I'm back at work after being on maternity leave for 20 weeks. And, I'm finding that I am not getting the joy I once did out of putting together outfits. While on leave I barely left the house (not counting during the holidays) as the weather was terrible and it was more comfortable to be at home with an infant. I wore nice leggings and nursing tunics and it was boring but functional and decent-looking, and I barely thought about it.

A little context: I changed jobs and now work at a large tech company and my particular area is probably a good 85 to 90% men...CASUAL men. Very, very casual men, and lots of them. Like, when women who are wearing something interesting pass in the hallway there is a meeting-of-the-eyes+virtual fist bump because we are unicorns. I have had explicit discussions with some of the guys on my team (now my former team) because in the first weeks on the job I wore what I typically wear to work and they were BLOWN AWAY by how "nice I looked". (For the record here, I was wearing a pair of J. Crew cropped flare trousers and a thin knit in the same color - navy - and a pair of navy suede flat boots with gold necklace and studs, really simple, business casual). And they impressed on me that I should continue to dress in whatever way I was comfortable and that they respected that I was someone who liked to look nice, and that they liked having someone on the team who dressed up. So that's all fine and well, but it DOES take some joy out of the process for me knowing that I'll be swimming against the proverbial current just by wearing my clothes, particularly being new on the team. I don't mind being one order of magnitude dressier. But I was like...3 orders above my peers and it really did feel weird!

Like how you would feel if you wore a ballgown to the grocery store; it's fine. If you want to you should. But at some point a reasonably modest person would look at that situation and adjust down. This is what I mean by pickle juice. We are cucumbers in pickle juice, and we cannot help but be effected by our surroundings eventually. It just seeps into us and absolutely affects our default feelings about things. We are social animals and part of the joy that comes with looking a certain way comes from how we look RELATES to our surroundings.

I got pregnant after 2 months at my new job, and then I wore jeans and maternity tops mostly. Some dresses. It was summer and I did adjust down but it didn't feel permanent because it was maternity-wear.

And now...I've changed jobs again, 1 week after coming back from leave. I'm still at my same company and still in the same area, more or less. Same culture of casual dressing, but a new-to-me team. I'm trying to strike a balance between casual but stylish/interesting/fun (for me) outfits, but I find it boring to put together iterations of jeans/tees/cardigans/sneakers every day, and when I get to work I still feel a overdressed! I vacillate between bored and unhappy with how I look every day. I'm also slightly chubbier than I should be to fit into my clothes well, but I expect that to be temporary.

Keep in mind that I am also very tired as I have 2 small children at home and my husband and I are both commuting 1 hour each way to work (although I do work from my bus), and I also ideally walk about a mile to my bus stop. So I definitely am not feeling like wearing anything remotely uncomfortable, which certainly plays into my lack of joy.

So, here's my food for thought question - how can I get comfortable and be proud of my choices? I'm not even clear of what I should be wearing to feel like myself! I don't mind being a bit stand-outtish, but it doesn't serve me to be the one everyone raises their eyebrows at.