Updated: Sep 19
Note from Rita: this is an essay written by one of my clients about her journey with the Right+Up essence. I found it so beautiful and moving and I hope it inspires you! You can find Nicky on Instagram @thestyleteller__, where she also offers her own style services.
The Right Up quadrant is my home. I now say this with a lazy confidence, uncaring, because, really, where else could I have belonged? I dive through selkie-riddled waters, smiling, because I know: just a heartbeat, and I will break through the surface again.
But it was not always this easy, this obvious. I have been lost on the Left for quite a while. Curious? Take my hand and follow me on my journey, find the crumbs along the way, until you see what led me home.
To get to the heart of the story, you have to go back to the beginning.
When Rita asked me about my early style journey, my answer was along the lines of, “I had clothes? I wore them? Because you have to wear clothes? Oh — and if there were costume parties, I used them as an excuse to dress up, because dress-up is cool.” To me, for a very long time, clothes were a necessity, a tool to be used.
Around my late teens, early twenties, I spent most of my time in fancy t-shirts, jeans and heels. Not any jeans-t-shirt combination would do, either. Leave it to me to spot that tiny square of red on the jeans (maybe a stitch or brand label) and having to pair it with a hint of red in my shirt.
Black, feathers, sparkle, fancy earrings — these were my main ingredients for a reliable fashion match-and-mix (not to say I didn’t also wear colour, but I used black to ground a lot of looks).
I wouldn’t label myself as someone with a personal style, but I was definitely someone expressing something personal. Despite not recognising it as such, my clothes were a conduit to a connection with myself.
A connection that slowly and surely started to disintegrated from the moment I moved into “my professional life”. Despite the fact that there wasn’t a dress-code at my first office job, I still dressed for “what I felt was appropriate.” Which happened to be mainly jeans and blazers in a colour palette of black, grey, navy and burgundy.
My most personal touch (next to the earrings, which I never really let go of) was the matching of my belts and shoes. I still very clearly remember spotting this mannequin wearing bright teal pumps and belt, instantly inspiring me to copy the style.
Yet, instead of going for a really cool colour (like the teal) I went with black and cognac (not pumps either, because I had labeled pumps as impractical). I did not grasp at the time that it was the excitement of colour I was craving, far more than the matching of the items themselves.
Over the course of four or five years, I gradually grew more and more unhappy with my wardrobe. I felt lost between “not wanting to dress like I was 21 anymore” and “being numbed and washed out by everything I ‘was supposed’ to be”. I knew I had to change something, but I didn’t know “what, how, where.”
I ended up putting my faith in the internet, trying all kinds of style rules and systems. Mix-and-match, capsule, seasons, fit, I have familiarised myself with all those concepts and then some. Over the years, I easily trashed (donated) 80% of my clothes, only to find that just because you get rid of everything you hate, it doesn’t mean you are left with anything you love.
I don’t want to say style systems don’t have value. They definitely do. I got a better sense of how to put outfits together, how to combine colours, how to make sure clothes actually fit. But just because I managed to make it (me!) look good, didn’t mean I felt good.
No matter how aesthetically pleasing I could make the image of me, no matter how much inspiration I browsed, I was always left with this sense of “is this really it?” Everything felt the same to me. Predictable, somewhat empty. I don’t much mind sitting in a box, but please, can we add some ✨sparkle ✨?
The Lady in Red
That sparkle happened in the shape of a red dress. Just a rather casual line in one of Rita’s videos, mentioning how, in the past, she would have dressed down an extravagant item like a red dress, putting a black cardigan or blazer over it. Now, however, she would rather go all in: finding nice red shoes, a cute red bag and red sunglasses.
Because if you go for it — you really have to go for it.
A light-bulb moment for me. I remember very clearly thinking, “This is it. This is the thing I have been missing.” Suddenly my world (or, at least, my wardrobe) started to make sense. I didn’t need less, I needed more.
I didn’t know more of what, and I didn’t know how to do it — or if I would be brave enough to wear it, but I would figure it out along the way. I just needed more, so more is what we would do.
More information, that is. When it comes to new things “I rather be sure”: I will soak up all knowledge you throw my way, and then come back asking if you have more.
I skipped through the essence videos, the R+U questions, the archetypes, trying to figure it all out. I didn’t understand much of it, other than that I was very clearly Up and “needed to add extra everything.”
I even went as far as creating a personal style profile from the bits and pieces that I did understand (mainly leaning into Kibbe’s system, until I got a better hang of the Essence System). I titled the document The Sorceress, describing the vibe as “luxurious, lavish and dark”, “the warmth of the night, the comfort of a lonely fire, and the guidance of a thousand stars”.
Little did I know.
I am not an Aesthetic
The Sorceress was definitely an aesthetic that felt very similar to the L+U examples. Applying a simple formula, I did consider the L+U as my home quadrant: “this is what I like” + “the style examples in this quadrant look the same” = “this quadrant is my essence”.
Lucky for me, my gut didn’t quite agree with that particular reasoning. It extremely persistently kept confronting me with the suggestion that I was not somebody with Left essence. Just as persistently I kept replying, “well I don’t really understand the system, so who knows.” (Or, even better: “let’s do some more research, we have to make sure.”)
Looking back I would say I did not want to understand. Because when I forgot about everything else — all the examples, all the aesthetics — and I just closed my eyes, listened to Rita’s voice, I knew perfectly well whose faces I saw for the L+U quadrant. Spoiler alert: none of these were mine.
I knew that feral wildness, the rawness of nature, the yearning for chaos, the hunger to be a forest witch and defy society, the attitude of “there is no rule that could possibly bind me.”
I had grown up between these women. I knew exactly what they looked like, how they held themselves and what they wanted from the world. I also knew, that despite all the ways I admired them, I never was them.
I had never been them — I did not want to be them.
If these women represented the Left essence, one thing was glaringly obvious: I had no Left essence whatsoever. No matter how much I loved the magnetic pull of the Left, it was simply not enough to make me surrender to something I was not.
Our Greatest Fear
Despite this gnawing realisation that I had no L+U essence, I didn’t really want to turn my gaze to the R+U territory. I pretended it was because I did not like the aesthetics in the R+U, but the real problem had very little to do with this.
In reality I was afraid of what embodying the R+U essence meant.
In one of her poems Marianne Williamson wrote, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”
My light definitely frightens me. What if I blind others? Or (perhaps worse) what if others start to expect that my light always shines? What do I do when they expect more from me than I am willing to give?
When I looked at the R+U essence, I was confronted to look in a mirror. To face my fears that I actual held a light inside and that it really wanted to shine — no matter the consequences.
Obviously, I did not like that. (I mean, is there anyone who actually likes to work through their fears?) But for me, liking was besides the point. I am not used to doing things because I like them. I do them because I deem them necessary.
The more it started to dawn on me that I was afraid of the R+U, the clearer my course of action became: I had to face my fears and explore the possibility of having R+U essence.
With great reluctance and, yet, mild curiosity, I signed up for the R+U workshop. I was still so much in denial about all that could be, that I didn’t even mention my suspected quadrant at the introductions. I did, however, ask the question that had been haunting me for weeks. The answer became the turning-point of my journey.
“But there is so much responsibility in the R+U, how do I deal with that?”
— “You are the captain of the ship. You get to decide what is enough.”
When a falcon spreads her wings
To me, this idea that I get to decide how much I give, was mind-blowing. I had always assumed that if I would ignore my light it would go away, I could go hide in the darkness and I would be safe.
I did not want to recognise that I was already hiding my light, ignoring my essence, chaining my wings and people would still come to me, trust me, lean on me. I thought, “if I don’t like the answer, I will shed the responsibility, dive back in the L+U ocean and hide in my seal-skin.”
But for me, there is no magic in the ocean. I can play a game of make believe, forget my wings, learn how to swim and get fed up with people asking me to fly. But I do have wings, and people will expect me to fly — how could they not?
In the end it was not about choosing my essence. It was about realising I was the one trying to be a selkie. Accepting my R+U home set me free. Leaning into my essence helps me to embrace myself as I am. Allowing luxury into my life teaches me to be kind to myself, to nourish my needs and kindle my flame.
Through the R+U strategy I am learning how to take up more space, to stop making the “burden of me” as small as possible. I am forced to not only think about my value, but to actively show that value to the world, no matter how vulnerable that makes me feel.
Because the truth is: I always felt vulnerable. Hiding from who I am didn’t give me any extra strength or power. It didn’t make me better equipped to deal with rejection or hurt. All it did, was clipping my wings.
When I wrote about “the warmth of the night, the comfort of a lonely fire, and the guidance of a thousand stars”, it was never about the darkness of the night, the rawness of the wild, the distance to the stars.
It was always about the light.
My light — and it is more than time I let it shine.