In the show “Wife Swap,” two wives switch families for two weeks – the first week living by the family’s rules and the second week setting their own rules by which the family must live. For the sake of dramatic tension, they choose families whose values and philosophy are diametrically opposed.
I have to admit that I don't watch the show much because it's just too stressful but I remember one show where the women expressed their views about personal image. One woman believed that how you look is all that matters. The other, who felt strongly that beauty comes exclusively from the inside, was appalled at how much time her temporary family spent on grooming and dressing and was very outspoken about it.She rarely brushed her hair, never cared if her clothing matched, and shopped exclusively in thrift stores and only when absolutely necessary. As you can imagine, much drama ensued!
So, who is right? Does how we look matter above all else? Do clothing, makeup and hair choices have that much influence? Or, should our personality and inner essence be the primary focus with no attachment to how we look on the outside? Unless you've been living in a cave, you know that our society is obsessed with image. Not only that but the image they revere is young, thin and white. It's no wonder so many women feel excluded! The key is to match your outer appearance with appreciation and expression of who you are on the inside. How do you do that?
1. Be True to Yourself: Do you feel good about how you look? Hopefully, the answer is yes. Being aware of certain parameters for appropriate dress is important, but once you understand those conditions, you can tweak them to suit your personal style and preference. The biggest question is “do you know how you want to look and how to make that happen?”
2. Know the Rules:I recently spoke to a large group of young professional women. Most were incredibly appreciative of what I shared ("Fantastic! Great addition to this year's program!"), and a couple of them were up in arms and called my talk sexist saying that the organization that brought me in would never do the same for a group of men (wouldn't they be surprised to know that yes, they would!). Little do they know that I am a feminist from way back (possibly, yikes, before they were born) and that my passion has been and still is to empower women. Knowing the rules (both spoken and unspoken) of how to dress for the workplace can be critical to professional success, and who would want to risk that – especially because you didn't know any better (talk about disempowering)! If you understand the rules about dress then you are well equipped to make choices that serve you. Knowing the expectations, you can then make a conscious decision to disregard them (if you choose to) and are better prepared to deal with (or circumvent) the consequences.
3. Show Respect: Take pride in how you look. Good grooming habits are essential and have nothing to do with where you shop or how big or fancy your wardrobe is or isn't. Others notice when you take good care of your body and your clothes…and when you don’t!
4. Dress With Intention: Many women have fallen into a state of unconsciousness about how they look. Is it any surprise when you consider the factors working against us (e.g., body image issues, social pressure, compromised self-esteem, disinterest in fashion...)? Women are bombarded with messages about how we “should” look and what we “should” wear. After a while, many give up and resort to dressing in what is safe and easy. After this pattern is repeated enough, it becomes an unconscious choice. If this sounds familiar, take a look in the mirror and ask yourself this question “If my clothes could talk what would they say about me?” Do you like the answer? If not, it’s time to make changes. And, if that feels like a daunting task, ask for help.
How you dress gives people visual cues about who you are. True or not, they will make assumptions about you based on what they see. While it is not possible to meet everyone’s expectations, you can meet your own. Dress with authenticity, respect and intention, and you will feel good about how you look everyday.
This article was written by Ginger Burr.