Love at First Sight
I bought my craziest pair of heels around the age of 12 of 13. Made with a thick, tapestry-inspired fabric and topped with a pouf of black faux fur, the 4-inch heeled booties were absurd, looking more like an artifact from King Louis XIV's collection than a sensible choice of footwear for a suburban middle schooler. But I needed them. You know how that can be.
I was drawn to them because they seemed more art object than shoe—they were too beautiful to pass up. It wasn't the start of a spiral into meaningless materialism—it was the beginning of an obsession that would gradually make me start to feel more comfortable in my own skin.
Leaving the Comfort Zone
I had always been the type of person to overdress for any given occasion—and middle school was no exception. Around the same time I started reading fashion magazines, I started wearing heels on a near-daily basis. I quickly learned how to walk in them, leaning heavily on my ballet training, and soon enough, my friends would know I was approaching by the sound of my heels tapping on our school's faux granite floors.
I had two options: dress like everyone else so as to not provoke scrutiny, or get over my self-consciousness so I could wear the things that I really wanted to wear.
When the Shoe Fits
I dressed the way I dressed because I loved clothes, and I wanted to wear things that struck me as beautiful—but I was still shy and not 100 percent comfortable with drawing attention to myself. I had two options: dress like everyone else so as to not provoke scrutiny, or get over my self-consciousness so I could wear the things that I really wanted to wear. I decided on the latter.
Throughout high school, I continued to accessorize my outfits with heels that ranged from just an inch tall to a staggering 5-inches on rarer occasions. At just under 5-feet and 6-inches tall without shoes on, my heels put me above the average height of my classmates. Adding a couple extra inches to my stature wasn't something that gave me confidence by default, though—it was a process.
Wearing heels helped me to prioritize finding out who I wanted to be, instead of who I wanted to be with.
Facing the Consequences
Of course, when you're a teenager, there are the biological realities: chances are, you're going to be taller than your crush, especially if you choose to wear heels. But the politics of adolescent romance helped me to realize that I wasn't willing to give up something I love to conform to someone else's silly ideas about ideal height ratios. In other words, wearing heels helped me to prioritize finding out who I wanted to be, instead of who I wanted to be with. Worrying about towering over people was silly, and no one looks good hunched over in heels. I needed to commit to my choices and stand tall—literally and metaphorically.
That said, heels might not be a secret weapon for everyone. You might feel more powerful wearing running shoes that allow you to sprint at a moment's notice. You might throw on a leather jacket when you need to feel like a badass. You might even turn to a trusty pantsuit when you want to feel confident, capable, and ready to break some glass ceilings.
With a couple extra inches, I feel invincible
As I grew older, I stopped wearing heels regularly, mainly because they slowed me down too much when I moved to New York City for college. By this time, my body had already memorized the things that heels had taught me: always walk with your head held high, be proud of standing out, and don't shrink in the face of intimidation. But every now and then, when I need to feel really, really good and really, really powerful, I'll slip them on once more. With a couple extra inches, I feel invincible.
Finding Your Own Power Look
What you wear can shape how you act around other people, and it can change how you feel about yourself. Even superheroes have uniforms that help them to perform to the best of their abilities—and with a little experimentation, you can find the uniform that gives you powers you didn't even know you had all along.