Dress for You, Not for Them: Overcoming the Need to Fit In

Feeling the pull to fit in and dress down like everyone else? You don’t need to fit in with the crowd when you fully embrace your authentic personal style.


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Today, I am going to talk about something that has come up quite a bit recently. It’s this concept of being overdressed for your environment compared to the other women in your social circle or wherever you’re headed out for the day. Feeling like you need to dress down to fit in.

I have seen this conversation come up recently in the Facebook group, and I also had this conversation privately with a couple of people as well. I want to talk about this from a couple of different perspectives.  I’m going to be upfront and honest about this as I go through here. 

I will warn you that I tend to get a little spicy when I’m pregnant. And working through this has sort of made me feel that way a little bit. I’m going to try to be not too spicy, but I do want to be candid and at times possibly blunt about this, because this is something that’s been running through my mind in different ways for a while now.

There’s a lot to unpack here. When people were talking about this part of me didn’t get it. It’s really interesting because I hear people talk about how when you’re teaching, coaching, and helping other people they sometimes have problems that you don’t have. 

It’s something that you haven’t struggled with and don’t struggle with. Trying to find that connection point can be more difficult, and it requires me to sit, think, pray, and dig into what’s going on here. Several things go into this process of feeling overdressed and feeling like you need to dress down to fit in.

It’s not that I didn’t understand, it’s just that the urge to fit in was never a big driving force when it came to my clothes. Not even back when I was a teenager. I think it was maybe eighth or ninth grade when my mom set aside a really big clothing budget for my back-to-school shopping. 

When she took me shopping for school clothes, she ended up buying clothes that were very in style. I can remember having a Jabo pair of jeans and Guess clothes. If you’re in your 40s, I know you know those brands were really popular back then. 

When I went to school, I remember people making snide comments to me because I had really nice clothes. My mom decided to sacrifice and took me shopping and I bought what I wanted to buy within the budget she gave me. 

This was the first instance of just wearing what I wanted to wear, regardless of what other people thought, and not being concerned about fitting in. During my senior year of high school, we were going on a performance trip for choir to Nashville.

We had to be there so early, like four o’clock in the morning, which is a horrible hour when you’re a 17-year-old senior. It just feels like you’re dying. I’m afraid it still feels like you’re dying. There’s a picture of me and three of my friends standing there with our suitcases ready to go on this trip at four o’clock in the morning. 

All my friends are wearing plaid flannel pajama pants and oversized T-shirts, very VSCO. I never really wore those things. I didn’t wear oversized T-shirts. I still don’t really wear T-shirts or graphic tees. It’s just not me not even then. I was comfortable on that trip in my, wait for it . . . velvet lounge pants and velvet matching shirt. 

I was wearing velvet at four o’clock in the morning, and my friends were wearing flannel and T-shirts. When I say that part of me doesn’t understand this need to fit in, it’s because I’ve never been that person. I’ve never been that person to dress for the crowd around me. 

I talk about how I’m not really into trends now, but I’ve never been that person. For me, it’s always been about wearing what I wanted to wear. When I got into my adult years and I was going out to dinner after work with friends living that single adult life or whatever,  I always dressed nice.  

It was very common for us to put on a dress to go out to dinner. We loved sushi. We would put on a dress, and go out to dinner, and we didn’t care what everybody else was wearing. That’s who we were. We had heels and a dress. 

When it comes to shopping, following a shiny object has been my method of shopping for most of my life. I would walk into a store thinking I needed a pair of black slacks for work, or I need a new cardigan, or a new dress for this event. It was always pretty specific.  

Once I was in the store, usually it was just a shiny object thing. I would look around and the things that grabbed my eye were the things that I bought. This led to some wardrobe overwhelm at some points because I didn’t have a plan.  

This way of shopping still feeds into this concept of how wearing what I want to wear is my ethos. So I had to sit and I had to think through what was going on here. Before, I talk about a few of the things that are drivers of this, I do want to lay out one little truth bomb for you. 

Maybe the thing that all of these stories that I’m telling you go into is the fact that I’ve always been weird. At 43, I’ve just embraced that I’m weird and I’m different, and that’s okay. Some people are going to love the tea, and I’m not going to be other people’s cup of tea. And that’s okay. 

If you’re here, I’m probably your cup of tea. The thing I want to tell you is that you’re probably weird too. There are things about you that make you unique. There are things about you that are different. For many of us, the desire to hide it, constrain it, and not let people see it hinders our ability to build deep and meaningful relationships. 

As I was digging deep, trying to determine the driving force behind this need to fit in and the reasons that people truly feel like I’m overdressed, I need to dress down. I’ve had people tell me they don’t want to put off the people they’re interacting with. They don’t want to make them feel less than.

They feel like nobody else dresses like them because everybody else wears leggings and loungewear. There are quite a few things that are going into this. There are five that I want to talk about today. And then I have some more truth bombs for you. 

The Desire for Acceptance

The first thing here is that even as adult women there’s this desire for acceptance and in a little bit of a different way, it’s the concept of peer pressure, too. Our clothing is a form of communication. How we look is a form of communication. 

I always say this to my clients in the intensive: you are always communicating something whether it’s intentional or unintentional. The way you look, the way you show up, your image, your clothing, your style, it is all a form of communication, whether you mean to or not. 

I want to always encourage you to communicate intentionally. Be aware of what you’re communicating. Don’t just show up and be like, I’m here. In the back of your head, you know you’re telling people something about who you are. 

Don’t let it be an accident. Don’t let who you are, how you’re showing up, what you’re communicating about who you are, what you believe, and how you want to be remembered in this world be an accident. When it comes down to this desire for acceptance, our style, our clothing, and how we look is such a communicative process. 

We want to be accepted. Everybody wants to be accepted, and nobody wants to feel like they are unloved, unworthy, and cared for. I know that for those of you who are moms like me, adult friendships are a struggle. Especially for those of you that have a lot of kids. It’s easy for women feel very disconnected.

Even if you’re involved in church and if you’re involved in different activities finding other women who get you on a deep level is hard. When we show up at these places, we want to look nice. We want other people to think we look nice. We don’t want people to think we’re a hot mess. 

I would like to challenge you in a way to think if you are more likely to be accepted dressed well, or if you are more likely to be accepted dressed down. That’s a question that you’ll have to wrestle with yourself. 

At the same time, being yourself opens the door to authenticity and creating real relationships. For example, I wear dresses most of the time. I rarely ever wear leggings, and I don’t ever wear athleisure anymore. 

So if I was out somewhere and all the moms were in obvious exercise clothing, it would be pretty obvious that there’s something that we don’t have in common. I know that athleisure can be a fashion statement as well, and a fashion choice. 

The main thing I want to say is your desire for acceptance comes from a place inside of you that only one thing can fill. When the Bible talks about relationships, it talks about loving other people. It doesn’t talk about being filled up by other people. That’s not part of the gospel. It’s not part of scripture. 

When we are seeking other people to fill those holes, there’s only one person that’s going to fill those for us, and it’s Jesus. I would just urge you not to use clothing and your style as a way to feel loved by other people because it’s not the answer.

Struggling with self image and style? Gain confidence from the inside out in the only image and style membership designed for Christian women in the Radiant by Design Collective


Societal Norms

The second thing I want to talk about is our societal norms. Now, I’m going to go back and give you a little context first before I get into this because I’ve had several clients over the years who were European. I don’t know if you know this, but most of the people who live in European countries do not dress down. 

They don’t wear athleisure anywhere outside of the gym. They wear actual clothes in public. It was really interesting to me as an American because our culture has radically shifted. I think it was doing so before the pandemic, but the pandemic took it to another level. 

The pandemic made it so everybody was at home all the time, and everybody got comfortable in their loungewear, their athleisure, and their dressing-down outfits. When the world opened back up again, people just kept going out on those things. 

I just want to tell you that that is not just because it seems normal here in America, but in most of the world that’s not normal, and that’s not how people show up. This is very much a cultural thing in America to dress down, to wear leggings, joggers, and athletic clothing out for your normal activities and normal events. 

It’s one thing if you workout and then you go to the grocery store in the same clothes, that’s fine. I don’t care. I’m talking about about going to your homeschool co-op, if you’re a homeschooling mom. Just wear your nice clothes, okay? 

I’m not talking about traveling from one destination to the other without taking a break. I’m talking about showing up as your best because once upon a time that was the expectation. That was what was considered acceptable and normal. 

I went out to eat with my mom and six kids about a month ago, I guess. We had to wait like 30 minutes because it was a really popular Mexican restaurant and this pregnant mom was craving salsa again, as always. I had a lot of time to people-watch. 

Usually, I’m so distracted by my kids that I’m just focused on them, keeping them alive and out of danger, and from bothering people. But at that moment, my kids were being calm and my mama was there too. I will honestly tell you that it was a bit shocking to stand there, look around, and see all the different ways that people were showing up to go to a restaurant. 

It wasn’t a good look for some of them because it almost seems like people have no pride in who they are. They don’t care to present themselves in a way that showcases who they are and highlights what makes them lovely and wonderful. 

That’s really sad in a way,  that people don’t want to show up and be their best. I don’t really know what goes into it. Maybe our culture is just changing. 


The next thing I want to talk about is just not being confident, which goes back to that desire for acceptance and the desire to fit in. That peer pressure that in our thirties and forties, we should have shaken off by now. We should feel confident in who we are and who God created us to be. 

We should be proud of what he is doing in us, and that he has made us unique. And that we don’t have to fit in with everybody else. We have to love them, be kind to them, and we have to seek peace as we can but, we do not have to conform to anybody else’s expectations of who we are.


The next thing I want to talk about is the comfort thing. First, there are times in your life when it is perfectly acceptable to dress down. In a few months will be having another baby, and I can guarantee you that my body probably won’t see a dress for at least a month. 

Maybe when I go to the chiropractor, I’ll put something nice on. Other than literally going on in public and putting on real clothes, there’s no way that I’m going to get dressed nicely every day. I know I have some people and some clients who get dressed immediately after having a baby in real clothes because it makes them feel good.

I’m not talking to you, obviously you don’t have a problem with this either, and this is not something you struggle with. I used to be one of those people, especially as a mom for many years, who just wore the comfortable stuff because it felt good and I didn’t care. But the key in that statement is that I didn’t care. 

What does that say about where I was from a mindset perspective, a mental health perspective, and an overwhelmed perspective in all of these different areas? The fact that I didn’t care is a reflection of where I was in my life at the time. 

I think that if you struggle with autoimmune disease, if you struggle with mental health problems, if you have kids who are struggling, or if you’re taking care of sick parents those are things that drain us so, so bad.

It feels easy to just slip into those comfortable clothes and move on with your day. But I have come to realize through trial and error and personal experience that comfortable clothes, while they are respectful of what my body is going through at that moment, don’t make me feel better. 

They actually make me feel slightly worse because I know in the back of my head that I’m not doing the best I can right then. I’m not doing everything I can to do to show up the best I can, even when I’m struggling. I’d like to encourage you a little bit just to think about that.

Saving the Good Stuff

The final thing, as far as what’s going into this concept of feeling overdressed and feeling like you need to dress down, is saving the good stuff. I got this one because it’s saving, saving nice clothes for a different occasion. This used to be me with dresses. 

Disclaimer, I used to wear jeans and different nursing tops with a cardigan. Jeans, a print shirt, and a cardigan was my uniform for years and years. I would buy dresses, especially when I started to buy some of the nursing dresses. When I wore them, I felt really good, but I didn’t wear them very often because they felt too nice. 

It felt too complicated to get dressed up nicely. I don’t know what I was saving them for. We don’t go on date nights. We don’t do anything. I was saving them because in my head it was easier to wear jeans. The dress was too much for me. 

My mindset has shifted because I don’t even own jeans anymore. I finally got rid of all my jeans, and I only wear dresses now. It’s like grandma’s China or your China in your cabinet if you have it. I never registered for China. We don’t own China, but I did inherit my grandmother’s China. 

You know what? I still don’t use it. It’s a memory item. This kind of goes into the whole idea of things that we keep and store. Also, there are struggles with decluttering and hoarding for some people. I have mild hoarding tendencies myself.  

But why are you saving those things if you’re not using them? If you’re saving something and you’re not using it, then it’s usually got some emotions attached to it. You’re feeling guilt or you’re feeling like you should do it. It comes down to guilt about this item. 

If you bought a piece of clothing and you’re not wearing it because you’re saving it for something, I would encourage you to ask yourself a question: how realistic is this event that you’re saving it for?

This would be like if I had four cocktail dresses in my closet and I was saving them in case I needed a cocktail dress. That would be ridiculous, right? I don’t need four options. I do have one and I am saving it in case I randomly have an event I have to go to. It’s about 10 years old, so it’s been saved for a long time. 

Don’t save the normal things, the nice, the nice dress, the nice skirt, the nice clothes, the nice shirt, whatever it is. Don’t save it for later. Later may never come. That’s pretty pessimistic and to the point, but it’s true, right? 

We’re not guaranteed tomorrow so what are you saving it for? If you love it, wear it today. And if you don’t love it enough to wear it today, then maybe it doesn’t deserve a place in your closet. Really just think about that. Use it now because one day it may not be your favorite and you never know what’s going to happen.

Biblical Truth Bombs

Having said all this, I do want to leave you with some hard truths. These aren’t spicy, they’re just straight truths. The reality is, you are not supposed to fit in. You are not supposed to look like everybody else, and you probably know it. A couple of verses came to me when I was going through this that I would like to share with you. 

The first one is Romans 12:2, one of my favorites: Do not be conformed to this world. This is the important part. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing, you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” 

I want to leave you with the bookends of this first: Do not be conformed to this world. It’s clear that we are not supposed to conform to anything just for the sake of conforming, for the sake of fitting in. We are supposed to be different, and different in a way that is good and acceptable and perfect.

Along those lines is the next verse as well John 15:19, “if you were of the world, the world would love you as its own, but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore, the world hates you.” 

I’m not suggesting that you should dress in a way that makes people hate you. This is a larger scripture about the gospel and about what it means to follow Christ. That it does make you different. It’s easy to make decisions in our life, including our clothing and our style, that make it simpler to fit in and be like everyone else. 

I would encourage you here to ask yourself, and this is very personal, is what you’re wearing of the world so much that it’s obscuring Christ in you? Or is what you’re wearing setting you apart enough that it is causing people to wonder what it is about you that makes you different?

If they were to ask you what made you different, your answer would be Jesus, right? 1 Peter 2:9 is one of my favorites. It’s such a positive affirming verse here, “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 

I want to say something here. This came up the other day in a conversation I was having. I have six kids, I’m a homeschool mom, I run a business, and I’m a very busy person. I don’t ever want to show up and be a hot mess. 

I remember when I had one kid and I would see moms out who had four kids, and I just thought to myself, she is such a rock star. They just seemed like they had it all together and like they had it figured out. Someone said to me recently, “I don’t want everyone to think that I have it all together and that I’m arrogant about it.” 

I don’t think that any of us have it all together. We are all on our own path, walking out our own sanctification in our journey with God. None of us are perfect. We’re all dealing with our own sins and issues. 

I could peel back the curtain and show you my not-together parts, but  I’m just not going to right now. There is a sense of being capable when you’re out in public and being a light to other people. Maybe there’s just a crazy grace that comes when you have so many kids that you just roll with everything. 

But what an inspiration you are to show up to other people regardless of what you’re going through in your life. Regardless of what sins you’re struggling with, what values you have, and to show up every day as best you can. That you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

The last one I want to leave you with is Philippians 4:8 because this is the verse I’ve actually been studying this week, and it has been so resplendent with aha moments for me. “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” 

What I want you to do if you’re struggling with this, is to take the eight different descriptors in here and go study the words. Go open an English dictionary and look up the word and look up all the definitions for it. There is so much goodness there about who we are and how everything in our life should be those things. 

I know everything we are talking about today is hard. My daughter and I were talking about a TV show she liked versus a worship song we’re currently listening to. We put it through this test to see if it met these eight things. I would encourage you to put your style and the way you show up your clothing through this test. 

Ask these questions, because at the end of the day it’s not about what’s trending. It’s not about what anybody else is wearing. It’s not about even what you want to wear or what you feel like wearing. At the end of the day, we are called to be different and to uphold a different set of standards.

Final Thoughts on the Need to Fit In

I don’t want to downplay and downgrade the fact that some people are really struggling and it feels good to put on something that just makes you feel like it’s a warm hug. Having said that, I will say that there are some great options for clothing that feel like a warm hug but are still more put together.  

You don’t have to wear your schlumpy crummiest things all the time. Before you think that I’ve lost it or I’m out of touch dropped the ball please know I’ve been there when it comes to the comfortable clothes and dressing down because I didn’t have the energy to do anything else. 

That’s really, honestly sort of a different conversation. This conversation is about when you have the bandwidth and you have the mental energy to put on real clothes and go out, but you choose not to because you’re worried about what other people think.

And that’s really what it comes down to, being worried about what other people think. I don’t think that’s God’s best for you. I’m not your Holy Spirit, but I would just encourage you to spend some time if this is an issue that you are struggling with.

If you are feeling like you are too overdressed for certain occasions, or you need to dress down to fit in, or you’re worried that people are going to think you are arrogant or haughty because you are wearing different clothes than they’re wearing. Maybe you’re wearing real jeans and they’re wearing leggings. 

If somebody else has a problem with what you’re wearing, it’s not a reflection of you. It’s a reflection of them. It’s in their head and their thoughts. It’s what’s going on with them. It’s not about you. If you’re wearing clothes that you want to wear, that make you feel good, and make you feel confident, what they’re feeling about it is not your responsibility. 

The truth is that all of us have our thoughts, hangups, and histories when it comes to how we look, how we get dressed, and how people perceive us. We don’t come into this process without a ton of head talk. That is why this is one of the things that I talk about so much in the Radiant by Design membership.

We spend so much time digging into why you feel the way you feel about yourself, and why you have these thoughts for yourself not for other people. If you don’t know why you think these things or feel these things and you want to dig deeper, I would encourage you to join the Radiant ByDesign collective.

There is so much good heart work and mind work in there to really push you to the next level. If I offended anyone, I truly am sorry. That is not my goal. I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. I don’t want to offend people. 

I sometimes feel called to put a spotlight on the biblical teachings when they come into these things. To ask you to ask yourself if it’s God’s best for you at the end of the day. Having said that, know that you’re all lovely people on the inside and out, and my goal is for you to express that. For that just to come out. 

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One Comment

  1. Great advice here on reflecting what God has done and is doing for you in your life, and communicating that message of love, acceptance and hopefulness through style!

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