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Dressing to impress but at what cost to you?

Posted on from Amoreh Consulting

To be ‘a success’ – at what cost? How often do you question yourself that you are not ‘being you’? Zofia Sharman uncovers the reasons that may lead us to putting on a different front when trying to impress others in the workplace.

How do you respond under pressure?

Have you ever tried to 2nd guess a situation and got it completely and utterly wrong? – none is more true than the case in job interviews: as a result of trying to read the heightened situation, the interviewer, and getting all wrapped up and concerned about what questions they are going to ask, what replies they might want or expect to hear from us, the stare or frown they throw etc, can all throw us off track and de-rail, make us fluff our words and sometimes we end up giving incredibly odd and strange answers that ‘come from nowhere’ and were totally as if they were ‘not even us’.

Being sensitive through taking in, or picking up what we think is going on, or even being pre-occupied with what things we may need to do after the meeting, causes us to analyse and assess, and create things that may not be true - and all while the interview is currently taking place - no wonder we find ourselves nervous and under confident, or in a dwelling state of anxiousness post interview.

In regards to the above situation where we try so hard to give the interviewer what we think they want to hear, does ‘not being ourselves’ deliberately or otherwise ever work for anyone including ourselves? The same can be applied to other working situations whether we are trying to be, or sound like our boss or manager in a meeting for team buy-in; toeing the company line or vision; giving conditioned cardboard answers or replies to job applications or negotiating new terms/fees or a piece of business.

Not being ourselves - how does it feel?

Yet - we still do it: not be ourselves, and consciously so too at times. In doing so, we can feel like an imposter, robotic in our responses, or wooden and with absolutely no idea why, or what came out of our mouths and feeling awful with ourselves afterwards. And our recipient does not buy in or align to what is being said either, and we end up being rejected whether that be for a 2nd interview, a job, salary raise or when attempting to re-negotiate the company’s rate card.

We can feel as if we have ‘failed’ and look for a/any way to avoid having to repeat going through ‘that situation’ again and feeling how we did.

But why do we have such a hard time not being ourselves - even though it is perhaps the one thing that we want to make sure we come across as to the people we meet?

Take for example the vice-hold clamp of some handshakes and how in this overpowering way it can physically squeeze/crush the recipient; or how we sit, stand, engage with eye contact, use our tone of voice; the way we dress, or what we choose to wear. Is it ever ‘just for us’, or is it actually deep down for someone else: for effect, to portray the type of person we want to be, or to be seen like, or to convey a particular message.

Could we be wearing a long cloak to not show or rather perhaps protect ourselves? - the handshake that locks is often a lacking in confident or sensitive person underneath who is making a point of strength as if to shout loudly, (or softly with a imposed superior authority): ‘this is me’ through their physical strength and sometimes is unaware of how they crush – literally.

What to wear at interview?

Are your clothes wearing you, or are you wearing them?

How many times have we put on our ‘best interview’ or ‘meeting outfit’ and have not really felt comfortable or relaxed because we dressed for the interview/er or client itself to get a desired response of ‘looking the part’, ‘hopefully impressing and landing the job or piece of business’, yet throughout the whole meeting we have felt starched, awkward, uncomfortable or uneasy – which our clothes seem to have mirrored to us at the same time (the pinching or tightness of a skirt or unruly shirt collar or lapel not lying quite flat etc).

We spend so much time absorbing how best to present professionally ourselves to people: what we must, ought or should do or be in accordance to particular ways or thoughts, ethos, ideals and beliefs, progressing through our adult working lives it seems, wearing layer upon layer of clothes like the ‘hand-me-downs’ we wore/were subjected to wearing: our brother’s or sister’s (or otherwise) old worn clothes can feel very worn and a bit tatty - but also safe.

We learn to be so familiar or used to wearing such clothes that they become and feel so comfortable and at times we are reluctant to take them off or throw them out. Yet at the same time we can also feel hard done by/or upset because we know the clothes we have and are wearing are not actually our own since they are not (brand) new. But still, we learn to get used to it.

Do you conform?

The corporate man’ or the ‘ideal partner’ – how do you choose to operate?

We have conditioned ourselves to such an extent that the ‘real-us’ gets hidden underneath and we then start to conform to the ‘clothes’ of our company or business – ‘the corporate man’; or of family and society – ‘the academic/university educated son’, ‘the model daughter’ or ‘the ideal husband or wife’ etc.

We try so much to please, conform or to condition ‘a response’ from everyone including the interviewer to our boss, colleague, family, partner – and all with such little or no regard  for ourselves that we become what we have instigated, and in the layering effect, we struggle to present the ‘real us’ that is underneath all the clothes:

  • such as our colleague who is sitting at the desk suffering from depression
  • or our erratic yo-yo ruling boss licking wounds from of either a personal or business breakdown/up
  • or our ambitious top fee earning consultant who is maxed out and infects the team with outbursts of emotional disturbances
  • or our successful (often) inebriated fun loving brother who works in the city ‘having it all’ and gets little sleep through insomnia
  • or our executive sister who worries about ‘her biological clock and finding her Mr Right’
  • or the mother/wife who feels exhausted and guilty in trying to balance job workloads with family commitments.

What is defining your success – stop

How much money we earn or can generate, or our job title, level, what we do for a living, and where we are at in our professional and personal lives denotes for us and others our ‘success’. And if we do not have all of this, then we must be ‘failing’.

But to what extent do we push ourselves to achieve all of this?

Often we know that the financially wealthiest person is not the most happy or fulfilled – there is always the thinking or the (driven) desire for, to do, or to acquire ‘something else’ whether a new enterprise, holiday home or another smarter car etc. We are often reminded of our ‘excesses’ - but do we stop to really listen to what is happening along our way?

Rather we ‘soldier on’ through the physical illness or exhaustion with the sole aim of getting back to work thinking and believing that once we are back to work, it will brings us resolution or salvation out of the misery (of not working due to the illness).

Emperor's new clothes

The Emperor’s new clothes – are you wearing the illusion?

Perhaps the hand-me-down clothes that we thought were once good and comfy for us, only compounded the/our feeling of inadequacy or insecurity and hence we went about buying excessive amounts of new clothes to look good or better in than what we had, in turn showing others, colleagues etc how great we look in our new threads (new clothes).

How much has our pursuit to achieve the trappings of success through wearing our ‘Emperor new clothes’, really cost us in regards to our health and wellbeing?

How have we been living - up and down in excess and stagnation (dis-harmony)?, and what sacrifices or compromises have we made to our self along the way in terms of our working and personal relationships and physical health and vitality in order to ‘be that success’?

As we are aware - there is only a finite number of times that we can transfer our account balance with zero interest to (yet) another credit card to avoid the eventual hit of repayment – and yet we continue to repeat, spending and transferring in total knowing avoidance of the huge amount we are clocking up for ourselves.

Clearing the way towards ‘new threads’

Is it – that is, the disharmonious way of living - all really worth the effort? Perhaps it is about time that we started to clear out our well-worn familiar clothes, and make fresh new choices carefully selecting and then wearing ‘new threads’ that feel right for us, as opposed to anyone else.

In learning this harmonious way of being we can get to see and experience just how much lighter and amazing we can and do feel - in our own clothes.

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