You are what you wear

It’s common knowledge that the way we dress says a lot about us to others. But today, I am not going to talk about what you communicate to others by your appearance. Today, I am going to talk about what the way you dress says about you to YOU. We all heard about power posing, positive thinking, stretching to relax and to feel more confident before presentations, etc. The important piece that is often missing and underestimated in those “boost your confidence” techniques is what effect your appearance has on you.

When I was growing up, I hoped to be a successful businesswoman one day. So, throughout my high school and college years I wore business attire. I walked down the streets with my bag full of books imagining I am a successful CEO of a very successful company. I was very young and at that time it didn’t matter whether others thought I was a businesswoman, I didn’t even realize why I was doing it until later. It turns out I was doing it subconsciously for a reason.

In 2012, Northwestern University conducted a study examining a concept called “enclothed cognition” where researchers examined how your clothes make you feel. This study explained a lot about why I was wearing business clothes when I was only 16-years-old and really knew nothing about business. During the study, the researches distributed white coats to participants of two groups. One group was told that the coats were for doctors and the other for painters. All participants performed the same task, but those wearing the “doctor’s coat” were more careful and attentive. Participants’ clothing influenced their actions.

The company I work for has a dress code that requires me to wear business clothes. However, we have one day a week when we are allowed to wear jeans. I noticed that when I wear jeans, I don’t feel as important or as confident. I am sure people around me get that impression too. Someone once gave me a great advice, “dress not for the job you have, but for the job you want to have.” It is important not to dress how you feel, but how you want to feel.  Your appearance is important to others, but it is even more important to you and your dreams. So, next time you have a bad day, dress up, cheer up and live up to what you want to be!