I was recently given the opportunity to host a personal style workshop in conjunction with Six Degrees Society and Kendra Scott. As I was preparing my presentation, I recalled a young professional client of mine mentioning issues she had with imposter syndrome in the workplace since she held an advanced title that put her into situations where she dealt with older, more experienced colleagues and clients that she felt didn’t always take her seriously. During my presentation, I really wanted to hone in on why caring and investing in your personal style was important and not a frivolous concern, that many people choose to believe, and talked about how imposter syndrome is one of many reasons why people should pay attention to how their wardrobe makes them feel.
What is imposter syndrome? It’s basically feeling like you don’t belong somewhere, that you are a fraud, and puts you in a mental space where you start doubting your talents and accomplishments. With that being said, can you think of a time clothes made you feel positively confident, and a time where they made you feel like the definition above? I sure can.
It is scientifically proven that there is power in what we put on everyday and that we adopt the characteristics of what we wear. Think about how you feel when you wear comfy clothes versus sexy clothes. A bit different, eh? Thankfully, what put on our bodies everyday is something we can control. So, let’s control it!
How? By honestly assessing your lifestyle and how you want to be perceived in it.
Starting with your lifestyle and current wardrobe, what is going on there? Is your office space corporate, business casual, sweats and sneaks, or do you work from home? What are you doing on the weekends? What kind of clothes are you looking for the most when you go to get dressed everyday and what pieces do you feel are missing? If your wardrobe doesn’t match your lifestyle, your outfit of the days will surely be a struggle and you’ll always feel a sense of disconnect.
After you’ve assessed what you need to mix up, the next step is discovering what you feel good in and dressing for the part you’re playing in life. An attendee at the workshop actually brought up a good point about dressing for work and said that she gets stuck dressing like her coworkers (basic t-shirt and jeans) although that doesn’t truly reflect how she wants to look everyday. Don’t get trapped into mimicking what others are wearing just because. That’s lazy and you’re doing yourself a disservice from being able to explore and maximize your potential style- one that actually works for you. Say this same person made the decision that dressing like everyone at the office wasn’t doing anything for her and to upgrade her wardrobe. She would have to hone in on what that would look like. Maybe she discovers that she loves dresses or decides she wants to incorporate more accessories into her look, and by making these changes she feels a little more confident each day. Most people get to this point and think they immediately have to go shopping, however, without a plan and knowing what you’re actually looking for you end up overwhelmed with an empty cart or one that is full of crap. Use the inspiration around you for your own benefit and take the time to interpret how it applies to you.
Dressing for the part you’re playing in life really integrates step one of the process, identifying the lifestyle you’re living, and step two which is creating a wardrobe that works for that lifestyle all while emanating the personal appearance and self representation you desire. This topic brings me to the classic quote “dress for the job you want” and my time at Bloomingdale’s where the Creative Director was always dressed to the nines each day. She owned her role, dressed for it, and always made everyone around her look like slobs. She had a presence you respected and was inspired by. This is what dressing the part is all about.
Usually when someone experiences imposter syndrome, it’s because they’re not truly dressing the way they want to or need to for the life they live. Take a young, successful professional who needs to exude professionalism in the office but is stuck dressing like an intern for instance. Or a stylist who gets caught running errands in gym clothes and is given the opportunity to tell a stranger about her business (I swear I don’t know who this is). Whether it’s simply not knowing how to dress for your lifestyle, getting caught on a bad outfit day, or forgetting to check the dress code at the new restaurant you checked out Saturday night, we all have experienced a negative mental impact simply because of how we looked. Let’s learn how to take the reins of owning our appearance and showing up in life the way we deserve.