought of as fun. It wasn’t until recently, as I’ve gotten to know myself better that I’ve realized: what I look like on the outside is not really reflective of who I am inside.

If you want to try the exercise I did, grab a piece of paper and write down the different settings you might find yourself in. For example, some of mine included: girls’ night out, date nights, attending a poetry reading, and teaching a workshop. (I didn’t bother with the ‘home’ setting…I mean, I think I’ve pretty much nailed that one.)

Then I imagined that I had access to any type of clothing I wanted and wrote items down under each setting.

Under girls’ night out and date nights I had: tulle skirt with jean jacket, big jewelry, Tieks (which no, I don’t own, but drool over their Instagram feed all the time), fitted tank tops and the like. It just so happens that I have a dress from Forever 21 with a tulle skirt and fitted bodice that I have only worn once (to a gala night/fundraiser) and though I love it, I could never think of where else I would feel comfortable wearing it. Well, according to my heart’s deep wishes, I would love to wear tulle when out with girlfriends or my husband…because it’s romantic, it’s fun, it’s girly and classy.

A couple weeks after writing this down, it was my best friend’s 40th birthday -a really special night, not just because it was a milestone but because she lives thousands of miles away from me and we haven’t celebrated birthdays together in over a decade. She happened to be in town and was having a dinner with her friends and siblings. This was my chance to pull out the tulle…but I have to admit, I hesitated. My husband couldn’t understand why.

Him: You like the dress, right?

Me: I love it.

Him: Okaaayyyy…so why don’t you wear it?

Me: I don’t know.

The thing is, I did know. I knew I’d be the only one wearing tulle. Maybe I’d look too dressed up. Maybe I’d look like I never got out much and was wearing the fanciest thing I had (this is half-true).

I figured, though, it was time to suck it up and really live up to the authenticity I so truly value. I’ve been making changes in so many areas of my life but, admittedly, the ones that people can see are the toughest changes to make. I did my whole mental exercise of, “On my last day on Earth would I have wished I wore the dress or played it safe and wore black pants?”

I wore this:

fashion, tulle skirt, forever 21, be yourself, let me out creative, taslim jaffer, jean jacket, authentic, dress,

And I felt wonderful.

It might seem like a tiny thing to someone else, but to me this was big. And so much easier than I thought.

I really must buy more tulle and go out more. 

And you know, this is art. Expressing oneself through fashion, hair, and whatever else provides the outlet is pure art.

As another step, today I got my hair cut. And not just trimmed; there was a fairly decent mountain-esque pile of hair under my chair. If you check out my Instagram feed, you’ll find my before and after pic and you can tell me what you think!

So, I’m taking art to this physical level and really being more conscious of how I am expressing myself. Not because I care what people think or because I want to fit a certain mold or look like I’ve got my stuff together, but because I’ve been given a canvas and tools and colours and creativity.

And there’s a lot that each of us can do with those things.