A few weeks ago, I found myself nervously pacing outside of a boutique fitness studio in Hollywood. Every fiber of my being begged me to turn around and leave. Visions of me crashing to the floor off of pilates reformers and stationary bikes swirled through my increasingly panicked brain.
Suddenly I made eye contact with the studio's receptionist; she waved warmly at me. I waved back and proceeded inside.
Just kidding. I pretended to get a phone call, walked back to my car, and went home in a cloud of shame.
My name's Eileen, and I am constantly worried. My worry extends from the realistic — obsessing over whether or not I turned my hair straightener off in the morning (which usually results in me driving 30 minutes home to check) — to the absurd, like staying up until one in the morning stressing out that maybe, possibly, one day I might get hit by a car while crossing the street.
The thing is, I don't look like a giant ball of nerves. If you were to see me you wouldn't think, Why is that girl so stressed? You would think, How did that girl get so much food in her hair? I've concealed my inner neurotic by projecting an image of extreme casualness.
So I decided I needed a change. For one week, I would discover my self-assured and confident alter ego and try to learn how to stop worrying.
I decided the first step would be finding my alter ego's name. As a kid growing up in a sea of Brittanys and Tiffanys, I hated how "Old-Irish-lady-sounding" Eileen was. Over the years, I've grown to embrace it, if not appreciate it.
For my alter ego, I wanted something unique that would dictate my style. I wanted my alter ego to almost be like a secret agent, as though I, Eileen, were its cover.
And then through deep introspection that involved me searching on the internet for "mysterious-sounding names," I decided on Victoria. Like the queen...or Posh Spice.
I then examined the most prominent parts of my personality and what their opposite would be.
Because I'm clueless and the most I can do with my hair is put it in a ponytail, I met with hair stylist and makeup artist Kelli Zehnder to see if she could work some magic. She showed me how to apply a smoky eye that complemented my eye color and also how to put in extensions to create the illusion of having long, luxurious hair. She also did what I'd always considered to be a cardinal sin of makeup and paired a bold lip with bold eyes. The effect was gorgeous! I was learning already.
For my style, I decided to keep it simple. All I really wanted was to establish a go-to wardrobe as opposed to my normal approach to fashion, which is "Wear whatever is least dirty." I decided Victoria would wear all black, just like a secret agent (or, again, Posh Spice).
Once I'd established what my alter ego looked like, I decided to come up with some challenges for myself to contrast with my normal routine.
My challenges would be
1. instead of eating a lunch of cold cereal at my desk, have a lunch break at an actual restaurant;
2. go on a date to a fancy spot with my husband;
3. wear heels around the office for the whole day (not just an hour before changing into flats);
4. actually do my hair (and not just in a ponytail); and
5. confront something that worries me.
On the first day I strutted into work, my long hair cascaded down my back and my two-inch heels caused me to tower over my co-workers. I felt powerful — until I saw myself in the bathroom mirror. A flurry of snarky criticisms went through my brain, the nicest being, "I look like an Irish Kardashian."
I took a deep breath. Victoria wouldn't criticize herself. Victoria looks in the mirror and says, "I look like a badass," fixes her lipstick, and moves on.
I sauntered back into the office, ready for everyone to comment on how weird I looked, but, surprisingly, barely anyone even noticed the change.
Victoria was acing this.
After work, I wanted to surprise my husband with my new look, so I had him meet me at a local rooftop bar called Mama Shelter near our office. The bar has an amazing 365-degree view of the city so, if he thought I looked ridiculous, I figured the views could at least distract him.
And he loved it! I tried to crack my Irish Kardashian jokes, and he brushed them off. I was already feeling more confident.
By the second day, I was discovering that the hardest part of this week would be getting ready without Kelli's help. My usual morning prep takes about 30–45 minutes depending on if I wash my hair. Victoria's look took between 90 minutes and two hours.
My hair is normally too short to do anything really cool, so I wanted to take advantage of my newfound length and attempt a "modern and chic updo."
This was a mistake.
After a 30-minute and 7,000-bobby-pin struggle, I looked like I'd stapled a wig to my head. I sighed and spent another 20 minutes undoing all my work.
After multiple efforts and countless additional bobby pins, I finally achieved something that looked like a hairstyle. I then spent another 20 minutes documenting my achievement with my phone.
In addition to having tired arms, having an extensive morning prep means having little time to do pretty much anything else. My dog's morning walks had been shortened to the end of the block and back. He was not impressed with my alter ego.
I knew that at some point during the week I'd have to step outside my comfort zone and do something that truly terrified me.
I found myself once again outside the boutique fitness studio.
"This class is probably too hard—" my anxious inner monologue began before I cut it off.
Victoria wouldn't be afraid of a class. She'd walk in and just assume she could do anything.
I had put on as badass an outfit as workout clothes allowed. I marched into the studio without pausing. I was doing this.
And it was so hard.
But it was also fun!
I didn't keel over and die immediately. I struggled at times and had to modify to easier positions — but that's okay because I still tried.
Also, it turns out that when you wear a ton of makeup to work out, it goes all over your face.
On my last day, I rallied some co-workers to join me at a neighborhood-y spot around the corner from our office, Salt’s Cure. This is probably new and revolutionary thinking, but actually leaving work and taking a proper break really helped with my overall stress. Or maybe it was their burger. I'm willing to do additional research if someone wants to sponsor me.
I realized that nothing I did this week was because I'd become someone else. I was still me — I'd just given myself permission to step outside of my comfort zone.
And maybe, once in a great while, I'll attempt another updo.
Photographs by Sarah Stone / Design by Kirby Darland / © BuzzFeed