Dress for the Part You Want, Not the One You Have
Two months ago, I got into a heated debate with someone about the importance of aesthetics. A close friend, he insisted that women should wear makeup when they go out (or for men, stay well groomed), and that as adults, we should make the conscious effort to dress our best. That given the choice of dressing to impress (or not), we should always fall to the former. He insisted that if we had the ability to look impeccable every day, that it was our responsibility to act on it. That to make the purposeful effort of looking your best, it was the greatest act of self-respect and self-love that you could give.
At the time, I did not understand this logic. In fact, I was rather offended. Growing up, my mother did not wear makeup at all. In fact, she insisted on the idea of looking natural, being yourself, and being authentic. That if you had to wear makeup to get people to like you, they were not worth keeping around anyway. I took this advice to heart, and in my university years, I even went as far as to purposely avoid makeup when I first met someone (e.g. as friends or as dates), in order to see if our connection was genuine. Is this issue as black and white as it seems, or is there a grey area?
Earlier this year, someone showed me a video by entrepreneur Mimi Ikonn called Why You Should Always Dress Your Best. In it, she details her experience of going to the mall without makeup, and returning to the mall the same day with makeup, and the different treatment she received. When she was dressed at her best, people were friendlier, smiling more and offering to chat with her. She goes further by talking about the importance of first impressions and dressing the part that you want. If life was a movie, do you want to be the star or the extra in your own movie? You choose.
Even though I hate to admit, looks matter. There are times in the day where we do not have the brain power to analyze a person's traits for hours at end; sometimes, it is the quick, one-second impression that wins out. While it is important to build your inner self, strengthening your outer self can help you get additional opportunities to present that inner self to others. It allows you to collect additional advantages that help you in any situation: career, dating, etc. If you are able to tap another advantage in life, why not use it?
What does it all mean? Does it mean we need to fuss about our makeup and our clothes to the point of obsession? No! What it means is that we need to recommit to being our best every day, inside and out. It means making the purposeful choice to reject complacency, to dress like the person we want to be, whatever that means to you. If you are in a relationship, it might mean dressing like you are going on a date for the first time, to treat your time with your significant other with the care and excitement that you had when you first started. It means being and looking your best with your loved one, as one means of growing together as a couple.
Or for your career, it might mean taking that extra ten minutes of your day to dress well, to put on that collared blouse or that staple accessory to your outfit. Trust me, people notice. Even in my line of work, I have gotten comments from colleagues and students alike. When I am in entrepreneur mode, it has meant going into networking and startup events with a "Dress to Impress" attitude, to combat the cute, petite, unassuming look that I otherwise have. It means going in with a classy and chic sense of style, to be that lady who tells all the great stories and leaves an unforgettable impression. It means utilizing all of my advantages to allow my inner self to shine. What can dressing well do for you?