My manicure doesn’t define me. But it helped.

My manicure doesn’t define me. But it helped.

When I went to Texas, I got a manicure. Not a $25 salon special, but one of those late-night girlfriend manis of questionable quality. It looked something like this:accent nail manicureExcept that my colors were more like this:


polish colors: skinny jeans and and a cherry on top from Sephora by OPI

And I kinda dug it, even though an attention-getting look like this isn’t generally my style. I haven’t painted my fingernails in years–I’m a fan of the low-maintenance natural-care plan–and every time I caught sight of my own fingers the bright colors made me smile.

I enjoyed test-driving the artsy look for a few days–if only on my fingernails. But after a few days I was convinced that the look wasn’t for me.

I loved a piece that Laura (aka Hollywood Housewife) wrote about personal style and Pinterest a few months ago. She defined her personal style as “granny rocker prep,” and ever since I read it I’ve been mulling over which three adjectives I’d use to define my own style.

I have a signature style. Like Laura’s, it doesn’t vary much, and I’d call it something like easygoing librarian prep. I’ve deliberately sought out a look that’s friendly and fun. I gravitate towards classic looks like sweater sets and chignons and shift dresses. And I love ginghams and stripes and polka dots and whatever else makes a prepster preppy.

So it’s no wonder I didn’t feel quite at ease with a turquoise and maraschino manicure. An accent nail mani can be described many ways, but those ways do not include the adjectives “easygoing,” “librarian,” or “preppy.” It’s just not me.

(And if I had any doubts about whether or not that look was for me, they were erased in the airport on my way home, where my nails drew interested looks and polite smiles from the strangers. Some women would have enjoyed the looks, but I was wishing I had some gloves.)

I may have a strong artistic streak on the inside, but I am really uncomfortable putting it out there with my wardrobe. Or on my fingernails. Maybe it’s the way I was raised; maybe it’s the introvert in me.

The accent nail mani wasn’t for me, but I’m glad I tried it out. The truth emerges in contrast: this year I’ve learned so much about myself by learning who I’m not.

That’s a lot of self-knowledge for two bottles of nail polish. Not a bad price, if you ask me.

(And to my Texas compadres, you will probably think I’m a total dork for spilling 500 words about a manicure. And you will probably be right. Thanks for teaching me so much about myself in Austin.)

Have you learned a lot about yourself by getting something wrong? Tell us what that looked like in comments. 

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I’m linking up with Dear Abby Leigh’s Dress for the Day, where personal style is a springboard to talk about pretty much anything.

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  1. “This year I’ve learned so much about myself by learning who I am not.” I think elimination sometimes can clarifying. For me, I have discovered over and over again, that I am really nota a bright color person. I have bought bright t-shirts at the beginning of several summers, hoping I would wear them, and add a pop of color. And then they just sit in my drawer while I go for the black, white, and grey. It may be rather boring but I feel like a poser in the brights. =) I don’t know what 3 words I would use to describe my style. Classic would be one. Great post.

  2. HopefulLeigh says:

    I’ve loosely thought about my style adjectives ever since reading Laura’s post but I haven’t figured it out yet. I have, however, dared myself to try different styles and colors the last couple of years just to see. When Klout sent me Essie nail polish in neon pink last summer, I painted my toe nails and was shocked every time I caught a glimpse. So not me. But then I decided to try a light green and loved it. I never would have guessed!

  3. Elizabeth Kane says:

    I applaud you for trying something a little different, even if you decided it wasn’t for you. Although, I’m sure you still rocked it 🙂

    For the last couple of years, I’ve barely ventured away from neutral colors (I love my grey, black, and navy). But the last few months, I actually bought some jewel colors and pastels. I’m liking the jolt of color.

  4. I love what you say about trial & error. After all, how do you know if something is truly “you” until you actually try it? For instance, I didn’t know I’d love scarves until I tried them – but by trying them, I also learned some scarf-styles that truly aren’t me. Trying different styles helps us define how we want people to see us, and relate to us.

    That being said, I think I’d define my style as classic, understated, and casual.

  5. Ana says:

    “…by learning who I am not”. This is so so true, and only comes from having the courage to try things on—whether we’re talking nail polish or jobs or hobbies or pretty much anything in life. In regards to personal style, I really don’t know how I’d describe myself—I’m currently trying out things I’ve never considered “me” before, and actually liking them. (oh, and I would totally wear those nail polish colors—separately—and only on my toes).

  6. Tim says:

    Hey, what a coincidence, I’m defined by my manicure too! Or lack thereof.

    But learning who I am, or at elast what my style is not, by a mistake? It happened by accident. years ago I asked my haircutter to try somehting new: really short on teh sides but leaving it a little longer on top. She gave me what was called at that time a surfer cut. Not at all what I wanted. And I learned it also was not at all a reflection of how I saw myself.

    It’s funny, but years later I gave it another try. Only this time it was with a different cutter. She asked how I wanted my hair and I replied, “What do you think would look good?” She described going short on the sides and back, and leaving a little length on the top. I told her to go for it. It’s not at all a surfer cut, and it’s the style I’ve been wearing for a couple years now.

  7. Meg Evans says:

    This is so timely for me. My oldest child (a daughter) turns 13 in a couple of weeks, and she has been obsessed with painting her nails. I am thinking about taking her for a mother-daughter birthday mani-pedi.

    I usually paint my toenails in the summer, but that’s it. I almost never paint my fingernails–for many reasons. I chip the polish almost immediately, and the time required for me to maintain a manicure is more than I want to spend. I don’t want to be like Barbra Streisand’s character in The Prince of Tides yelling, “watch the nails!”

    I certainly appreciate a nice manicure, and I just love all the cool designs that I see on Pinterest, but I feel like that’s just not my style.

  8. sometimes you have to wear the wrong shoes for a day to realize the right ones are sitting in your closet. defining personal style is really an ongoing journey – and i love your easygoing librarian prep! that’s just perfect.

    i love these thoughts! thanks for linking up and adding to the ongoing conversation. 🙂

    • Anne says:

      You’re so right about the shoes: in fact and as metaphor. 🙂 And the pleasure’s mine, I love the conversation you’ve started with Dress for the Day!

  9. I just found this post when searching for self-care advice for my health coaching clients. Many times, when trying to pursue a healthy lifestyle, people will gravitate towards what they see as being “mainstream” in terms of getting fit and feeling good about themselves. So they join a gym, try super hard to rock the spandex, jump on a spinning cycle, and then continue to pay for a membership that gets used less than that crazy-colored bottle of nail polish on their dresser. What I love about the message in this post is that it is okay to learn who you are not in an effort to learn who you are. Try out that spin class, but if it’s not for you, try something else. Maybe you’d just rather walk around the block. Or maybe you’re more of a biking enthusiast. The point is, how do you know unless you try and fail over and over? Love this post! I am glad I found it.

    • Anne says:

      That’s so interesting about how your clients tend to make their way—slowly—towards success. Wishing them the best of luck, and glad they have a guide in the process.

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