What’s in your closet?
Sometimes what’s outside can affect what’s inside. Here in New England, before Spring is in bloom, it’s all a bit brown and bare outside. Sometimes we can feel a bit drab on the inside too.
But often we can’t control external circumstances – certainly not the weather – so let’s talk about something we can control that can put a little more spring in our step: clothes.
You see, clothes aren’t all superficial. Like the weather, clothes can affect our internal experience – specifically our attitude, our confidence and even our performance.
This is good news, because it means there’s a do-able, fun way to improve how we feel about ourselves, and never mind what others think!
Clothes have been linked to confidence and performance
It’s probably not news to you that what you wear can affect how you feel, but did you know that clothes have the power to actually boost your confidence and your cognitive performance? Here are a few studies to explain:
- In a study by Professor Karen Pine from the University of Hertfordshire in England, author of Mind What You Wear, particular clothing was found to boost confidence. Pine found that students who wore a Superman t-shirt rated themselves as more likeable and more superior to others than did those wearing regular clothing. Students in the superhero shirts also believed themselves to be physically stronger than did the others.
- Studies have also shown that clothing can affect performance. Imagine taking math test while wearing a bathing suit – I know, crazy. But in a study by social psychologists Barbara Fredrickson and Tomi-Ann Roberts, men and women were asked to do just that. The women’s performance on the test suffered, while the men’s did not. Fredrickson and Roberts believe that women are more likely than men to consider how they look to others, and that this negatively affects their cognitive performance.
- Another study from Northwestern University showed the opposite effect of clothes on performance. Subjects wearing a white lab coat they believed was a doctor’s coat performed better on tests than those who either wore no coat or wore the same coat believing it to be an artist’s. Here, people internalized the meaning of the coat, and this affected their performance.
So with clothes, it’s both about how you feel in the clothing, and how you feel about the clothing itself. For some people, wearing a suit is associated with success and power; for others, it’s associated with being stiff and boring.
Matching clothes and attitude
Legendary 94-year-old fashion icon Iris Apfel has the right idea about clothing. She wears it with such style and confidence that she can pull off some very bold looks. Apfel has style because of her attitude.
As she describes it: “I was never hurt by what anybody said about my clothes because I dress to please myself. If somebody doesn’t like what I’m wearing, it’s their problem, not mine.”
That doesn’t mean that you need to walk around in fancy clothes every day in order to feel good, but it does mean that it helps to match your clothes to who you are and how you want to feel.
I know if I’m going to present a workshop, I will think in advance about how I want to feel and what I want to wear. Similarly, in my coaching, I know that certain clothes will boost a client’s mood and confidence, and that this is something to consider before an important interview or event.
What do you want to wear?
Do you have an important meeting, exam or event coming up? Give some thought to what you’ll wear. What will make you feel how you want to feel?
Clothes don’t always have to be serious, either. What can you wear just for fun? And if new clothes aren’t in your budget right now, maybe it’s time for some fun socks or accessories.
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Photo by Mariya Georgieva at unsplash.com