OVEREDUCATED BUT UNDERDRESSED
When I meet a new client, the first thing we talk about is confidentiality. This isn't to protect me so much, but more to ensure that they know they’re safe and can openly discuss their deepest feelings. I need them to open up so I can work out how best to help them. It can be very painful to dredge stuff up, but it is necessary to move forward. To illustrate the point. I recently started working with a new client and she has a very interesting story. I can’t mention names, but she will recognise herself and has given me permission to talk in generalities.
So, Susan (not her real name), is living what most of you would call a dream life. But for her it’s a bit of a nightmare. We met on social media. Her account was private, so I had no way of seeing her face, where she lived, or even if she was a cat lover. I later learnt that she’d followed me for years and that I was a trusted voice who she felt comfortable asking for help. She booked a private session, but wouldn’t tell me anything about her situation in an email (I usually like to know something about each client before meeting them.)
The date of our face-to-face appointment came up and I was intrigued and a little worried about my safety (yes, I told my dad where I was going, in case I was about to have a vital organ removed). I drove up her street and located her home which was in an affluent suburb, looked tasteful from the outside, but by no means was the best in the street. I went in and four hours later I emerged and sat in my car for a while processing what had just happened (organs intact). Her story was like something out of a Hollywood movie and without sharing too much, what I can tell you is this. Susan, a 35 year old women who lived a very simple, uneventful life, had never been out of Sydney. Never been on a plane. Never wore a pair of high heels. Would walk down the street with her head hung low rather than make eye contact. She is a classic beauty, with an infectious smile and, to top it off, she’s highly intelligent…maybe even a genius! But here’s the twist. She recently became mind-blowingly wealthy.
Now, you might be thinking, that’s amazing. You might even be envious. But Susan was caught unawares. It’s shaken her up and played tricks on her mind. She’s caught in a world where she’s still internally the same Susan she always was, but externally is being judged very harshly, not least by herself when she looks in the mirror. Susan can navigate the business side of her new life very well and she’s protected from those who would take advantage of her. However, she’s never had the need or desire up until now to look the part (she dresses like a broke uni student whilst standing in a crowd of royalty). But people are judging a book by its cover and not taking her seriously when they should be. That’s why she contacted me. Susan knew she had to start from scratch when it came to dressing and style.
Putting aside Susan’s new incredible financial situation, what’s interesting is that many other women I meet who work in the corporate world suffer the same anxiety and self-doubt. They may be extremely good at their job, but they too get judged by their external appearance. Yes, I hear your cries about how unfair it is, and I totally agree, but you can use the situation to your advantage with some really simple changes.
Most people (minus millennials from this discussion) never want to look like they have "tried too hard". Feelings of social anxiety, awkwardness, and stress can come from a number of sources, but understanding 'public self-consciousness' can help you deal with shyness about your physical appearance. 'Public self-consciousness' is how you perceive others see you. You constantly are thinking about how others would judge you if you do something out of your norm. So, here are some tips which I think will have a positive impact and help you conquer some fears you have about ‘dressing for success’.
- In reality, the main issue is your mindset. And truthfully, people do pass judgment and do notice you, which is unavoidable. To help combat this, my two sisters and I have, for years now, stuck positive affirmations to the mirror, in the car, etc, and meditated. It might sound cheesy, but it really works for us. However you do it, you need to get your mindset under control.
- Changing what you wear and how you look may define you, but it doesn't change your identity. This is key. If you aren’t afraid to show who you are, then you won’t feel as much anxiety or stress when wearing new clothes, especially if you feel they define who you are.
- Pushing your fashion comfort zone makes things a lot easier and for shy people, or those who enjoy being quiet, expressing your personality through your physical appearance can speak for you.
- At the end of the day, you’re dressing for YOU. The way you dress should be reflecting the best of you. That way you won’t have doubts about who you are, or be dressing to please someone else’s tastes.
- Confidence in yourself means you all have confidence in what you are wearing. Decide what you like, then you can start to figure out what looks good. Your personality is yours alone, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
- Slowly incorporate new things. The key is to understand your pace and push it a little bit at a time.
So there it is. You may appear to have it all, but internally be walking around with lots of self-doubt about your appearance. This can be overcome once you take control of your mind and get some direction with your fashion, which I’m definitely here to help you with.
And an update on how Susan is going? No, we didn't go on a massive designer shopping spree. In fact there is much to do before we even hit the shops. Dressing for the sake of dressing is not the answer. Shopping because you can, also isn't the answer. Although the value in our clothing is profound, defining what you want out of dressing is more important.
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