Reading: The #1 Reinvention Success Trick

Personal Growth

The #1 Reinvention Success Trick

My reinvention stalled until I adopted an ego-crushing beginner's mindset

By Angela O'Riley

When I founded @TheCURVYLab in 2018, a size-inclusive approach to creating fashion for larger bodies, I saw it as the culmination of my career in fashion, which was mostly spent as a curvy fit model. I’ve helped all kinds of brands develop and perfect clothing for women above a size 16. This work has been a gift for me, and I’ve taken it seriously. I have been able to represent the living, breathing, real-life example of what this consumer looks like to my clients over the years.  

But in March 2020, like millions of people all over the world, I set out to work from home. I invested in my home office and repurposed my garage into a fashion TV studio where I began working with clients throughout the pandemic. I had long been feeling like no one was doing it right, in terms of creating clothing that would bring satisfaction and style to this underserved consumer. So I decided that I had a voice and now was the time to use it.  I’m a visual person by nature, so it seemed natural to begin making videos talking about the science of building clothing for larger bodies.  

Being isolated during the pandemic was a catalyst for me. I needed to get my message across without staff, locations, or funds. Using myself and my archive of samples collected over the years, I became a visual storyteller, and spoke specifically to brands on how they could improve their collections for a size-inclusive population. I really went after this! I was so disciplined and determined to make this happen. I jumped in and learned the basics of social media. I learned about video making and how to create quick stories that would inform and entertain. I also urged many of my friends and colleagues to do the same. 

At this stage in life, it’s so important to share insight and experience. Just plain old talking about your craft,  what worked and what didn’t work for you, is very powerful. You don’t need a title to be an expert — you have EXPERIENCE!

Along the way, I struggled with so many things; one of them was income. I’ve always been of the mindset that if you are doing what lights you up, the money will arrive in time. As the months passed with no clarity, I got very uncomfortable. I realized I would need to take a side job to allow me to supplement my life while exploring this new CURVYLab idea. 

I’ve been self-employed since 1998. I’ve not written a resume or submitted a resume since 1993. This is where I got stuck. I thought things would just line up for me, being advanced in my career. As I absorbed the reality of the situation, my ego took a tremendous hit. It wasn’t at all what I expected for myself at this stage in my life. 

Reluctantly, I began applying for jobs online.  As luck would have it, I was hired for a part-time position selling furniture in my local community. The first day I put on my best outfit, made my lunch, bought a new notebook, and set off to become a beginner again. I have to say, wearing the clothes that I had helped develop was a tremendous comfort to me that first day. I realized doing something different did not eliminate all my past accomplishments. If anything, wearing that black suit gave me a quiet confidence. 

This is one of the most important parts of reinvention: a willingness to not know, or embrace the beginner’s mindset. Especially for those of us really established in our careers, this part can be daunting. For me, my entire adult life has been spent as a curvy model. It’s been my identity and my livelihood. I felt a huge ego death those first few weeks. 

It was humbling, and yet I was incredibly grateful at the same time. Over the weeks, I became more comfortable with being open to the new. I realized part of self-expansion is stepping outside your comfort zone. Learning new things and meeting new people are also key in growing into the next version of yourself.  

Now I realize that committing to a beginner’s mindset is the first step in reinvention. Letting go of who you are, so you can navigate who you are becoming, is really what it’s all about. Here are some ideas to get you on your way:

TAKE A CLASS… in something completely new. Learning without attachment to income is a great way to open yourself to the beginner’s mindset. 

JOIN A CLUB… with new people. This has become the new norm in our pandemic world. Expanding your circle is a great way to practice beginner’s mindset.

VOLUNTEER… again, choose something that interests you, but you know nothing about. It allows you to expand your circle and do good at the same time.

TAKE A PART-TIME JOB… this one is harder, especially if you are under duress financially. Choose something you enjoy, if possible.  

BUILD SOMETHING… the DIY community and home improvement exploded over the pandemic. Develop skills that will serve you in the long term.  

MENTOR/INTERN… this is so rewarding and it’s incredible how much insight young people have. It’s reciprocal learning at its very best… also watch The Intern!

While I still have a lot of uncertainty in my future, I made some wonderful new friends. They’ve given me so much and as in my MENTOR/INTERN suggestion, I’ve offered them something as well. The other thing I’ve gained is perspective. Seeing work through a beginner’s lens has given me some insight about work in general. I like the way it feels to see work as only a part of a life well-lived, rather than the ultimate goal.  

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