Far from being the mere act of blindly following trends, or a simple tool to manipulate others, a sense of personal style is, ultimately, an expression of the self. It’s all about you, and that feels good. Communicating who you are is always a satisfying and enriching experience because we are social beings. We strive to be known. We need to be known. Trends come and go, but the art of picking and choosing pieces from those different trends, and even from different time periods, is what surpasses fashion and becomes style.

Lauren Hutton, American model and actress, once said that “Fashion is what you’re offered four times a year by designers. And style is what you choose.” Style is the message you send out to the world. “This is a taste of who I am!” it proclaims. And because of our social nature, the mere act of courageously making that proclamation is one which can bring about happiness and self-assurance. Harmonizing what you wear with your very soul is a celebration of your history, your memories, your loves and appreciations. It encourages a sense of deep personal pride. Finding your style means you have found yourself, and that is always a worthwhile journey to undertake.

The psychology of fashion is an area few are aware of, and fewer use to their advantage. As in every part of your life, awareness of self is one of the keys to happiness—know what you love, and, just as importantly, what you don’t. Be aware of how choosing to engage with fashion and establishing styles affects you on a physical, emotional, and psychological level. Be aware of how it affects others, their perceptions of you, and of the opportunities that arise from both looking and feeling great.

And know, in the end, that it isn’t enough to simply look nice. Confidence and happiness arise from within—they’re often locked inside our true selves, which lie in wait to be discovered. Great personal style is merely one of the results of purposeful examination of our own lives. So look within, find your roots, and express them in a purposeful manner. Look at your own soul in the mirror, love it, and smile at how beautiful it is. Be a little vain.

“People will stare. Make it worth their while.” —Harry Winston