On *Owning* Inspiration

Last week, the imitable Rebecca Woolf of Girls Gone Child wrote a piece about fashion where she noted the huge difference between inspiration and aspiration (You guys may not know her, since she’s a blogger-who’s-also-a-mother and sometimes those bloggers get less airplay on our corner of the web? Anyway you’ll love her. Done.) She wrote about how aspiration is those spreads in Vogue magazine with $50,000 dresses, inspiration is your favorite fashion blogger who blogs about how she put together an outfit with a $50 dress she found on sale at Macy’s. Or Teen Vogue. She loves Teen Vogue.

For some reason, all week I kept thinking about this inspiration/aspiration dichotomy. I’m a huge lady mag and lady blog reader, and trust me, there is room in my life for both -ations. I like aspirational design blogs, and wedding porn, and fashion magazines. But at the end of the day, I’m an inspiration girl. I want you to break it down for me in ways that make sense. How can I make a super chic, ragingly fun wedding reception in my parents church social hall? How can I use what’s already in my closet to create really editorial outfits, that say something about who I am? How can I re-finish and re-arrange the furniture I have to make my living room work for me?

I think in a lot of ways we’re in a very inspirational cultural moment. We all have less money and fewer choices, and after years of excess, we’re all trying to figure out how to make the most with what we’ve got. And the blog-o-shere has really rushed into the gap left by print media. We’re all writing for each other about how we can do this, how we can improve our lives, how we can do more with less.

But then there is the trap. The trap of mistaking inspiration for aspiration.

I’ve wanted to meet Rebecca Woolf for a long time, because, I don’t know, she’s a young mom who’s really rocking motherhood and selfhood and a writing career at the same time. So, at Mighty Summit I started asking around to see if anyone knew her, and was up for introducing me. Heather Sphor was like, “Oh, h*ll yeah, of course I will.” But before I asked Heather, five people must have told me Rebecca was, “A glamazon”. I’d look puzzled, and ask, “Ok, but what is she like?” and people would say, “intimidating.” And I’d think, ‘Huh. Weird. That’s clearly not her personality, that’s a reaction. Why are women so easily scared of each other?” (And I’m super guilty of this, by the way, which is why I’m talking about it).

Rebecca and I got into a four hour gab fest this weekend (We got along? We can’t shut up?), and at the end we were talking about fashion. She was saying that one of her personal missions was to get women (especially moms) to feel empowered to be stylish, just because they wanted to be. Or in her words, “How much longer does it take to put on pants than sweats? I rest my case.” And that’s when I mentioned the “glamazon” thing. And she shook her head at me in this really baffled way, and was like, “I don’t get it. I’m trying to say that style is NOT exclusive, and instead people think, ‘well, she’s stylish and I can never hope to live up to it.’” Which is exactly it.

Last week, Clare said something really insightful in her wedding graduate post, which was:

In all honesty, when I started reading A Practical Wedding, it didn’t really help! I thought ‘Well, that’s fine for those people, they are all gorgeous, creative and interesting. If I try to do something creative or wear a beautiful dress, people will laugh at me, and say I am not interesting and pretty enough to do so.’ It took me ages to ‘own’ the wedding; not in the sense of it being about me, but in the sense of being allowed to think and care about crafting a wedding and marriage in which you are yourself.

And she totally nailed it. The style part of APW (and arguably the non-style part), is about figuring out who you are, and realizing that embracing that will make you chic. There is a running APW joke that Team Practical brides always look like models and have the best dresses, but they really just look gorgeous because they are happy, and have the best dresses because they do their own thing (evidence: this dress). I don’t edit for aspiration, I edit for inspiration.

So, my challenge to us today is to think about the ways we take what should inspire us, and turn it into something we can’t hope to aspire to… because it’s so much less scary that way. What do we tune out as ‘not an option for me’? Is it a stylish wedding dress (notice I didn’t say an expensive wedding dress)? Is it a stylish wardrobe? Is it attacking items on our life list? Is it trying for a great job? Living in a great city? Doing something a little more ambitious with your personal blog? Writing more? Having a braver marriage? What is it? Because my hunch is, the things we tell ourselves can’t be done are the things we most need to give ourselves permission to do. Because why not us? Why not now? Really. Why not?

So these are your marching orders today. Look around APW. What have you been deeply wanting when you read about other peoples weddings and marriages? Because I’m here to tell you, if it’s on this site, it’s inspirational. F*ck aspiration. Do it.

Picture: The inspirational dress made from hacked up bits of goodwill lace, from this amazing wedding, taken by Christina Richards Weddings (she’s the BEST).

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  • Yay! For owning the inspiration. For me this means actually getting off my bottom and ticking off a whole lot of tasks on our to-do list for the boat that will make December and January a whole lot more tolerable. Instead of obsessively reading blogs like yours and GGC! It’s really tempting to get caught up in living on-line instead of real-life.

    Um: Was the double ‘aspiration’ in the penulitmate sentence of the first paragraph intended?

  • applesidra

    I think APW in general is inspirational…the fact that you started this 2+ years ago and it has grown to what it is today…*that* to me is both inspirational and aspiration (ie I aspire to achieve something similar and it’s also the source of my inspiration to keep on pursuing it.)

    • Whenever I see anyone who has followed a dream and made it their reality, I’m inspired. Especially when their dream is centered around helping others, being creative, and being real.

      I need to think more on this topic, though. I’m not sure I aspire to be anything when it comes to weddings, but everywhere I turn, I see bits of inspiration that I want to tuck away in my brain and save for later…just in case I want to use them for something.

      I aspire to be a traditional, classy, elegant, stunning and over-the-moon happy bride. I aspire to have a wedding that makes me look back and thing “Yes. It was perfectly me and that’s all that I could have asked for.”. Maybe, but does it count as aspiration if I know deep down I will be all of that and more?

      APW has helped me to realize that I don’t have to aspire to be anything – I can just follow any inspiration and just DO IT. Make it a reality. It’s empowering, to say the least.

  • Wow. Just wow. Could this cut any deeper?

    Everything you said here is so true. It may even be part of the reason I still haven’t set a date for the wedding, even though we’ve been engaged for almost three years. Proof of this is the fact that while I was reading all about giving myself permission to be inspired, my inner voice was saying “that’s so great for everyone else, but it won’t work for me.”


    Obviously I’m going to need to read this a thousand times for it to sink in.

    Thanks. You are inspirational all on your own. Or is that aspirational?

    • Wsquared

      You know, the other side of the “that won’t work for me” coin is “well, then, what WILL work for you?”

      It’s the easiest thing in the world to know what we don’t want. But what about what we DO want?

  • As I read the words of all the wonderful women on APW (both “official” writers and commenters) I am envious of the thoughtful, deep, filled-with-meaning kind of conversations so many of you seem to have with your spouses.

    Don’t get me wrong – my husband is a dear and wonderful man and I married him for his ravishing combination of his brain, hs baking, and his biceps (all three really are fantastic…), but he is not given to “meaningful” relationship talk. It exhausts him. It makes him sigh. And I crave it. Our conversations are practical, functional, humorous, and very often amazing, but they feel somehow less than I want them to be. I am a “filled-with-longing” person by nature (rather than a “happy with what I have” kinda gal), and when I read about you all and your partners and your connections…well, that makes me sigh.

    But it inspires me. I realize that what we say in the blogosphere is only one snippet of what we live and that the stories behind your meaningful conversations with your partners did not evolve so neatly. And so I am inspired to be patient. And to trust in the unique character of my own partnetrship. And to keep coming back here for more. Thanks, ladies.

    • I don’t know where I read it (here, probably) but I remember seeing someone’s writing in which they said, “Your partner doesn’t have to [shouldn’t?] be everything.” And honestly, I hope a partner wouldn’t be everything. Friends, family, acquaintances, etc should each have their role to fill within your life and I can’t imagine my partner filling all of those roles on his own. What stress to place on him! Look elsewhere to see where your meaningful conversations are coming from and find joy in that, and also communicate with your partner this longing that you have for meaningful conversation with him. Though, from your description, you already have a pretty special thing going!

      • We talked about this at our Chicago meet-up too! :) (just before you arrived, I think.) I said how I saw that on APW and a big lightbulb went off in my head and I told my hubs, “Oh.my.gosh – you don’t have to be my everything!” and he was like, “THANK YOU PRACTICAL WEDDING!” lol. Because I finally got that crazy thought out of my head. My husband is not going to be my everything and would go insane and be incredibly unhappy if he ever tried to.
        Kinzie – Great point about looking for the positives in other relationships in your life where you get the things you feel you are ‘missing’ from your hubs. And instead of looking at him and thinking what he LACKS – think of all the fabulous qualities he has that make him extra amazing for you and cherish/appreciate those! :)

      • Faith

        I definitely echo what these smart ladies have already said!

        Adding my own thoughts, I have found that when I stop focusing on me and what I need, and instead focus on HIM and what HE needs, my needs are not nearly as important as I thought they were. A funny thing happens when I do that, my needs become satisfied anyway:)

    • Maddie

      Oh grrrrll. I could (and was going to) write this exact same thing. I am totally inspired by the meaningful conversations these awesome bloggy ladies seem to have with their husbands. And yet so far when I have tried to have these conversations with Mr J, it usually ends with me crying and him all kinds of confused. But in the end I think if I take this inspiration a little less literally, what I’m really inspired by is the awareness in these relationships that I so admire. And awareness is definitely something I can own.

      • Alyssa

        Realize too that these converations make be remarked on because they’re noteworthy, rather than par for the course.

        But I do feel your pain. My husband is not a talker. He’s mostly a grunter, as in “uh huh,” and “hmmm…” in reference to big talks I try to have with him. BUT, I do know he is processing what I’m saying, just by his actions. And because we’ve ended many a conversation with “I AM listening, I just don’t have anything to say!”

        I also realize that part of this is because he’s much more sensitive than I am. He’s worried about saying the wrong thing or not sounding intelligent, so he doesn’t say anything at all. So maybe you’re lucky and just have a profoundly sensitive man. :-)

        • Haha! I’m infamous for, “are you listening to anything I’m saying?” (Damn, I sound like my mother.) And he is ALWAYS able to recap what I said. So yes, he’s listening. :)

        • Wsquared

          Things like sensitivity and a sense of humor also take different forms– forms that we don’t always recognize immediately if we see the experiences of others in terms of what we can and should expect.

          I remember complaining that my fiance wasn’t particularly “sensitive,” or that he didn’t seem to “listen.” To his credit, he stopped walking out of the room to “leave me alone” (because it’s what he expects people to do when it comes to him and what he’s dealing with), and we do actually talk.

          He’s still not “sensitive” sensitive in the way that say, some of my other male friends who are married are. But that’s okay. He does listen and respond in ways that are constructive, and I’ve come to appreciate it for what it is.

          I also used to worry a little about whether he had a sense of humor, given that I tend to laugh at things rather uproariously. Because we don’t laugh at the same things. But I found out that he does have a wicked sense of humor; it’s just very different, and it takes understanding.

    • Liz

      these comments made me think 2 things.

      1. some people just aren’t overly analytical types. it doesn’t mean they suck at relationships or anything. it just means they have a different means of processing things. my parents are this way, and lack-of-deep-discussion isn’t always the same as lack-of-communication.

      2. some types of conversations take practice. my husband and i were thrown into them bright and early because of some crap i had endured just before meeting him. and as a result of my crap, we needed to continue to have those talks until i healed and was no longer a crazy person (mostly). it was necessary moreso than just something fun to do to pass the time.

      but, even though we have 4 years of practice under our belts, some of these conversations are still weird to him. he’s resistant when he doesn’t understand WHY we’re talking about this- is he in trouble? am i bringing this conversation up because i think we suck at something? i often catch myself and explain, “i’m just thinking aloud, really” so he doesn’t think i’m going on some passive aggressive tangent- complaining about the state of marriage in america as some sort of subliminal message to him that he’s a crappy husband.

      • Liz, not only do our husband’s share a name, but they also share this way of processing things. I’ve realized that I also need to let him know that I”m just thinking out loud b/c it makes him nervous. Many times I don’t even speak in complete sentences so you can imagine the confusion going on there.

        Jessica, I’ve tried to get him to be all deep with me… but that’s not the guy he is. Sometimes I worry because I want him to feel like he can confide in me, but he has his own way of working through things and I just have to be his source of whatever he needs if/when he needs it. We’ve had some other issues lately and I try to talk him through it, I try to ask questions (1. Because I’m curious and 2. I think he needs to find answers himself) and get him thinking about different perspectives, especially his own. I am an oversharer and I realize that. I say first, think second. My husband is the exact opposite and as much as I want him to fulfill my need to talk all night with me about crazy in love we are, it just won’t happen. But he shows it in other ways that mean just as much. So no worries.

        I think Maddie is onto something with comparing our relationship convos to one’s we see on blogs. I think we need to stop comparing ourselves and instead of looking out we need to look in and appreciate what’s there and why it’s so good. The blogs are snippets of someone’s life and we choose to see it in different ways. I think Sarah (MySFBudgetWedding) wrote a little something about this blogging and life looking like a fairytale thing.

        • J

          I haven’t made it through all the comments yet, but wanted to add that sometimes having a partner who is as into those deep meaningful relationship conversations as you are can be a problem too! My fiance and I both way over-think, over-analyse and over-talk things, particularly big relationship changes. Consequently we got engaged when we were ready to get married and are having to tough it out waiting to tie the knot, all because we freaked ourselves out with way too many deep ‘are we ready yet’ conversations! I’m not saying it doesn’t have its perks, but the grass isn’t always greener!! :)

      • Alyssa

        Oooo, I think you hit it with both points. Lack of discussion also doesn’t indicate lack of feeling or caring either. Some people are just wired differently, that’s what makes life interesting/frustrating/amazing.

        And YES to practice. Hell, I think half the problems on APW could be, if not solved, weathered more easily if we’d all just realize that we’re all either fairly young or new to whatever situation we’re dealing with. We’re not supposed to be good at it yet.

        • Erin

          YES. Life takes practice :)

        • Did I mention that I find all of the comments inspiring? I wrote my initial comment while drinking cup-o-coffee # 1 in my kitchen. By the time I got to cup-o-coffee #2 in my office, there were wonderful, thought-provoking additional tidbits of inspiration.

          The points from Liz and Alyssa and Angie about practice and acceptance are big for me right now. I need to practice patience (in lots of areas of my life! and…) with the new-ness of marriage. It took me 4 years to really feel like I could hold my own as a teacher in my classroom, but for some reason I thought I’d have a handle on the marriage thing more quickly. Silly me ;) Thanks, again, ladies.

          • Jessica, on our wedding poster, one of my husband’s bff’s wrote “the key is patience.” The poster sits next to our bed and it reminds me of that all the time. I’m not perfect, far from, but I try to remember his words as much as I can. No worries, we’re all learning. If we weren’t, none of us would be commenting here. Hooray for sharing! (And even oversharing! Sometimes. ;})

      • suz

        I have honestly never even thought to say “I’m just thinking aloud” and that would have helped in so many conversations when I’m quite certain my partner thinks she’s in trouble or that I have some ulterior motive for why I’ve started a conversation! I will have to start prefacing those long, rambling psuedo-discussions with this statement…

        • Oh, I have SO been there.

    • Rose

      Oh, Jessica, I totally get this. I often feel the same frustration with my husband. He’s just not a ‘deep and meaning conversation’ type of communicator. It was panicking me a few months ago when his dad died and I was desperate to get inside his head and make sure he felt loved and supported by me. But, he just doesn’t work like that. I’ve told him that I’m always ready to talk if he wants to and and I have to trust that he will take me up on it when necessary. It’s difficult though.

    • meg

      Hum. Lots of good advice already, but I have to say, I think you’re perceiving other people having what you need less because they have it, and more because you feel like you need it and CAN’T have it, and are seeing it everywhere. I’m not sure David and I do have a lot of really deep relationship talks. We have talked a lot about religion, but that was because of painful interfaith realities. We were forced into talking about it, because if we didn’t figure it out we would never have gotten married. But other than that we don’t have lots of deep talks. We have little snippets of talks, and quick snippets over six years (or way more, if you add our friendship in as well) add up. But mostly we’re talking about Project Runway, or our to-do lists, or what to have for dinner, or making jokes.

      I’ve been in relationships with lots of deep talks, but that was normally because we were in deep trouble. This relationship we do a lot more doing and a lot less talking about it. Oh, and some screaming, because duh.

      • I’ve been in relationships that were ALL about the deep talks before. Now I’m in a relationship where we can have deep talks if we need to, but most of the time we’re all about the laughter. And tickle fights.

        And I infinitely prefer it. So much less exhausting.

      • thank you for saying this. i am married to a man who doesn’t particularly like “deep conversations”. he’s a big doer and not much of a talker and when we first started dating i thought this would bother me. but i agree with you 100%, big talks don’t always equate to good, and are often the result of “big problems”. i sometimes still wonder if its a bad thing that we don’t have long emotional conversations about life and worries and such. but we do so much more than we talk about, and i think that’s a good thing.

      • Liz

        i think this is true about ARGUMENT type discussions. but i’m thinking more along the lines of “what if…” and “someday…” and “here’s why the world sucks and everyone should listen to us because we know better…” talks.

        like last night, when josh and i watched a tantrum unfold in the middle of starbucks.the ride home was spent in lengthy discussion about what it’s going to be like to have kids and what we’re going to do when they have tantrums and how we’re going to discipline and how our definition of parenthood aligns and connects with our definition of marriage.

        those talks don’t mean something’s wrong, necessarily. just that… something on the horizon could use a little thought. but the absence of those talks doesn’t automatically equal poor parenthood or a bad relationship.

        • I’m a deep talk kind of person, and I think that’s one thing to consider with people. If I’m in a relationship without deep talks, I’m not being myself in that relationship. I don’t know how many times I’ve had like 3 to 7 hour conversations with someone (be it romantic or just friends) only to hear them say ‘wow, I never do that’. Or, in one case where I’m friends with this married couple I’ve had four or so five plus hour conversations with the husband (I’ve done it with the wife too, but) where she’s told me she can never get him to talk that long with her… oops. (It was completely innocent.)

          My point is, I think the presence of deep talks isn’t the issue. It’s the amount of how much can you be yourself, whether that means the ridiculously long conversations I seem to lure out of people or feeling comfortable enough not to have to say a word. If you’re not a deep talk kind of person, maybe deep talks are a warning sign, as Meg said. It’s not a tit for tat kind of thing, it’s being able to freely communicate in the way that best expresses (ie communicates) you.

  • I’m inspired to get my ass out of this cubicle and actually do something important. My husband is so creative and I’ve met so many lovely creative friends through blogging and I always wonder what’s the difference between them and me? Why can’t I do it? Well. I can.

    And I love the suggestions – everything from shaping your career to even updating a wardrobe. I think overall it should be about making choices that make your heart happy and your mouth smile. As of late I’ve been trying to get our home in order – establish a morning/evening routine (small things like doing dishes after dinner and not letting clothes pile up on the floor throughout the week), update my wardrobe and save money. The nice thing is that we’ve figured out a way to do it on our own terms, with aspiration of course. (The adult allowances thing we got going on was found here and modified to fit our needs.) The nice thing is that this site provides inspiration for our lives outside of weddings – being the woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister, etc. that we want to be.

    Thanks for this post. I was feeling discouraged about a lot of things (also the reason I’ve been on lurker status) and I need this kick in the pants.

  • Erin

    Woohoo! I can’t wait to see the conversations this post starts today. Bring on your awesome wisdom, ladies!

  • Wsquared

    So very agreed, and very true. The only way for you to own inspiration is to be yourself, and to learn to feel comfortable in your own skin.

    One thing that I believe really needs to be taken with a grain of salt all over the wedding world– whether it be the WIC or the “indie” wedding world where so many things are DIY– are the words “perfect and unique,” particularly used in combination. The “perfect” part, we mostly know is a bit of a doozy upon reflection because it rarely happens, and we just roll with it. But “unique” can sometimes stymie us. Because there is an overwhelming need to personalize every little detail of a wedding so that it “reflects the couple.” That can be a trap and pressure in itself, as we all know.

    Nobody should ever try too hard to be “unique,” particularly when what makes them unique is already there. In themselves. As such, nobody should ever try to please everybody, either, or worry about being uber-inclusive. We talk a lot about “tolerance,” but we should also be willing to talk about acceptance. Acceptance of the differences of others, particularly our friends (and trust that they’re grown-up enough to accept that we’re different from them, too), and also acceptance of *ourselves*.

    • LeahIsMyName

      “We talk a lot about “tolerance,” but we should also be willing to talk about acceptance. Acceptance of the differences of others, particularly our friends (and trust that they’re grown-up enough to accept that we’re different from them, too), and also acceptance of *ourselves*.”

      Exactly on this. I’m frequently intimidated by how amazing and creative and beautiful the people on APW (and sometimes my own friends) are. And I spent a lot of my teens and early 20s trying to carve out my own “uniqueness” by trying out ways of dressing and behaving.

      But I’m finally accepting (as you so wisely put it) some of my sameness as well. No one (and no wedding) can be totally unique. As APW has pointed out many times, most of the trappings of most weddings are rooted in hundreds of years of tradition (i.e. sameness). And I’ve finally learned that in my personal life it’s the same story. I’m learning to accept my sameness (while leaving myself open to tweaking it *just* a little).

      • Wsquared

        Also, sometimes, we have the overwhelming urge or need to feel as though we need to justify why something feels right to us, probably because we think we feel the gravity of that sameness or difference– perhaps both at once– bearing down on us. I know I can feel that way.

        But all I can say is that if something feels right, it just does. You know it when you see it. Sometimes, it’s hard to put that precisely into words.

        I know what it’s like to feel like I can’t or won’t “measure up.” But then, I had a very interesting experience while once on a research fellowship: my fellow fellows were just as smart as I was, and some were even smarter. But I never felt intimidated by them for a second, and I certainly didn’t envy them. That was wonderfully freeing. And the reason for this was that they were all at different stages of their careers, and from all over, instead of being from the same department, and at the same level. They also accepted me for who I was and treated me like a human being. I also think that the reason for the latter was that they themselves were comfortable in their own skins, so they therefore treated people and their work with heart, soul, calm, and dignity.

    • Kaitlyn

      This is so true. I’ve barely started planning, and the pressure to be “unique” is already driving me up a wall. I’m working on giving myself permission to go traditional because it’s what I want. Cannon in D? I don’t care how many people use it. I want it because it’s one of the few songs I can put on when I’m super-stressed out and it calms me down.

  • It’s funny, but one of those things that I only recently gave myself permission to do was to put my voice on the internet. I’ve been reading APW for over a year now and only recently have I worked up the courage to comment. It sounds silly now, but before I would think, “Wow, these women are all so witty and articulate, how could I ever contribute anything as intelligent?” Yes, I know, ridiculous and TOTALLY the opposite of what APW is all about. But not too long ago I basically said, “F*ck it, what I have to say is worthwhile and I’m gonna say it.” I finally gave myself permission to be heard and I even started my own little blog, which was a bit of a personal triumph for me.

    What am I aspiring to in the future? I’m at a major crossroads now in my life where I’m graduating from college and getting married pretty much at the same time. My entire career is looming ahead of me and I’m not really sure where to start. I guess I’m still working up the courage to just jump in and wildly chase whatever opportunities present themselves.

    • meg

      Hello! I noticed your face in the comments the last few weeks, speaking like you’d always been here. Now I know why, and I’m glad :)

      • Thanks Meg! It’s good to be “out of the closet.” :)

  • This was exactly the post I needed today. There are a couple of places in my life that need a kick in the pants – working more on my own side business, dressing with more verve and personality (like I used to, but now have turned into jeans/and cardigan girl. And not in that cute cardigan belted with whimsy, rolled up jeans and fab heels kind. That’s what I want to do more of)

    One of the places I have been letting aspiration beat me down was my wedding. I got married in April and had a wonderful, everyone pitch in, don’t worry about the tornado that touched down less than a mile from our backyard wedding. Though I felt really great about it – I sewed all the invites and made all the flowers from vintage baubles and pieces from my grandmother’s dress, and we had 9 cakes for goodness sake – I haven’t sent the pictures to my family and friends, much less to you (my wedding salvation).

    Because I didn’t think it looked as great as I wanted it to. Because even though our friends were amazing – my husband is a circus clown, so all our variety artist friends were the first to help out and pitch a tent so we had a place to get married out of the rain – and my grandparents cried when we mentioned them in the ceremony (we chose the date because it was their anniversay) I didn’t think it looked as great as the weddings I see online and in magazines. Yes, we did have our rehearsal dinner at a carousel – so we have video of everyone on a horse while “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” played on the organ – but I didn’t hand silkscreen totebags or have my guests paint venetian banners or any of the numerous other things that I see on wedding blogs that make me go “oh I wish I would have done that!”

    Because, that is kinda crappy of me. And I realize that I have been comparing my wedding (which was in its own way very aspirational, we did have the best vows in the entire universe) with inspirational weddings of people with larger budgets, more model-like brides, and letterpress-owning maids of honor. I shouldn’t compare mine to that. It isn’t fair to all the hard work our families and friends put in.

    I need to call the wedding photographer (luckily a best friend) and tell her to start printing some pictures up – it is about time my family got some. I should be proud of them.

    Also, I need to use my J.Crew gift certificate to get that great belt that will jazz up these jeans.

    Thanks for the kick in the pants.

  • As far as my wedding, I’m aspiring to be a gracious hostess at a large gathering. I’m very much an invert, and I’ve never been one to plan social gatherings beyond having a friend or two over. But we’re going to have a large wedding because I have a huge family and we have lots of very dear friends between the two of us — I’m just not used to hosting many of them at the same time.

    Beyond the wedding, I’m aspiring to work toward a job I love. I’m ok with my current job. It’s exactly what I majored in in college and it pays pretty decently, but it also tends to make me miserable often because it’s not a good fit for me.

    In both cases, I find inspiration when I take baby steps toward those aspirational goals. My fiance and I are hosting more parties at our house. We started with a few guests, and our last party probably had 25-30 people show. And now, the idea of entertaining 200 people doesn’t seem so scary. For work I’m trying to teach myself new skills that relate to my current job but could also serve as a stepping stone toward something else. As I realize the baby steps aren’t so hard to take, the aspirational goals seem more and more attainable.

    • Let’s try that again … INTROVERT, not invert. The coffee has yet to kick in this morning.

    • I think part of those baby steps is actually taking time to see that you are doing them. We get so boggled down at what we aren’t doing and forget what we are doing well. So nicely done on the 25-30 person parties! We’re hosting less than 20 for Thanksgiving and I’m already freaking out. :)

      • LeahIsMyName

        That’s so great! Good for you. I totally sympathize, being a hardcore introvert myself.

        I’m working hard at getting myself out there, especially since we’re in a new city (especially hard for introverts).

        Luckily for me, our apartment will only fit a max of about 4-5 extra people. So, no 200+ people for me yet!

  • LeahIsMyName

    I’ve been thinking about the comment in this post about women being scared of each other, intimidated by each other. I’m so guilty of this, and that little sentence of this post really rang out to me.

    I’m really tall, which always makes me feel extra awkward around small, compact, cute women. And then they always seem to have cute shoes and nice hair, etc, etc. So then I find myself way too shy to say more than, “Hello.” I’ve only been living in this city for a couple of years and this fear of other women combined with my introversion have led me to have only friends who are guys.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I do miss having girlfriends. And I have to wonder what it is that makes women scared of each other. I’m intimidated by their knowledge of style, the way their clothes fit well (long legs and flat chest are hard to dress), and their ease with other cute women.

    And I’m also finding myself intimidated by the incredibly beautiful, smart, creative brides on APW and similar sites. The commenter above blew my mind when she said she had a wedding with a CAROUSEL and decorated by CLOWNS AND ARTISTS and she was still intimidated by other brides online. Wow. It made me realize just how scared we are. Of each other! It seems so backward. And yet I’m right in the middle of it myself. She’s right…I need to get my a** in gear.

    (And Kari, if you’re reading this, please send those pictures! I’m dying to see the carousel.)

    • Liz

      here’s what it is for me. i’m a perfectionist. and i want to be the best at what i do.

      so when i meet women who are more “womanly” than me, i don’t naturally want to be around them. i always feel like a lumbering, snorting disgrace to womanhood. (and “womanly” is whatever… for me, it’s the opposite of what you said. i’m short. so i feel like a stubby, stocky boy when i’m around long and lean ladies. sometimes i’m around girls who are cute and giggly and i feel too masculine in my interests.)

      • Carreg

        I think of it as the rhinocerous among gazelles feeling. Glad it’s not just me :-)

    • Um, can I just say my lack of girlfriends in real life is supplemented by my amazing girlfriends in the blogosphere. (To be honest, some of the female to female friendships I’ve forged here have made my female to female friendships in real life much better.) And I get you on the intimidated thing… I get it all the time. When I started blogging someone left a nasty comment about religion and I felt so, so small and so, so stupid. But whatevs. Dust it off and blame their snarky comment on a bad day.

      But srsly. The only women I’ve encountered on APW are the beautiful, smart, creative, intelligent types… and um, you’re here too… so guess what that makes you!

      • Angie,

        Yes. The friendship I have with you and Liz and Kerry and Marchelle has been amazing and inspiring to me. All through blogging. Who would have guessed?

        • Liz


          ditto, ladies!

          (i wonder if it's because we remove ourselves from the typical shallow judgments- you guys can't see that i'm in sweats or hear my dumb laugh, so i feel easier being myself with you. ya know?)

          • Someday Liz. Watch out. I am in my yoga pants that have not been to yoga in ages and have zit cream on my face.

          • LeahIsMyName

            Exactly! In the online world, my very quiet voice and lack of ability to make myself heard don’t inhibit me from contributing to a “conversation” like this one. If we were all in a room, however, I’d be the quiet one in the corner. The one sitting down so I don’t trip over my feet!

          • I’m wearing my grandma’s dress slacks to work. Don’t judge.

    • Agreed! It is so backward!
      I think we maybe fall into the trap of feeling like other women are the standard we have to measure up to, rather than inspiration that we an take and implement uniquely into our own context.

      As an example, I am terrible about letting stylish women intimidate me, so I’ve been tyring to challenge myself recently to 1) not let it stop me from making an effort in the morning to dress in a way that helps me feel good and like me, and 2) to stop seeing “totally together stylish initimidating women” and start seeing just how beautiful women are when they dress for themselves. And then damn there is a lot of inspiration around! (I find myself wanting to stop a lot of women and thell them that, which might be a bit awkward).

      • Wsquared

        I know where you’re coming from, because I’ve sometimes felt the same way.

        Seeing how different women can be beautiful when they know what their personal style is and totally rock it is important.

        They don’t care about the way you “measure up” or don’t, precisely because they *are* doing it for themselves, and not because they crave the attention and validation of others. I remember watching something on Nanette Lepore, and I loved what she said about how she wanted her clothes to be for the woman who delights in getting up in the morning and wearing beautiful clothes, not for the consumption of others, but because she wants to feel fabulous. That was awesome.

        There’s a difference between women like this, and say, women who belong to a clique that delights in imposing its own conformity. There is nothing wrong with feeling annoyed with women who do behave that way, but not all women do, obviously. It’s why it’s important to know when you’re feeling unduly intimidated, for no good reason other than your own insecurities, and to know when somebody else is projecting their insecurities onto you. Because both do happen.

        Beautiful women who rock their own style feel comfortable in their own skin. And they actually make it easier to feel at ease around them.

      • Wsquared

        Fiona Lynne, why *not* tell them that you think they look awesome? Especially if it’s the truth?

        I do that all the time. :) It’s actually very freeing.

        • Liz

          i do this ALL THE TIME. i think it embarrasses people who are with me, haha. i’ll just tell a random stranger on the bus, “GIRL! your hair looks great!”

          it’s got this nice counter-intuitive effect. because i think i’m making someone else feel good, but walk away feeling better about myself. it’s like i defeat my insecurity by saying,”yeah- i can acknowledge that other women are doing a great job without feeling like that means i’m less than they are. so there.”

          • Wsquared

            Yes! You’ve summed it up exactly. I will often tell a random strange woman how awesome she looks in that dress. I’m a sucker for good fit that way.

            The other side of the coin is learning to accept compliments gracefully from pretty much anyone: if some guy, even some homeless guy, says that you look great, say “thank you.” That’s all. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s going to stalk you and follow you home, and it doesn’t mean that you have to engage in conversation with him.

          • Love this! And am totally going to start doing it – nothing feels better than making someone else smile.

      • Liz

        i’ve heard a few times that usually those things to which you aspire to are very telling about who you really are. meaning, for example, that someone who deep-down wishes they were funny- if they were to poll their friends, would probably be considered the “funny friend.”

        i’ve always wistfully wanted to be stylish- in that put-together sort of way. more recently (since hanging out with more women, actually!) people have been confiding that they wished they dressed like me. (ego explosion)

        it always makes me think.

        • Wsquared

          Personal style is just that: personal.

          For a person who rocks their personal style, it works and fits in the way that it should, because they know themselves (and by default, know what works for them).

          I think that one of the hardest things to grasp about style and “stylishness” is that it’s not a zero-sum game: simply because you can’t wear x does not mean that you can’t be stylish or that no other options exist. There are always other options– often enough, there are more y’s out there than you think for all the x’s you “can’t wear” (and let’s be honest: not everything looks good on everyone equally. And that’s more than perfectly a-okay).

          So yeah: you might feel that you’re forced to “opt out,” or you may “opt out” out of choice. But the flipside is always what you then opt INto.

      • suz

        At the beginning of the year I decided that this year I would tell people (usually women) when I liked something about their outfit or style. I’ve spent the last 9 months stopping at least one person a day to tell them that I like their shoes/belt/earrings/hair/laugh. I thought it would be awkward but it’s actually been a really great exercise and very positive all around!

        I felt like women spent all this time agonizing over their outfits and then nobody comments on them. The most put together women I’ve seen have also been some of the happiest when I commented positively on their earrings or shoes.

    • Wsquared

      I think it’s pretty easy for women to feel scared of, or intimidated by, each other, precisely because we’re insecure– and by that, I don’t mean to say that we’re inherently insecure because we’re women, but we get insecure about what it means to *be* a woman, because we tend to hold onto notions that one size somehow fits all. We’re told that enough when it comes to manufactured clothing sizes. But we also imbibe similar messages when it comes to women who are more “traditional,” and even feminism, at least whenever someone tells us (or we think that they’re telling us), “if you’re not like me, you suck.”

      In our hearts, we know differently, or know that we ought to know. But we also know that our culture (and even micro-cultures– the corporate culture of our own group of friends sometimes) and certainly advertising have certain “ideals,” and we struggle to find our place without letting someone else tell us that we ought to “know our place.” As such, we forget that self-acceptance and self-knowledge are crucial, and that they actually are hard, because they take a good deal of humility. We forget that when ideals become, as this post puts it so eloquently, aspirations instead of inspirations.

      This isn’t just about accepting sameness or difference, but knowing that the two together comprise a pretty delicate balance that one gets better at with the willingness to practice.

    • One of my best friends is one of those strikingly beautiful, strikingly stylish, strikingly articulate women. When I first met her I was SO intimidated. But as I started to get to know her, I found that she was so insecure about herself. She thought she was ugly and socially awkward. I was floored. That’s something I try to keep in mind when I feel intimidated: that we are all human and we are all insecure in some way.

      Did I tell my friend how intimidating I found her and how amazing I think she is? To some extent, yes (in the sense that I give the obligatory “nooo you’re really pretty” when she calls herself ugly). But I don’t compliment her to the extent that I could because as Fiona Lynne said, it would be awkward. But maybe I need to find the courage to say something to her. Because seriously, when was the last time that any of us were offended that someone called us strikingly pretty? (In a non-creepy-old-man way)

      • Wsquared

        Mary, that’s actually not surprising.

        In fact, while we are busy letting some people make us feel intimidated, there are other people who feel the same way about us, precisely because all of us have our own personal insecurities.

        I’ve been on both sides of the “intimidation” coin: both feeling unduly intimidated by someone else, and someone telling me that I intimidate them. Men and women alike, actually.

        Sometimes, it can be hurtful when you find out that somebody has never approached you, reached out to you, or even taken you for a human being, because they say that they’re “intimidated.” Precisely because they’ve turned you into something you’re just not. It certainly can beg the question of whether we’re doing the exact same thing to someone whom we say makes us feel intimidated. In other words, how much do we use “being intimidated” as an excuse, because it somehow gives us comfort?

  • To begin with, I LOVE that dress.

    This post and the post about money really got me thinking. I run a new, small wedding related design business (accessories). Finding the prices that will allow me to do the things I want to (mainly run development programs with partners in Ghana), but believing I’m worth those prices (self confidence) has been difficult. I’ve been holding myself back by not believing. Just yesterday I looked at my current sales numbers and I realized that my goals ARE realistic and for the first time I believe I *can* achieve my goals.

  • wow. just wow.
    I am loving this post so much, because actualizing inspiration and owning the big shit I want for my life has been on my mind for the past few weeks. I think with the wedding over, done, and awesome, there is actually some space there now to think forward. LOL. But I have to confess that I am totally guilty of admiring/oohing/ahhing over the crazy cool creative things OTHER people are doing, and saying things like “I could do that” and then never getting off my ass and actually doing it. So that’s it for me. I need to actually take the little steps forward to make the things I want (that are doable) a reality. I think the important thing for me is to break down the wall between “me” and those intimidating “thems” who in reality are probably just as scared as I am, but sucking it up a little better!

    • meg

      I think the fact that you say, “I could do that” is a HUGE first step. Getting off your *ss is small potatoes, compared to believing in yourself.

  • Melissa

    Yesterday I sent my mother a photo of a wedding dress I tried on this weekend with the subject line: “Awesome layered dress I really like but am not stylish enough to wear.” Literally. Where does that assessment come from? The fact that it was a butt-kicking gorgeous dress with only one strap? And I don’t own any one-strap clothing?

    I love reading about the conversion of aspiration into something influential and creativity-provoking rather than intimidating. What I’ve seen so far on this blog – inspiration- has made me totally smitten with backyard weddings. It’s given me the freedom to say “F*ck it, why would it matter if all of his friends had steak at their weddings, we’re going to have what we want and it will be great quality and delicious.” It’s reminded me that it’s not wacky to want to decorate your own wedding cake.

    At the same time, as a woman with a history of absorbing the opinions of those around me (if you share this quality, may I recommend NOT wedding dress shopping with your mother!), it can be dangerous to surround yourself with the more courageous and outrageous. This can end up with me sifting through a load of regret, so I have to be careful. And yet I read this post and thought: Fate is telling you it’s ok to like that dress! It’s ok to buy it!

    Thanks for the reminder.

    • meg

      If you’re stylish enough to LIKE it, you’re stylish enough to WEAR it. End of story.

  • I’ve been a fan and friend of Rebecca’s for years, and I pretty much point everyone to her blog because of exactly what you’ve said–she’s SO cool and SO together and yet SO real in all the ways that matter. (Plus she’s a brilliant, natural writer, and even the best kind of people aren’t always that.)

    When I think of the aspiration/inspiration thing, the issue I always seem to get a little hung up on is the difference between “being myself” and being who I WANT to be. With wedding dresses, for instance, “being myself” would be doing something totally casual and low-key and inconspicuous, but then I think to myself, “Hey, this is your chance to be a better, bolder version of yourself. Why not try something more daring?” This summer I bought some red lipstick even though I’m SO not a red lipstick person, but simply acknowledging the fact that I WANTED to be a red lipstick person suddenly gave me the permission to try it out. (And I liked it!)

    So much of how we think as women is centered around finding out who we are, but I think we have to remember to not just BE the person we discover but also work to become the person we ultimately want to be.

    • Liz

      i have a list of things that “i don’t think i can pull off.” (it’s mostly looks-centered, i’ll admit)

      red lipstick is number 1.
      short, audrey-hepburn-pixie is there.
      platinum blonde vixen is on there someplace.
      etc etc

      i made the list with the goal of trying each of those things i don’t think i can do. and so far, my favorite things to do and wear have come from that list. (just wore some retro tomato red lipstick on monday night)

      • Wsquared

        You know, Liz, there’s many a shade of red. ;)

        You’ve inspired me: I think I shall try some red lipstick, myself. I haven’t really thought to try it in a while, probably because my first experiments with it in high school were a disaster. Totally the wrong time for experimentation disasters, but I more than survived. ;)

      • I used to say I couldn’t pull off wearing boots. Now boots are my favorite thing about fall. (Well, maybe second favorite after hot apple cider.)

        Try some red lipstick at a makeup counter. It could become your signature look.

      • weeee! are you platinum now? short hair. love it.

    • Alyssa

      I think my biggest hurdle I overcame was when I realized that while I am a red lipstick person, I’m only occasionally a red lipstick person. There used to be this all-or-nothing feeling inside me, like I REALLY wanted to be one person, but though that if I did I had to be that person ALL THE FREAKIN’ TIME.

      So I finally figured out that Yes, you are heels & jeans, pink stripey hair and thigh-highs with seams. But mostly I’m jeans and a hoodie.

      I’m mostly using these metaphorically.
      Am I making sense?
      I’m not making sense.
      I’ll go away now…

      • You’re making sense! I understand you! And relate!

      • kc

        Yes! I used to be so intimidated by flirty, girly dresses because I am a skinny jeans and t-shirt person and that was that. It took me a while to realize I could sometimes be a flirty, girly, dress person and the world was not going to end and people wouldn’t stare at me with the big crazy eye.

        • I am intimidated by women who are able to wear skinny jeans. So we’ve all got our thing :)

          • Wsquared

            Come, now. No need for that. :) Truly. And I mean this in all seriousness, and not just as a pat on the back.

            And I’m not saying this to knock those who do look good in skinny jeans. It’s just that why on earth do we fetishize certain fashionables into aspirations?

            We get fed so many mixed messages: “love your body! …so respect yourself by going on a diet so you can fit into skinny jeans!” What on earth is so great about skinny jeans such that we do turn them into some sort of aspiration?

            If we truly care about loving our bodies and such, and I mean really rocking it instead of turning those kinds of statements into a meaningless cliche, should we not be more concerned with good fit, instead of democratizing something that not everyone can wear? Why should equality mean that everyone is able to wear the same sorts of things equally? Fashion should be an inspiration– and inspiration to work with whatcha got– and not an aspiration. That’s what makes fashion actually fun, and not something to be intimidated by. One of the fun things sometimes about going clothes shopping alone is thinking that you want to buy something and find something else that you never even thought of, but which fits– and therefore looks– better. :) I actually rather like going clothes shopping alone, because it allows me to practice exercising my own instincts.

            By the way, coming to grips with these sorts of realizations is hard, because as you rightly say, we all have our little areas where we feel intimidated by someone else. But it will get easier. Again: practice. :)

  • ‘Well, that’s fine for those people, they are all gorgeous, creative and interesting. If I try to do something creative or wear a beautiful dress, people will laugh at me, and say I am not interesting and pretty enough to do so.’

    This speaks to me so clearly. Because I am a wedding graduate. And my wedding is being published in a magazine. And I still feel like a poseur.

    The guy who lives in my head says “Look at you – you’re just a forever un-hip girl trying to look cool with your dress up clothes and your stolen style”.

    How do you kill that guy?

    • Wsquared

      Define “cool,” Chan. :)

      Cool is more flexible than you think, so don’t ossify its definition by attaching it too closely to particulars. After all, you wouldn’t want to restrict its meaning.

      I think it’s awesome that your wedding is being featured in a magazine. :)

  • I don’t think I have ever looked at another woman and thought “she can’t pull that off.” It’s crap we only think about ourselves.

    • meg

      May I take this moment to mention how much Rebecca reminded me of you? Because OH MY GOD WOMAN. Y’all need to know each other, the end.

  • Cody

    Ah! Okay, just like Mary up there in the comments, I have been completely intimidated to actually say anything here, instead of just creeping on everyone else’s conversations. But today, SO MUCH of this discussion is speaking directly to me. I think this issue has already been touched upon, but I wanted to throw it out there again…

    I am just beginning to plan my wedding, and my aspiration is to be *different.* Unlike other people who see something they like and go, Wow! That’s a great idea, I should try something like that! I go, Crap! I wish I’d thought of that first, since now I clearly can’t do it… I feel like this post slapped me in the face. Why am I thinking this way, and not feeling inspired to just be myself, even if it means doing the same things as others? Besides, there have kind of been a lot of weddings in the world. What are the odds that I’ll actually be that different, anyway??

    So thanks, ladies, for shaking me out of this silliness.

    • meg

      Also, have you married this guy before? If no, BAM unique! If yes, bam REALLY unique. Done! Now get planning.

      • Amandover

        I especially appreciate your Emeril treatment of this situation. Absolutely true.

  • Meg, this post was inspired. As were all of the comments afterward. It really spoke to me, and from the sound of it, to everyone else as well. I’ve married (ok just last month), and yet I still keep reading (I unsubscribed from every other wedding blog but this one) because 1. it’s not just about weddings, it’s about women who do what they want 2. the community is incredible 3. every time I read a post, *something* hits me like “wow I can so relate!”

    Anyway, back to this post, I’ve been struggling to define my new self. I sent an email awhile ago in response to one of the to-baby-or-not-to-baby posts about how meeting my husband changed my life plans HUGELY, but that I could not be more grateful. That said, as awed as I am by him and our relationship, and as excited as I am for upcoming life choices/adventures, I think I am still seeking some other inspiration in my life – namely, figuring out how to bring my work life up to par with the awesomeness in the rest of my life. And I think an important component of that, may be abandoning aspiration (thank you so much for wording it so perfectly). Because that’s not what I want. I don’t need the fancy things or the million dollar house (ha, although in SF that will get you a shack!) if I can wake up every morning feeling inspired. So thank you for giving me a little extra oomph today to meditate on how to get to that point. Well done as always.

  • Kashia

    As I was reading through the post and then the comments I’ve noticed a theme. Fear of Failure. I have that fear all the time in my life, I’m afraid of a lot of ways that I can fail. Sometimes I’m so afraid that I will fail, so sure that I will fail, that I become paralyzed and find myself unable to start something or try something. The thing about this fear is that it is internalized, and I think that is part of what makes it so hard to breakdown rationally, and to face, and to name for what it is. In my own life I find that if I can name that fear, often I can start to take those baby steps towards whatever it is that I am afraid to try because I might fail. If I don’t name it, then it gets bigger and scarier and worse and impossible to face.
    So naming the fear for me means breaking it into what am I afraid of, why and what are the potential outcomes, and then going from there.

    • meg

      You know what? I’ve failed A LOT. A quick retrospective of my failures: I spent most of my 20’s in theatre, and then was like, this is a bullsh*t career, I hate this, too bad I got a really expensive degree in it! And I quit. And then I did the opposite thing for awhile, and was like (am like) what was I THINKING?? I hate this AND I’m not good at it. Great. And now I’m working at meet in the middle. To be continued.

      This is my most fundamental advice: fail early and often. Until you learn how to fail, and shake it off, and stand up and figure it out and keep plugging, it’s hard to get anything done. Because if you want to make things happen, you have to take risks, and if you take risks you have to end up failing sometimes. It’s like I say when I’m ice skating, “If I’m not falling hard, I’m probably not having enough fun.”

      Once you’ve practiced failing, you’ll be ready for succeeding. Because you’ll realize that you know how to survive no matter what, so you’re safe. And then you’ll start having fun for real.

      • kc

        This is something I’m still trying to own, because I’m terrified of failing. Ergo, I spend a lot of time in my head making contingency plans and plans for my contingency plans and…nothing gets done. My husband is the complete opposite. He would jump out of a plane without checking if his parachute was buckled on safely. I honestly think he was put in my life to teach me that failing is OK. Fun even (sometimes?). Still really scary for me.

      • Erin

        “Once you’ve practiced failing, you’ll be ready for succeeding. Because you’ll realize that you know how to survive no matter what, so you’re safe. And then you’ll start having fun for real.”
        Um, yes. My biggest life fail was HUGE. For me. And my then-future husband (that’s a mindful…) and I together practiced un-failing, er… reversing the fail? Since then we’ve been succeeding in ways unimaginable before. And it’s a huge high to succeed when you know that failing again won’t be the bitter end. It’s kind’ve like when I discovered after my wedding the secret, safe knowledge that our fights or arguments won’t be the last ones — he won’t walk away forever, and neither will I, which brings so much bravery to our marriage. These two wisdoms bring everything to another daring level entirely.

        • Jo

          So I was thinking, reading through these brilliantly insightful comments that I wish I had failed more, but in fact my love story with my husband starts similarly to yours, and I have lived through a failure and made it a roaring success… which means, it’s time to start having fun, right Meg?

          • meg


      • Maddie

        Ah Meg, how did you know I would need this post the week that I tell my bosses that I no longer have plans to commute 2 hours to NYC every day to work in the indie film industry (I like TV and Judd Apatow, what can I say?) and am going to officially *own* living in CT with my husband and dog (Yup. Sh*t. I’m doing it and I’m scared crazy that I’ll regret it later, but there you go…)

        I keep thinking of myself as a ballsy tween telling my parents that I no longer wanted to be a cheerleader (I was captain of my 8th grade squad, huzzah!) because I just didn’t see how cheerleading was going to apply to my future. I’m kind of inspired by little me…

        • meg

          You need to email me about YOUR NEW PROJECTS already.

      • Yup. Like Harry Truman… or maybe Mark Twain… said: Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.

        This really is the secret. Everyone who’s achieved something has failed at some point. Better to get to know failure, and how to recover from it, and keep going.

        This, of course, is what many wedding vows suggest, too: for better or worse, in sickness and in health.

  • Marchelle

    Timely, thought-provoking post, lady. Thank you.

  • Kathryn

    It’s important to have inspirational women to look up to, but I think it’s most effective when you can look up to yourself. Sounds funny, so let me explain. She’s called “Your Best Self” and she is a visualization of who you will be when you realize your potential, or who you want to become (For me, she’s successful, classy, charismatic, hard working… remember you don’t have to be these things right now). If you are in a rut, you can ask, what would my best self do? For me, those answers usually look like, “She would go run those 3 miles that is on her training schedule instead of ordering pizza.” Which changes the 3 miles into something I hate hate hate into an activity I’m excited about because I’m doing what My Best Self would be doing, (one step closer to self realization!) and that’s always a fantastic feeling. There’s way more to this *rummages through Leadership Development material from grad school* Remember: Imagination is far more powerful than Willpower alone :)

    • meg

      My best self mostly naps, and I run for two miles. So there you go.

    • I totally get this. I think about the career I want, the woman I want to be. And then I say, well why don’t I just do the things that make me the woman I want to be. I want to do research and publish, ok self, get off your butt and do it.

  • I think, in addition to the fear of failure, a lot of us fear being viewed as aspirational if/when we take inspiration from others… which -this JUST occurred to me- is just another way of saying “I”m not sure I’m good enough.” i.e. “Well, I want to have bunting at my wedding because it looks gorgeous and fun and so-and-so has a really do-able step by step on her blog… but what if all my guests think I’m a total poseur?” We so often don’t allow ourselves to believe we deserve the things that inspire us.

  • peanut

    I have a fear that my fabulous life will come crashing to an end the second I have babies and I will immediately turn into a soccer mom running around in generic clothes and be consumed with thoughts of getting my child into the top preschool and stuff instead of going to concerts or cool new restaurants or, you know, having a career. Meg’s attitude of “parents do not need to lose their identity when they have children!” combined with some awesome mothers I have met recently have inspired me to begin ditching this fear. And yes, I am going to the links above immediately after posting this comment.

    • meg

      You and me both, girlfriend. We’re both afraid of the same thing.

    • rosie

      i have a similar fear, except about marriage.

      being single leaves you young and free, dating is fun and happy, engagement is magic and butterflies and unicorns, marriage is… blah.

      i do NOTNOTNOT actually believe those things, but they’re these perceptions that have crept into my mind from the WIC and popular culture and media and etc. it doesn’t help that finding miserable married couples is so easy. before i got engaged, i had to seriously redefine my expectations of marriage since, without even realizing it, i’d been thinking of it as a horrible trap of inevitable doom.

      APW has been a little part of that redefinition :)

      • Liz

        rosie, it’s all LIIIIES. marriage is awesome and freeing and wonderful and independent.

        but yeah. already knowing that, i still can’t help but be petrified that my coming baby means i’m going to be trapped. lose some of myself. etc etc.

        i keep trying to remind myself that marriage wasn’t that way, so maybe the baby doesn’t need to be either.

    • Denzi

      Waaaah, yes THIS. And it’s made worse by the fact that I’m in my early twenties and not really even able to articulate what I *want* my fabulous life that I can claim and be happy with to look like, I just know it needs to not include the type of childrearing that becomes your whole identity.

      This is very, very hard to articulate to my boyfriend who really wants kids. Because I don’t *not* want kids, I’m just terrified as hell of becoming not-myself and/or robot-person-who-is-all-mommy. (And I’m terrified of the fact that it is something I need to figure out sooner rather than later, because if I marry T., I need to be okay with having kids. And I’m terrified as hell of the responsibility.)

      But yes, I am very slooooowly figuring things out and praying and thinking and talking to people and T. And realizing I don’t have to have an answer right this instant.

      So, the awesome having of kids awesomely is not really what I need inspiration for today. But the seeking out of awesome people who have awesome kids awesomely is. Because I have way too many “DO NOT WANT YOUR LIFE” people with kids around me, and not enough friends-who-are-parents to whom I can say “I could have kids something like this and be happy.” Just not sure how to *find* these kinds of people…

    • clare

      In response to Peanut. I had a baby and my life has change hugely, but I chose this! I don’t go to concerts or travel or have a successful career any more (but I don’t plan that I won’t do this again one day when my child is older and more independant). But motherhood with it’s ‘sacrifices’ is sooooo much better than my old life, why? Because my days are spent aligned with what my heart wants to do. Sometimes you give up something you think is you to find something that is the authentic you.

    • LeahIsMyName

      This is a late comment, but a friend of mine cleared up a crucial distinction for me.

      She is my age, but has two kids who are, as she put it, “done.” She had her babies when she was very young (accidentally but not regretfully).

      She said that there’s a difference between being a parent and being a “mommy.” In her perspective, she was a parent, a good one. She took care of her kids, they turned out to be smart, interesting girls who bring home their apple cores for the compost pile. But they were never the all-consuming passion of her entire life. Part of it, yes, but not all of it,

      She said that to her, “mommies” made their children the centers of their universes. Everything they did, every conversation, every email, every food item was for or about their children.

      Now, I’m still scared to have kids too, but her thoughts on the subject gave me hope. I can be a parent, and a good one, without being a “mommy.”

      • Alexandra

        Interesting distinction between parents and ‘mommies’… I’m scared by the idea of losing my life/sleep/concerts to children, too, but I’ve also seen a lot of awesome “mombloggers” in the last few years, since my sister became one. So, there’s hope. I’m still not sure if we’ll have kids, for a variety of reasons, but it’s nice to know that you CAN still “have a life”, even with zomgKids! ;)

  • I aspire to make my professional life work. Really, really work. Five years ago, I took a HUGE leap & started my own business. I went big & opened a storefront with the fear that if I didn’t start right, I would never grow. Everything went well, then the economy tanked. I scraped & struggled to survive & somehow I did. But wow, it’s hard to recover from the lean times. I’ve revamped & tried different things yet I always feel like I’m two steps behind. I love my business- it’s creative & fulfilling- but at times I want to throw in the towel & do anything (sell my soul) just for a steady paycheck. I want & need to figure out what is next & how to get there.

    Good luck to everyone with their aspirations! You CAN do it!!

  • Kim

    You all are my inspiration. And all your wisdom helped me in so many ways – giving me courage to throw the wedding we wanted even if it bucked some traditions along the way, figuring out how to let go of the details and enjoy our wedding. And on this topic of being unique…I’ve always marched to my own drummer (to a fault), but the toughest task for me is to be unique as a family, my husband included. For the first time, I don’t want to march to my own drummer, I want to march to OUR drummer (or bagpiper, if that’s an option).

    This post has given me a much needed kick in the pants to a) send Meg my wedding graduate post for consideration, b) finish getting my name changed (although who cares if I don’t change every last thing), and c) do a pro/con list for starting a blog…I have so much to say, but I fear that everyone else is already saying it elsewhere…

    Here’s to flying in the face of failure and enjoying every minute of it!

  • dev

    I love GGC and I ve this post! You and Rebecca are both so inspirational.

    I’m glad to hear you talking about fear of other women. I know I fall into that trap way too often. I’m just starting to realize that when I get that intimidation/fear feeling, it’s usually more about my own insecurity than it is about the person I’m intimidated by. Thanks for the reminder!

  • You have the most incredible community of readers, Meg. I’m blown away. Truly amazing, motivating stuff here. I’m so glad we got to meet and spend time together this weekend. If your website was around when Hal and I eloped I might have reconsidered having a wedding, wearing a dress, inviting my family… What you are doing here is bigger than weddings – you’re giving women (myself included) a place to reconcile our own wants and needs, dreams and desires. You offer the option of “build your own adventure” as opposed to “color within the lines.” You are the “D. None of the above” option in a world of pre-fab A, B and C packages. You are an empowering, confident force and I feel lucky to know you and call you my new friend.

    • meg

      NEW FRIENDS!!!!!!!!! Yay!!!!

      I’m kind of glad you eloped though. Your story about the limo driver is the best wedding story ever. Other then someone elses Big Lots wedding dress story that is not online yet. Man. People tell me the best wedding stories, the end.

  • So you’re saying I need to end my EXCELLENT four-month stamp/pout/sigh and go do stuff?

    • meg

      In fact, I am. Though I do approve a four month stamp. But I suspect it’s given you refueling energy for the next bit of flailing. I just asked Oliva, who’s sitting by my phone. She says you have to go do stuff, but she’s going to come and bring you some lipstick for your cheeks and some too big high heels to do it in. And she says you guys can have a stamp together before you go outside.

      • Lipstick would be helpful–I’m afraid it’s actually been more of a six-month stamp.
        Glad Olivia made it safely.

  • E

    Hell to the yes. Like quite a few of you this is also only wedding blog I’m reading post-wedding, and posts like this are the reason why (although I still love reading wedding graduate posts too).

  • THIS, this post right here, is the stuff that keeps me reading APW (on my phone, while I should be working) even though I’m no longer planning a wedding. What you’re doing is so important and — trust me on this — so appreciated.

  • Sad that I was having a horrible, no good, very bad day and missed all of this wonderful discussion. But yes, yay, and thank you.

  • Super inspirational post, as always. I definitely get the difference…The web is full of those ideas that just don’t make sense financially or creatively, really…If we all completed our aspiration projects, our weddings would be modern/sleek/rustic/vintage/DIY/urban….it would be a mess. I definitely agree and thanks for the kick in the pants!

  • I really appreciate this post. It couldn’t have come at a better time! I’ve been staring at my closet, unable to add too many more things because, well, I work for a non-profit, so um, I don’t ‘profit’ much. BUT. This makes me feel so much better! Already I’ve felt inspired to go into my room and take it over, pulling stuff out of my closet to make new outfits!

    Maybe it’s because I got married LAST weekend and I no longer have anything to obsess over, but I’ve been wandering and looking for some new fun things to do. I put everything off for the wedding, but now it’s over. So I can actually sew baby girl outfits for my friend’s daughters. Or go through my closet. Or bake/cook more (two things I actually do quite a bit, but stopped all together in the last month). I love inspiration! Even if you never get around to it, isn’t it fun to want to for a little bit? Or be so excited about a photo that you tear it out of a magazine? Or highlight a passage in a book?

    Just my thoughts.

  • Harmke

    So, I’m trying to write a sermon here for next sunday. But I kinda get the feeling that my message won’t get any clearer than yours Meg.
    Message taken! And amen ;)

  • Ahhh boo to lack of internet yesterday and missing out on awesome conversation about red lipstick, surviving failure and living out the inspiration. Awesome chat people, well done! I do feel that there is this gap to be bridged between owning the inspiration of a ‘big event’ whether that is a wedding or not, and owning the inspiration of the every day that ultimately adds up to the big ideas of life. This post is certainly a help in that, so I think I might just find some red lippy, write up that thesis chapter and get on with the good life. Thanks to all!

  • Thank you Meg, I needed to hear this today.

  • Rebecca has been a true inspiration for me ever since my son was a baby. Your post rings very true because that’s exactly how I felt when I first started to read her blog: you can do it. Be a mom and be cool and love your kids and love other things as well and be a wife and love your husband even though sometimes he just drives you nuts and and be super stylish and still be yourself. In a nutshell. ;-)

    I’ve met her as well in LA, and I really don’t agree with the people who said she’s intimidating! She was so warm and cool and incredibly beautiful (obviously), but also amazingly smart and worldly (she’s the only American I’ve ever met who just started discussing Quebecois filmmakers and things like that as if it were nothing). Glad you two hit if off!

  • Okay, I’m late to the game and I don’t know that what I have to say really matters but I want to respond to the whole glamazon ‘pants is easier than sweatpants’ thing. I’m totally the sweatpants girl.
    To me, judging people by appearances is a vice. Yes, it’s a reality that people do it, but it’s wrong of them. It’s a reality that people are racist, but that doesn’t mean you should try to change your skin color, but stand against the prejudice.
    It’s not that I don’t like to dress up. I adore it, sometimes. But actually, when I feel like crap, I am MORE likely to dress up and put on makeup and look great. Because it makes me feel like ‘well, life sucks, but at least you’re pretty.’ But when I feel fabulous, and life is good, and I know I ROCK and I’m BEAUTIFUL then I will often go out wearing a tshirt with holes and sweatpants. And guess what? I’m beautiful!
    This ‘if you feel good, you’ll take care of yourself, and if you don’t, you’re reflecting you don’t care about yourself’ thing is very popular these days, but it’s also a lie. I’m not saying it’s never true. It is. But it’s not a hard and fast rule. And I get offended by the attitude of ‘it’s just as easy to dress up as dress down’ because it’s defining my inward worth by my outward look.
    I’m a total idealist. But I’m realistic enough to dress up for job interviews and the like. I’m not saying the world will change overnight. But the ‘dress for sucess’ thing says ‘We uphold the idea that you can be judged by your appearance. Consequently, if you love yourself you will dress up, and if you don’t, it’s OBVIOUS you don’t think you’re worth it’. Regardless of that’s true. Yes, you are worth it. But if you don’t dress up, that’s totally awesome too.
    Like I said, dressing up is FUN and I like to do it. And I’ll totally do it if I want. But if I don’t feel like it, which is most of the time because it actually DOES take effort, then I’m confident enough to know that if someone judges me for it, that’s on them.
    But the idealist in me gets heartache over it.

    • Carreg

      Hi Pamela,
      Wow, I’m even later in the game but just thought I’d comment to say I really agree! Not dressing up isn’t always a symptom of low self-confidence, sometimes it’s just practical — after all, there’s nothing stylish about a waterproof jacket, but it does keep the rain out. I occasionally envy other women’s prettier coats, and then I remember that when it rains I’ll be dry and they won’t. My mother once said ‘when you worry what people think of you, remember how rarely they think of you at all’. Whatever I happen to be wearing is a very, very small part of some else’s world. Whereas keeping dry on a cold rainy day in November is, at least temporarily, quite a large part of mine. (And no, realising that one is a small part of someone else’s world is not low self-esteem. Low self-esteem would be thinking that other people see you as crappy, not that half the time people just don’t notice you because they have other stuff to do. That’s fact. Try remembering the outfits of everyone you saw in the supermarket the other day.)

      When I do take some trouble with my clothes I am always disproportionately pleased to receive a compliment on them — which makes me realise that I should compliment people more often. For some reason I had thought it would be considered forward, but it’s _always_ received well.

    • Liz

      i think this post was more intended for girls who stop trying. as in, “i enjoy dressing up… but good lord, i’m busy.”

      least, that’s how i read it.

      i love me a good friday when i can wear jeans and flip flops into the classroom and cuddle up in a grandpa cardigan and still feel good about myself. but usually, if i’ve gone weeks without a pair of heels or any mascara, it’s telling of a deeper issue for me. that’s just me.

  • ka

    oh man. i was so intimidated by *this post,* i procrastinated reading it. and then i did, and of course everything made so much sense and everyone said lovely things that made even more sense. apparently, the inspiration/aspiration/intimidated by other women thing is quick a road block of mine. anyway, i’m saying it out loud so i *own* my issues, so i can get past them. thanks, again, for articulating the jumbled up things floating around in my psyche.

  • Ashley

    I know I’m late on this but I just checked out Rebecca Woolf and holy crap is she amazing tottaly inspirationsal!!