Dress to impress

DRESSI forgot to tell you one of the side effects of my last contract.  As there was no real client facing work, the office dress code of ‘business casual’ had become more of a ‘mostly casual, but not quite jeans.  Oh, ok then, jeans, but only if they’re black and look ok.  Well, maybe dark blue jeans would be ok…’ and so on.

I’d started off wearing my work dresses, but they just felt too dressy and out-of-place.  So I started wearing slightly less formal outfits.  It didn’t take long for that to degenerate into turning up in leggings, boots and jumpers that didn’t have dog hair all over them.  I’d gotten sloppy in my work wear.  And although I didn’t notice at the time, that sloppiness was also having an effect on my attitude.

I was still working hard, and getting through what I needed to.  I wasn’t trying as hard as I had been previously to find a way out of this low-paying, high stress, low value contract and into something better.  I’d started to get comfortable with the stress, the long hours, the ‘no time to get it right, let’s just get it finished’ attitude that was prevalent there.  After all, it was close to home, so even if I worked a bit later, I was still home at a decent(ish) time some of the time.  And the pay was pretty poor, but at least I wasn’t paying more in petrol, or dealing with traffic.  And yes, the work was boring but at least I was working, right?

Yes – it was right for a little while.  It was right when the market was slowing down over the Christmas holiday and into the New Year.  But it wasn’t right when things started picking up and I found myself getting picky and turning things down because I was comfortable being uncomfortable.

That whole ‘too comfortable to expend any energy’ attitude had also seeped into my home life.  Tired from a long day at a boring job, and already in slouchy clothes, I barely made it out in the evenings to walk the pooch, let alone do anything else.  I started buying rubbish from the hot food van at lunchtime rather than make the effort to make a healthy lunch the night before.  I made less of an effort to arrange to see friends because sofa-surfing was easier.

Don’t get me wrong, I still did things, and I’m not laying the blame of all my energy-sapping at the door of my comfortable slouchy clothes – a lot of the blame lies with the energy sucking contract.  But what I am saying is that there’s a definite link between the two.  And I don’t think the link is in the slouchiness of the clothes themselves.  It’s in our perception of who we are when we are choosing to wear what we wear.  (I talk about this in more detail in Chapter 5 of the book – Tip 1 is all about how the way you dress can affect the way you feel).

Let me give you an example.  Around the time I started to look more earnestly for a new contract, I’d also had a bit of a spring clean with my wardrobe.  I realised a lot of my slouchy stuff, the stuff that I wore to work as well as at home, wasn’t just slouchy, it was shabby, baggy and shapeless (and not in a cool, chic way, more in a ‘halfway to hobo’ way).  When I wore it, I instantly felt shabbier myself.  Our feelings are intrinsically linked to our actions.  Feel good – do good.  Feel crap – do crap.  I binned some of the worst offenders, and got myself some nice new stuff.  And it helped.  The new stuff might be casual, but I FEEL great when I wear it.  And when I feel great I think I can take on the world, and so I try – see, what I wear and how it makes me feel affects the way I behave.

So when I realised last week at work that I was slipping into my old patterns, wearing shabbier work clothes and then hiding in the corner of the office not interacting as much as I could, I knew what I needed to do.  Over the Easter break, I spent a whole day binning every single item of clothing that doesn’t make me feel good when I put it on, irrespective of how new it was, how much use I’d had from it, how much of a security blanket it had become.  No hiding behind shabby shapeless crap anymore.

And guess what – I’ve felt better in myself, I’ve wanted to take action and this week I’ve tackled things at work and at home that I’ve been putting off.  So next time you’re starting to feel a bit bleurgh, force yourself to dress to impress (especially if it’s to impress yourself – you’ll thank yourself for it later), it really works.

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