Recently, I had a conversation with a client about personal appearance and image. It got me thinking about looking at it as your own personal packaging. Some background on this client: Like most women I work with, she is the total package– smart, successful, beautiful, kind, funny, driven, a bit type-a, and so on. Yet, this client, like most of my clients, is struggling with her packaging, or how she presents all of her incredible and impressive attributes externally.
As we talked through this struggle together, I explained to this client that what she is doing is the equivalent of wrapping an amazing gift with mediocre packaging. What a tremendous disservice she is doing to herself!
One could argue that a focus on image or packaging is a shallow endeavor, that someone who possesses all the qualities, like my client does, shouldn’t have to concern themselves with things like outer appearance. While there could be some merit to this argument, I ask you all to think about the last time you were in a grocery store and bought something based on the packaging? Or, the times you were willing to spend more on a product because it looked better than the generic version? In addition, think about all the times you judged someone else based on their own “packaging” or outer appearance. Wrong or right, shallow or not, the visual part of how we perceive things is just as important as what is inside. Image matters.
Yet, why do many of us hate that image matters? Why does this simple truth get under the skin of so many people, especially women?
Part of the reason why we see an interest in outer presentation as shallow is because of how it is depicted in magazines and on television. Makeover shows often feature lost-causes with dated wardrobes or who would be considered fashion nightmares by the general public. Nobody wants to be her, obviously. Fashion is often displayed in the media in a way just isn’t relatable to about every woman on the planet. The fashion industry basically expresses to all of us on a regular basis that we’re not good enough just the way we are. We’re bombarded with skinny images, perfectly airbrushed images, celebrities, youth, etc.. Regardless of how evolved and savvy we may be, this message often goes right to that open wound of self-doubt still left from childhood. Add to that, we often assume people who are interested in looking good are those with an obsession with the latest trends, as being a so-called ‘fashionistas”, or women who live their lives out of complete balance or forgo inner-depth for a great pair of shoes. The woman who cares about her style is usually depicted in such a frivolous and vapid manner that it makes sense that anyone with half a brain or any life ambition would be too sophisticated and mature for this type of nonsense. Right?
But, in the end, who is really losing out?
Successful, smart, capable women come to me in droves, over and over again, with the same burning quest– to figure out how to express their inner-selves on the outside. Is this frivolous? Not when you consider that in every single case where a woman has come to me for help on her personal style has advanced in her life, achieved a personal goal, or got “unstuck” the second her packaging better represented what was inside of her. As I have said many times before, if my job was just about fashion and clothes I would have tired of doing this work long ago. What my work has been about for the past ten years has been teaching women how to better package what makes her who she is and what she has to offer the world. When you look at clothing, image and personal style from this perspective you can start to see it more from a standpoint of communication and not as a shallow pursuit. In a nutshell, my work has everything and absolutely nothing to do with fashion at the same time. And this is how I want you to view fashion as well.
As weird as it sounds, personal appearance and image, or packaging oneself, is all about fashion, yet, it has absolutely nothing to do with it.
Fashion is important for the sake of you, not for the sake of fashion. Do you get the difference? Unfortunately, most women live or think the latter. However, smart women, women who have worked with me, or women who finally get it, understand that the work of packaging oneself does take fashion, but, in doing so, is only successful when used correctly.
To correctly use fashion means that you come first and fashion comes second. Fashion is a tool just like a certification in a skill is a tool or a plunger to fix a clogged toilet is a tool. When you look at fashion this way, as a tool, it changes everything. There is nothing wrong with the pursuit of bettering your outer packaging, just as long as you are viewing it in the correct manner…that you come first and fashion comes second, as something you simply use to better communicate.
I want you to consider how you’ve viewed the pursuit of better packaging of yourself up until now. What have your beliefs about this process have been? Have you been self-sabotaging your own success because of these beliefs? Have you smugly believed yourself to be better than those who do consider their packaging carefully? What have these beliefs possibly cost you in the end? Who really is winning?
I also want you to consider that by not ruling your packaging into your how you communicate, you’ve allowed yourself to be just as victimized by fashion as those who have overly consumed themselves with it.
In both cases, fashion has been running the show, not you. By flipping it around, and seeing fashion as a tool, as something you use to deepen and more fully realize and express yourself, you’re the one in charge and fashion finds its proper place and priority in your life…as a powerful form of communication.