What Color Is Your Wardrobe?

When I started the process of leaving law, one of the gazillion things I did was declutter my closet. I had been practicing for about 6 years at that point, but I still had many pieces from my law school days. They didn’t fit, and it was time to purge a lot of things that didn’t fit in the life I wanted.

abstract image of fire

Pull some joy talismans into your life, and watch yourself catch fire and move toward your dreams.

As I started to sort through my clothes, I noticed something: My clothes from law school and my first couple years of practice were bright and colorful. There was the red wool sheath that looked awesome until I gained weight. There was the Monet-looking blue, purple and pink print party dress that I loved. Alas, outgrown and too young-girl looking.

But the clothes I had bought from about my third year of practice and beyond were increasingly safe and boring. Dark suits, grey dresses, cream and white blouses. I don’t remember pink of any shade—and it’s my favorite color. Nor was there any shade of teal or red, my other go-to colors.

So there it was, the physical evidence of what law was doing to my soul.

I’m betting you wouldn’t have to look very hard in your life to see a similar pattern of evidence. Care to share in the comments below?

Working from the Outside In

Here’s the cool thing: While internal change gets reflected on the outside, it works in the other direction, too. You can create internal change from making different external choices. That’s the whole basis for cognitive behavioral therapy, after all.

If you add things in your life that give you joy, guess what? You might just be more joyful.

If you don’t know what brings you joy, go looking. Give yourself permission to spend an hour one week, maybe taking an actual lunch hour. When you’re looking, be open. Tell your rational brain to go take a nap or something. It’s been working overtime anyway.

Here’s how you find a joy talisman. Go to a store, museum, or even a pasture. Doesn’t matter, as long as the place calls to you. The call doesn’t need to be loud, but persistent is good.

  • If you see a skein of yarn that calls to you, buy it—even if you don’t knit, crochet, do needlework or whatever.
  • If you find some polished stones that pull you toward them as if magnetized—get them. Find out later where they are pulling you.
  • If you see a journal or some paper that makes you feel a bit giddy with possibility—grab it. It doesn’t matter if you have an actual plan for it yet.

The trick here is that your joy talisman doesn’t need to carry a big price tag. You just need a small reminder of what brings you joy, one that you can see, touch, hear, taste or smell.

Let yourself go there, to that place you tell yourself you’re not allowed to visit. Put the physical manifestations of joy into your life, and see how the spark spreads fire and passion to your life.

Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer whose wardrobe sports her favorite colors: pink, red, teal and purple.  There is still some black, because, hey, it goes with everything! She coaches attorneys on restoring their unique joys to their lives and work. Email her today for a discounted, no-obligation sample coaching session to get more help finding a joy talisman for yourself: jalvey@jenniferalvey.com.

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8 thoughts on “What Color Is Your Wardrobe?

  1. Yet another great post :)

    So, I “haz” a question, if you don’t mind. Do you do “topic requests”? If so, I was wondering if you could do a post on your thoughts regarding feelings of “guilt” a law refugee may suffer, given the state of the economy. To be more specific, I mean the guilt that some of us might feel for walking away from Big Law $$$ to either start our own business or do something where the income is much lower or more inconsistent when we know that so many others out there are struggling to get jobs.

    • I lurves topic requests! And I think that’s a great topic, too. Lemme see what I can come up with about that for next week.

      Thanks for the idea–I appreciate it.

    • Uh, by leaving a BigLaw job, a new open BigLaw position is created, enabling a struggling job getter to possibly get that $$$ job.

      I don’t think that “guilt” is quite the emotion we are looking for here.

      I mean, the person leaving that BigLaw job just gave a $200,000 annual salary to another BigLaw attorney.

      Although, given that it’s a BigLaw job, I’m not sure whether giving a job away is a form of charity or a form of sadism.

      • So is it survivor’s guilt? That you were smart enough to dodge a big honking bullet of career misery? Or do you still harbor a belief that money is the only thing a job is good for? The belief underlying the guilt is important to resolving it.

  2. It appears that my wardrobe revolves around black and gray sheath dresses, cardigans, tights and pencil skirts. No patterns, only dark purple and dark blue shirts/sweaters, and nothing that ever stands out or pops. And beyond that, I pretty much wear the same five dark outfits every week. I’ve taken to saying that it’s because I’m dressing for a funeral for my soul everyday (i.e., another day at work in MidLaw). What happened to my colorful A-line dresses and my rebellious patterned socks?

    I started down this path by telling myself that it would help me conserve mental energy (I buy into the theory of decision fatigue). But I feel like I’ve been struggling lately to get out, to reveal myself. Maybe starting with a talisman or two (patterned socks under my boots?!) might make my day. Thanks for the idea.

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