3 Ways Style Propels You Forward (or Backward)
This week I'm participating in a workshop all about the habits of high-performing, high-earning women. When you read articles or Google the habits of highly successful people, you will hear some common themes: productivity tricks, time management, creating and sticking to habits, being intentional, an emphasis on self-care (particularly for women), and having a strong mental game.
As a stylist, I know that your personal style also has a part in this equation. The habit of getting dressed and "suiting up" - if you will - for the woman you want to be is absolutely a part of your success. I know from personal experience that getting dressed and ready for the day is a morning habit that can either improve, or derail, my day. Sound ridiculous? Just think about the days when you don't feel good in what you're wearing. Are you more nice? Are you productive? Do you feel a boost of energy? Are you on your game and reaching out to people, starting conversations? You bet you are!
Even before the pandemic, on days when I needed to work from home, I had absolutely zero motivation if I didn't get dressed. I was distracted, unfocused, and just lacked motivation to tackle whatever it was I needed to do.
When I committed to getting dressed, doing my hair and makeup even on the days when I was working from home, it was like a trigger was switched on in my brain. "Oh yes! I know what we're doing here." it said. We're getting ready to work!" And believe me, this habit has come in handy this past year during the pandemic, when we were all faced with the realities of working from home.
I know some of you are already wondering if style really makes that big of a difference in your day to day life and I'm here to tell you: It absolutely does! I've seen it in myself and I've witnessed it in my clients.
So let's find out why there is a connection between your style and your success...
Here's three big ways your style and getting dressed has the power to either propel you forward - or backward.
#1 Your style is a mental cue to get productive
One of the things highly successful people do is establish habits and routines to help get their mindset right for the day - before any other negative, low-quality thoughts take over and derail their goals. Anything from daily mantras to gratitude practices to rituals when first waking up to journaling, these routines are a critical step in setting the tone for your day.
I mentioned earlier that getting dressed is a big part of my work from home routine and setting my mind right for the day. But until recently I didn't understand why it made a difference.
In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear makes sense of why our brains are more likely to respond differently because of changes to our environment. He says that the most powerful of all human sensory abilities is vision, stating that some experts estimate that half of the brain's resources are used on vision.
And because of our dependence on vision more than any other sense, what we see in our environment can be a great catalyst for change. Even small changes can have a big shift in what we do.
Consider the fact that many of us are now working from our homes and may continue to be working there for some time in the future. This new reality makes it even more important to surround ourselves with productive cues to kickstart our working day and stay focused amongst the myriad of distractions. So imagine for a minute which of these two scenarios you believe would produce a better result:
1. You get out of bed and roll onto the couch without a shower, and still in your pajamas, power up your computer and start to work, perhaps with the TV on and kids flying around you.
2. You get out of bed, get showered and dressed in real clothes, do your hair and makeup, and go to a desk in a separate room from the general living space, sitting at an upright chair to work.
No question scenario #2 is going to give us a fighting chance at tackling our giant to-do list for the day! I know this is why we've seen such a spike in home office purchases, as people know that environmental changes have a link to our levels of productivity and focus. Even my kids' teachers have required that the kids eat a good breakfast, get dressed out of their pajamas and sit at an upright chair in a quiet room for their online Zoom classes. Even teachers know that without these routines in place, the kids will fall prey to distractions and won't be focused.
When you start mixing contexts, you'll start mixing habits - and the easier ones will usually win out. - James Clear, Atomic Habits
Furthermore, James Clear says to avoid mixing the context of one habit with another. When you start mixing contexts, you'll start mixing habits - and the easier ones will usually win out. In the example mentioned above, wearing your pajamas and lounging on the couch is a cue that it's time for rest and relaxation. Getting dressed and sitting in a separate space devoted for work is a cue it's time for work and productivity. No wonder it's so hard to focus and complete your tasks when you don't cue to your brain it's time for work!
So how does this relate to your clothing choices? And why can't I work in my yoga pants? I love this analogy about our adoption of wearing loungewear 24/7 while working from home.
"While it once seemed alluring — and potentially salubrious — for one’s mental health to wear the garb that signaled relaxation to do daily battle with the grim news of the day, it has also lessened the enjoyment of slipping into them afterward. In the same way that smartphones have made it possible to work at all places and all times, just because you can wear your stretchy old workout gear in front of the computer, doesn’t always make it a good idea." - NY Times
I believe (and now know from James Clear's research) that getting dressed is one of the easiest habits we can do to signal to our brains it's time to focus, it's time to get productive, it's time to tackle the difficult tasks, it's time to start the day.
#2: Your style impacts how you feel
It's a fact that what we wear has a real impact on how we feel and interact with the world and people around us.
My good friend and educational neuroscientist, Staci Danford, teaches us that our thoughts create brain wiring. Every single thought we have creates chemicals in our brain. If we wake up having negative, self-loathing and self-deprecating thoughts about ourselves, or look at ourselves and see only what we don't love, it creates pathways in our brains. Negative thoughts create pathways in the brain that say: "I am not good enough. I can't have what I want. I am not worthy. I am not deserving."
To take this a step further, when we put on clothes for the day that we feel frumpy, dumpy and lumpy in, or reminds us that we are "less than," our brain activates and sends bad chemicals throughout our bodies, in worst cases leading to anxiety and depression.
Now flip the script and think about putting on something you love and feel good in, and that makes you feel powerful and confident and happy when you see yourself in the mirror. In those moments, our thoughts are positive and affirming and loving and appreciative. Our brain activates and sends good chemicals throughout our bodies.
When we feel good, this flood of good chemicals from our brains can powerfully impact our mood, our personality, our productivity, our interaction with others, our confidence and so much more.
What we know from our brain-science friends is that whether we have a good feeling or bad feeling, it has a real connection to how our day goes. When we feel good, this flood of good chemicals can powerfully impact our mood, our personality, our productivity, our interaction with others, our confidence and so much more. Just think about a day when you wore a killer outfit, and how you felt and treated everyone around?
Choosing to put on things that we love and that fit and flatter our bodies (and ridding our closets of anything that makes us feel less than) is such an important, simple and intentional act we can do to impact our day for the better. What could you do if you felt like a million bucks every day?
#3: Your style shows the world who you are
Style is a way to show your personality, without having to speak a word. Like it or not, people first "see" us by how we show up. Not by what we say. What we wear instantly communicates something about us. It leaves an impression.
Take, for example, the style displayed at our recent presidential inauguration. Did you notice the powerful statement that the ladies in the attendance were making with their color choices? First Lady Jill Biden chose blue - a classic color to represent the democratic party. Kamala Harris showed up in a beautiful purple coat, as did former First Lady Michelle Obama adorned in head to toe deep purple tones, representing the blend of red and blue, a signal of peace and unity between parties. Not to mention, they chose who made their garments carefully, as a way to make a statement about who they are and what they stand for. These were not mistakes, but intentional choices. Each of these women sought to communicate something visually to the millions of people watching, as they knew they would not be saying a word.
Each of us has used clothing choices to show who we are before we have a chance to speak. Think about why we put so much emphasis on what we wear for an interview, for a first date, for a dinner to meet your partners' parents for the first time, for a big presentation in front of a large audience? It's because we want to make a good first impression!
Getting dressed and focusing on your style isn't just a frivolous act. It has powers to fuel your day and show the world what you are all about!
The next time you show up for a Zoom meeting or an in-person meeting, pause to reflect:
What do my clothing choices say about me?
Does it say I have confidence?
I have class?
I am creative and bold?
I am inviting and warm?
I like to take risks?
I am focused?
What other words come to mind for you?
If the words that come to mind when you think of yourself are not ones that inspire you or represent who you are, it may be time to change things up. It's common that women who are making big shifts in their life come to me looking for a style overhaul, because they know that style has a serious link to getting them to where they want to be. It may be a woman who is going for a bigger role or promotion at work. A woman who is starting her own business. A woman who is setting big goals for herself. A woman who has lost weight. A woman who has just had a baby. They desire to match how they feel on the inside with how they represent themselves on the outside.
I'd love to hear from you!
Tell me in the comments: Have you noticed a time in your life when your style has propelled you forward - or backward?
Are you ready to let your style propel you forward?
I'd love to help you align the woman you are on the inside with the woman others' see on the inside! Schedule a free 30-minute style consultation on my calendar so we can talk about what a style transformation could mean for your life.
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Clear, J., 2018. Atomic Habits. Avery.
Town and Country Magazine, The Deep Meaning of the Color Purple at the Biden Inauguration