I spotted this article this morning:
In the wild, higher status animals often take expansive, open postures. To assert their rank, chimpanzees puff themselves up to seem larger. Peacocks fan their tail feathers to attract mates. We see the same displays in the human kingdom. The confident speaker strides across the stage, voice booming. The boss puts his or her feet up on the table to show they are in charge.
That then made me think about something else I had read recently:
… red has become so important for women that an initiative was started celebrating female empowerment. The Red Shoe Movement is an initiative to help increase female representation at the highest levels of decision-making across all kinds of organizations. To keep the conversation about parity top of mind, it invites women to wear red shoes to work on Tuesdays to signal their support for other women’s career advancement.
These two links speak for themselves but I do want to just talk about the importance of self-image, for all of us.
We were likely all raised to be polite and somewhat self-deprecating. For some people that has had little impact on self-esteem and they are just as brash and self aggrandizing as they would have been with any other message growing up. Sometimes this reluctance to stand out translates to the clothes we wear and the posture we use, trying to go unnoticed or at least not to attract the wrong kind of attention (which is prudent in certain circumstances, no doubt).
For others of us, this culturally accepted modesty has had a negative effect in that the attempt to consider feelings overrides self-interest in many if not all areas of social and individual functioning. Sympathy and empathy are valued traits and I wish we had more people who were able to identify with others in such a way that they could feel and understand the life experiences of those around them and be truly helpful, as well as receiving that help.
But when it comes to certain situations, this emphasis on cooperation, deference, social convention or lubrication can be a handicap. Thoughts are things, if you think you are successful, and even better yet, if you can visualize being successful, you will be more likely to enjoy success. It is a simple idea but hard to do.
There have been hundreds of books written about how to reach your highest level of achievement, your own personal actualization, so I certainly don’t need to explain or recommend that idea. But increasingly, researchers are finding that things as simple as affirmative statements about what you want to come true in your life, the postures you take, the colors you wear, your height, the type of jewelry or lack of, hairstyle, even your name, and especially your voice and communication skills have an effect not only on those with whom you interact, but on your own mentality and sense of self.
Regarding colors, I think we reach instinctively for colors that reflect our mood. When I was an undergrad in upstate New York, the weather was almost always snowy and the landscape either white or gray, the autumn was brief and could be bleak. I seemed to wear a lot of bright red, yellow and blue in those days and it sure did make me stand out on campus. When I got to grad school, in Manhattan, I became ultra serious about my work. In addition, I had to travel through some dicey areas to get to school way uptown, and I was often walking around from classes to the library to home in the dark. I completely switched my wardrobe to what I called ‘urban combat’. I literally wore black from head to foot, usually a black turtle neck, black skinny pants, Olof Daughters of Sweden ankle tied boots, and a fitted black wool or leather jacket. I was ready to run if I had to and just one time and one time only, in my life, I was chased into the subway, and ducked into the train just in time. Another time, I was sitting on the train headed back home late at night, and a guy diagonally across from me caught my eye (something I almost never let happen, as any NYer knows not to do) and began to get agitated, muttering at me under his breathe. I didn’t hesitate — I got up and dashed out the door at the next stop and caught a different train. That outfit helped me recede and yet be nimble. There wasn’t a superfluous ounce of fabric to get in my way. Oh, and I had the across-the-chest strap for my backpack so no one could snatch it off me either. I probably looked pretty fierce, too, just for good measure, lol. (Ignore the cigarettes in the photo – the French, what can I say; I still have my Olof boots!).
Maybe one of the most effective things anyone can do is get in front of a mirror, before a big job interview or appointment with the boss for a raise, and certainly before a college admission one on one, and rehearse your talking points, watching yourself in the mirror. Naturally, video taping yourself in good lighting is another way to do this.
Anything we can do to help build our positive attitudes toward ourselves, including what we wear, how and where we sit, stand, and walk, and the words we use, can be carefully thought out, using the data that is out there right now telling us what successful people have already learned or done by instinct.
My niece has recently organized an international science conference. She is a bit nervous, even though she has stood up in front of people many times before. One thing I am making sure she does is pack a red sweater, dress, and suit to wear each of the three days.
Men can wear bold red ties. And everyone should duck into a room with a full length mirror, put their hands on their hips, head up, and look themselves square in the face for a few minutes.
It certainly can’t hurt.
Images: time.com, camilleovertherainbow.com,akinal.com,etsy.com,rutledges.com