Impact Factor: Presentation of the Self

The focus of this blog is: How much do you worry about how you look and how you present yourself?

Personally, I worry quite a bit. I put a lot of thought into making sure my outfits are the perfect mix of trendy and professional. I am at the point where I am not ashamed to admit that a large portion of my confidence comes from feeling that no matter what the day will throw at me, at least I think I look good. And I know this might sound  silly, but I have learnt the hard way that what I wear matters.

Let me tell you a story. I have always had an interest in fashion.  While working on my undergraduate degree I worked part-time in retail stores selling women’s clothing.  On one of my first few shifts, I heard the manager commented to the assistant manager that she was hesitant about how well I will do in retail because I seemed very self-conscious. She was right.  That was the first time I spent 8 hours in a place surrounded with mirrors. It was terrifying.

Luckily, hearing my boss express concern made me really think about what i could do to make myself more comfortable.  When I reflected on what was making me feel so uncomfortable it was the clothes that I was wearing to work.  Everyone else at the store looked great and stylish and I looked frumpy and messy.  Fortunately, the benefit of working in retail is an amazing discount.  I went into work and tried on a ton of clothes and bought some outfits that made me look like I belonged.  It worked.

I have continued to take that approach whenever I get nervous about presenting in front of a crowd. I try to dress the part that I want others to see myself as.  I have found that it makes me feel like I do belong there and makes me less anxious. It is nerve racking enough to have several to many eyes on me as I present. Making sure that I feel like I belong and look like an expert helps quell that fear.

Needless to say, the TEDTalk “Fake it until you make it” really hit home for me.  The talk discussed the research of Amy Cuddy who found that by changing our body language we can change our perception of ourselves.  Apparently, posing in strong positions increases our testosterone levels making us feel more confident.  I have played with this approach and have found that it did help me.  Whether or not it is a placebo effect I do not care, it works in any case.  So before I do my presentations I dress up really nice, pose in a superwoman way for a bit, and then take the stage.  Since I started this little ritual my stage fright has decreased significantly.

Do you do something similar?  How much thought do you put into your presentation?