First impressions are SO important and really dictate the outcome of a first meeting in any situation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, a 2009 study on first impressions, found that first impressions could be made based on a myriad of factors such as clothing style and posture. Even body language can open or close a first meeting in just a few seconds.
I remember once being told by someone that I looked completely unapproachable, stern, angry and snobby. A little floored, I had to take a step back and examine this. What on earth was I doing to create this impression? I had to sit down and take a good look at what people were seeing. At that time in my life I spent a lot of time in my head and was so self engrossed in insecurity about my body, my looks, my capabilities, the list is long. Combine that with my body’s response to those thoughts – I didn’t make eye contact with people and when I did I looked through them or away quickly – I looked angry or unhappy. Those negative thoughts and insecurities were clearly displayed on my face and emanated from my body! An obvious reaction right? But is it so obvious to most people when we are in the thick of it?
Let’s also look at the example of Bob, who reached out to me for help in 2007. Bob wanted to meet a nice girl and was trying to date. The feedback he got wasn’t promising. When I met Bob at his closet we learned he had a lean and petite frame but wore clothes four times too big, he owned only one suit, a handful of shirts that were out of date, and finally, he had never considered that he was hiding behind too-big clothes to hide his petite frame. All this made him look smaller and clownish – women and others just couldn’t take him seriously.
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We went shopping. Once he was in front of the mirror in clothes that fit, and saw that a well tailored suit or jean in the right size and cut could make him look taller and more sophisticated, he had his a-ha moment. He realized he had let his insecurities get the best of him and made decisions about his attire and how he looked through this skewed perception. After our work together, he had a full wardrobe that he loved how he looked and felt in. His confidence, gait, smile all changed and the way people interacted with him changed for the better. Today he is happily married and still thanks me for helping him find his way back to confidence and good first impressions.
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Sometimes our ideas about our body and how we should look, feel and dress are shaped by what we hear and see all around us, and sometimes they are shaped by insecurities we create ourselves. Discovering this and correcting the problem doesn’t happen overnight. It takes practice and no one is ever perfect at it every day. Yet, if we are lost but make an effort to look and feel great about ourselves, people can see our confidence, are attracted to us and we make better first impressions. If you are struggling with the way you look and feel about yourself, are hiding behind ill-fitting, outdated and inappropriate clothing, I dare you to step in front of the mirror and ask yourself honestly what you can do differently today to be happier with the way you look. I promise, that if you look at the problem and take one action on a regular basis to change how you feel inwardly, it will be easier for you to start looking great outwardly and the confidence and great first impression will follow.
Your Style Sensei,