Uno, Dos, Tres! Let’s get part three of the Self Discovery Series going! If you haven’t gotten with the program, you’re seriously under a rock and it’s not okay lol.
So last week we talked about perceptions and how easy it is for people to have misconceptions of who we are, or perceive us incorrectly. They are seeing us through their own eyes, but we have the power to control what they perceive because their perception relies on what we are showing them.
A few weeks ago my blog sisters Brianna and Sabrina came to me with THE dopest idea! They found it here and it’s an experiment where a girl decides to let her boyfriend dress her for a week because he doesn’t seem to see her the way she sees herself. I decided to do this experiment with family members because as I mentioned in part 2, perception starts with external appearance. I wanted to see myself through my mother’s eyes, my brother’s eyes, and niece’s eyes. I felt like these were three great perspectives. My mother has her own image and expectations of me, my brother is super nonchalant and rarely compliments me lol, and my 6 year old niece idolizes me and is SUPER GIRLY so I knew this would be interesting.
So I asked them to dress me for work the next day. The only direction was to choose something that they feel is reflective of me through their own eyes. After they chose the outfits I asked them WHY they chose that outfit, and what did they think others would be able to perceive of my image on first sight.
I started with my 6 year old niece, Sanaa. This was interesting, just like I thought it would be. Let me start by saying she demanded everything from chokers, rings, makeup, shoes, I mean the whole 9.
She landed with leopard cat ears (No it was NOT halloween), a gray camisole, brown suede skirt, olive blazer, brown choker, and furry platform sandals. I mean… look at her outfit in the picture above, she wears tutus and tiaras all day, I knew she would be over the top!
So umm yea… I mean impressive sense of style for a 6 year old, but I would NEVER go to work in those shoes or randomly with cat ears. When I asked her why she chose this outfit she said I am a beautiful person and the outfit makes me seem like a “nice beautiful girl”.
Next up was my Mom.
She said she chose this outfit because it looked more sophisticated than I normally look (I disagree lol) and that at my job I should be setting an example and looking the part. I teach young people ages 16-24 work readiness skills at The Door, a Nonprofit organization in NYC, and she feels I am more effective if I look more serious and sophisticated. I think I teach just right in my sneakers and sweatshirts but hey, perception is everything right?
This young man put in jeans with THE BIGGEST holes… for work!!. I looked like I was headed to a bar-be-que in the summer!
His thoughts behind the outfit was I looked stylish and “fashionable” and looked like “the people he sees when he goes to the city”. In his opinion, the outfit set a relaxed chill tone and he likes chill people. Younger brothers lol. He dressed me as a reflection of himself, how HE dresses, jeans and basic top.
This experiment went easier than I thought but I guess it was slightly biased because I only buy clothing I like (duh). It was interesting though to really pay attention to how much clothing is used to measure perception. My niece said my outfit made me look like “a beautiful person”, my mom said I was being a “role model” and my brother said I was “normal and approachable”. Although we have been taught not to judge a person solely by his or her outward appearance, even now as adults it remains to be one life lesson we hardly ever comply with. People tend to associate a specific clothing style with a certain personality, job affiliation, social status, and actually….our status period.
So as we are working to create our own narratives and take charge of how people perceive us, like I talked about in Part 2, knowing that perception starts from the outside is key.
The homework for this week is to test out this experiment yourself., it was super fun and interesting! Ask a family member or friend to pick out an outfit for you for an specific occasion, such as work, school, a date, wherever. Ask them why they chose what they chose, ask them what is the message the outfit sends?. This concept of perceiving people at first sight is one I find to be unfair and sometimes pretty hurtful but the truth is, that is really how it works. People say things like “dress the part”, “dress for success” or “dress for the job you want” and when you do the experiment this week it will open your eyes to your clothing language. We already have a clothing language for the most part right? Sweatpants means “I’m relaxing”, a tie means “business”, so when you are more aware of your message, you continue to control your story. Let me know how it goes in the comments after you do it!
Until next week!
“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.”
– Rachel Zoe