Buying new clothes can be fun for some and a chore for others. Some see shopping as a form of torture they just want to finish as soon as possible. Others use retail therapy to make a tough situation easier or perhaps there is an endorphin rush and a ‘hit’ on the credit card makes it all feel better. I think I could put myself into any one of these categories at different times. I have gone shopping out of boredom or the calling of some sale item or advertisement. I get there and it just isn’t there. Sometimes I seem to be on a new stuff runner.
Recently I went shopping for upcoming weddings and events for my students. I wanted new pants and a tie, perhaps a shirt. I got the pants and the tie, ok…I got two of each, but at different times so it wasn’t frivolous. Or so, I told myself. Fast forward, day of, as I was walking to the train noticed that I could not stop looking at the pants and thinking how much I liked them. Then my ties got some comments at the event and the wedding. That felt good. I started to think about when and why we get something new for special occasions.
There are special times that seem to call for new clothes. In the fall to back-to-school, we have all experienced that ritual that started in kindergarten. It was special. Then ceremonies like prom’s, weddings, special life events, Uncle Tommy’s wedding, etc. We need something to wear to other people’s wedding, not sure why really, we just do. Graduation just seems to call for something new. Maybe these markers are a form of “rebirth” and/or a clean start. We want to present ourselves to the world in a new, fresh, this fits better way. We feel good. We look good. And we remember from Fernando Llamas, “You look mahvelous, absolutely mahveleous”… and when you look good, you feel good (Billy Crystal, SNL, 1985). He tells us that it doesn’t matter how you feel, but it does matter how we look. Ah, so he’s the culprit!
I have two shopping stories that come to mind. The first, a girl friend asked me to go shopping for a swim suit. The second, my 16 year old nephew needed tennis shoes. I did not know what I was in for, in either situation. The friend perused, lamented, grimaced, smiled, wondered, and wandered through numerous suits. She took a few to the dressing room. I waited. She reappeared with nothing. Back to the racks she went. I said (oh so naively), “Well you didn’t let me see any of them.” I thought that was my role. NOPE. She looked at me in horror, and laughed. “Oh no, that is not going to happen.” I am still not sure of my role that day. I think she bought one, I think I saw it later. But I am not really sure.
Tennis shoes. White Tennis shoes. Easy enough eh? NOPE. We went to 15 stores. He would walk in glance at the wall and turn around. “There’s nothing here.” We left. It took a week. I made a comment to his mom about the week-long trek. She said, “Why do you think I was so quick to accept your offer to take him?” At one point I asked him, “What kind of shoes are we looking for?”
I picked up 5 different pair…like this, this, this, this or those? “Nope.” Each one was too this or not enough that. We bought a pair at store #15, that happened to also be store #3 or 4 earlier in the week.
We buy clothes as a statement about who we are. Our clothes have to fit just right, hide just right and look like us. My high school niece and I went shopping. We were buying clothes. I tried on some pants (I really like pants, can you tell?). I asked her how they looked. “Fine,” she said. I said (because I wanted to know and I was also trying to shock her), “Do they make my butt look cute?” It worked! She turned red, looked around, laughed and said, “yeah, sure.” I don’t think I bought the pants.
How do we treat ourselves? How do we treat our real selves? Our inner self, that only we truly know. We can be our own harshest critic (I remind you of my friend hiding in the changing room trying on swim suits in private). Her reaction is a theme for all of us. Buying new clothes helps us to feel good and showcase who we are. We want to look Mahvelous.
Grand Opening, Coming soon to a Mall near you
What if there was a store called Confidence R Me? Or Strengthmart? If we could somehow bottle and sell a little shot of confidence (that doesn’t give you hangover, and go away the next day) we could be rich. But our own closets, fears, hopes, and anxiety gets in the way.
I have a personal mission. I try to interrupt the negative self-talk that is rampant among so many of us (me included). Those times when we are quick to say –
I am so stupid
I am such an idiot
With my luck
Of course that will never happen for/to me
etc, etc etc, <INSERT>your favorite little confidence killer here.
Dr. Brene Brown researches, writes, and speaks on vulnerability. I love that she says vulnerability is truly about strength, and confidence. When we are vulnerable, we take a risk. I think secretly others (me included) and have a little sense of jealousy when someone else takes a risk we wish we could. I love how Brown frames some of those fears. One tactic is that she admits (out loud) about her own inner monologue, “The story I am creating in my mind says….” Brilliant. Risky. Honest. She admits it is in her own mind.
Mary Morrissey, transformational coach and Dreambuilder extraordinaire, reframes the “I’m an idiot” waste of time type comments with something better. Try this one on for size, “Up until now I used to think/act/behave…” This acknowledges that we can have some not-so-lucid moments, or a hiccup in brilliance and allow something not perfect to happen. GASP! But that was then. This is now. Next. I fall down. I get up again. Dust myself off. Look around. Laugh. And move on.
The next time you try on some new clothes and think. “I look good!” Smile. Mean it. And wear it. Know that most of the others that have on new clothes are probably too busy worrying if they look good (and hidden) to be noticing anyhow. Go with it! We all have the ability to walk that catwalk with confidence. Work it and walk out to the end of it for YOU. Walk back to the curtain for them. Cause your boots are made for walking, that’s all.
Leaders Take Notes
I am talkin’ to you… notice how much you give to others when you recognize what they are wearing. Step it up, pay it forward and next time notice WHO they are (their inner fashion if you will) and TELL them a little about the accessory of their ability, their strengths, their passion, and what they BRING to you and your organization.
If you need to revist SNL 1985, laugh, and see that we were all young once…