The Self-styled Life

The Self-Styled Life: a particular configuration of your professional, personal and physical life reflective of your passions, ambitions, imagination, desires and tastes. Put simply, Life on your own terms, conforming (or not) to traditional structures as you see fit. [This is a working definition…]

The term self-styled does not always have positive connotations: a self-styled “expert” in something is usually a person who just fancies himself so, but who doesn’t actually have the credentials to be called a proper expert. But when we’re talking life, you have the qualifications to create your own simply because you are here. No credentials needed beyond that one!

I think of something that is “styled” as something that was actively and attentively curated to be a collection of complementary elements that form a cohesive whole. I like to go from this definition of style: “a quality of imagination and individuality expressed in one’s actions and taste.” There’s no right or wrong to a self-styled life. Who’s to judge it? It’s yours.


I’ve been meditating on this concept as a result of a recurring theme I have noticed among my friends. We are feeling that with the freedom that the women’s liberation movement has given us (and don’t get me wrong, we are very grateful for this), there is an expectation that we pursue successful careers (and maybe build a family in the off-time). This is what we’re supposed to want. Often, when I finally blurt out in confidence that I’m not finding this model suitable and maybe I just want to stay home and bake, my friend totally gets what I’m talking about, because she’s had similar taboo thoughts.

But under the pressure of these expectations, we went to college and some of us even went for more schooling (maybe because we didn’t know what else to do). We are highly educated. We are getting married, setting up a dual-income household. And there is no time to consider what we’re doing. Saddled with student loan debt and the need for two incomes, we’re floundering about in the professional world, trying to find something tolerable (or dare we dream, wonderful) to make money with the hope that at least we’ll get a decent maternity leave, or maybe even have saved enough to stay home for a few years. And that’s the dream. A few measly years before the kids are off to school and we’re back to work so we can pay for their college education.

When I need a break from this pressure, I dream of the self-styled life. I am highly and happily educated and I do have passions that extend beyond the home, that form some fuzzy vision of “professional” success. But I’m beginning to doubt that the generally accepted 9-5 structure is for me. I’m starting to dream up my own model. To me, the perfect picture is this: I am essentially a stay at home wife and eventually, maybe, mother. I imagine taking courses like my grandmother took, to learn skills in homemaking. I want to create that perfect home—clean and organized, beautifully decorated with furniture I’ve redone myself. Because I have time to refinish furniture. But I do other things too, either part-time or from home. With any luck, it’s writing. Or maybe a cleaning business, yoga instructor, or refinishing furniture and selling it on Etsy or Ebay. I build a career that is varied, flexible and reflective of who I am, and my value in our life is measured not just on my income but also the home I create. I want a successful life, not just a successful career.

I think our society is going through a readjustment. We’ve explored the extremes for women—on the one hand, being kept uneducated and forced into essential servitude in the home, and on the other hand, being well-educated and sent out into the world with every expectation of becoming professionally indistinguishable from men. Now, some of us are looking for balance, something in the middle. We didn’t just want to get married out of high school, yet our greatest dreams in life are not measured in rungs on the career ladder. Can we make something else?


I am creating this space as a first step in building a self-styled life. It is an ambitious project, but I intend to explore this idea further in my own essays and musings, and hopefully get feedback from my readers (if I have any). I want to know what your vision or experience is. Are you feeling something similar to what I am? What is your experience of trying to find yourself as a young adult and self-style your life? Or call me lazy; accuse me of just wanting it all without working for it. Give me the chance to defend myself and figure out what I’m talking about! Tell me what you think. I feel this is a discussion we need!

I’ll also let you in on my adventures exploring my own passions—the things I am trying to incorporate as a prominent part of my own self-styled life. I have a serious passion for creating a home. I love design and décor, cooking, organizing, gardening and home repair. I also pursue a healthy and active lifestyle with yoga and sports. So here’s your warning that this blog will also include some of these!


My toes, loving the Adriatic sun in Dubrovnik.

11 responses to “The Self-styled Life

  1. 9-5 (legt’s be realistic 8-6) is unnateral 😉 But in general self-styled life doesn’t pay the bills… Happy I discovered your blog

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  6. beean, i completely understand where you are comin from. I had soo many dreams and aspirations and as I got older I dont know if I want the same things anymore. What I do know, is that I wanna be happy more than anything. Where this will take me is unidentified at the moment!

  7. Jean,
    You do make many excellent points- and since you asked for it here are some of my views.

    Self-styled is a great term for creating and carving your own life- who knows you better than yourself?

    The concept of “A balanced life” is tragically lost on so many. When I closed my restaurant, guests couldn’t believe it when I told them that I was searching for balance in my life and I couldn’t do that working 100 hours a week. Our society is just not programed like that.

    The other subject that I have “rebeled” in, to huge disbelief and astonishment is I choose not to be married and have children. As Kirby and I decided about 8 years ago- the question shouldn’t be “why don’t you have children”…it should be “why do you want kids?”

    I’ve been lucky. My family has been supportive of my “alternative lifestyle”, I’m a productive member of society- although I’ve never had a 9-5 job in my life…and I am passionate about what I do. I feel the last point is the key.

    Create your self styled life, and relish in your good fortune! You rock.

    • Thanks, Deborah! I have to say, I have long seen you as a model for someone who has had the courage and creativity to tackle the self-styling of your life. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience!

  8. Jean, I LOVE your writing!!! And I too search for a balanced life. I’m finding the 9-5 model very unnatural and difficult to adjust to. I want to grow my own gmo-free food, connect w nature + my community, contribute to society, do my yoga/wellness practice, etc. I’m looking forward to reading about your journey! Xoxo

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