Recently, I was speaking with a client of mine who is a cancer survivor.  We got to chatting about the difference that comes from feeling good about your appearance.  She mentioned an organization to me called Look Good Feel Better, a global organization that is dedicated to improving the appearance and confidence in people undergoing cancer treatments.  During her time of treatment, she took advantage of this program and loved what it offered, so much so that she gave back to it. 

 Look Good Feel Better holds group workshops that teach beauty techniques to female cancer patients to help them combat the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment. The program includes lessons on skin and nail care, cosmetics, wigs and turbans, accessories and styling, helping people with cancer to find some normalcy in a life that is by no means normal. Through affiliated hospitals participants in this program can also receive makeup kits.  Products contained in these makeup kits are donated by member companies of the Personal Care Products Council (PCPC) and assembled by the Look Good Feel Better Foundation. 

A woman’s interest in appearance has always been a paradox.  It reminds me of America Ferrara’s monologue in Barbie which goes: “You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but also you have to be thin. You have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass. You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean. You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother but don’t talk about your kids all the damn time. You have to be a career woman but also always be looking out for other people. You have to answer for men’s bad behavior, which is insane, but if you point that out, you’re accused of complaining. You’re supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you’re supposed to be a part of the sisterhood. But always stand out and always be grateful. But never forget that the system is rigged. So find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful. You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line.”  

If a woman takes no interest in her appearance she is accused of letting herself go, of being unfeminine, or ugly.  However, if a woman takes too must interest, she is seen as vain, shallow, or self-indulgent.  Like in all things, it’s a fine line that women walk.  One may question a woman’s interest in beauty and appearance while going through the most horrific time of her life, like going through a cancer diagnosis, as unnecessary.  However, when you look at the evidence of the difference focusing on outer appearance can make in terms of how we feel, what we communicate, and what we can accomplish, it makes total sense.

WHEN YOU LOOK GOOD YOU FEEL GOOD, AND THAT MAKES YOU DO BETTER

These are some of the differences a healthy interest in appearance can make

SELF EXPRESSION

 Clothing serves as a form of self-expression, allowing us to convey aspects of our personality, style, and identity to the world. When we wear clothing that aligns with our sense of self and reflects our individuality, it can enhance feelings of authenticity and self-confidence.

POSITIVE SELF-IMAGE 

Clothing plays a significant role in shaping our perception of ourselves. When we wear outfits that make us feel attractive, stylish, or put-together, it can boost our self-esteem and reinforce positive self-image. Feeling good about our appearance can translate into overall feelings of well-being and confidence.

COMFORT AND PHYSICAL SENSATIONS

Clothing that fits well, feels comfortable and suits the occasion can enhance physical comfort and ease of movement. When we are physically comfortable in our clothing, it can reduce feelings of discomfort or distraction, allowing us to focus on other aspects of our lives and experiences.

SENSE OF CONTROL

Choosing what to wear allows us to exercise a sense of control over our appearance and presentation. When we have the autonomy to select outfits that make us feel good, it can empower us and reinforce feelings of agency and self-determination.

COGNITIVE PRIMING

Research has shown that clothing can influence cognitive processes and behavior through a phenomenon known as “enclothed cognition.” Wearing clothing associated with certain attributes or roles can prime cognitive pathways associated with those characteristics, leading to changes in thoughts, emotions, and behavior that align with the symbolic meaning of the clothing.

In a 2012 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researchers Hajo Adam and Adam Galinsky explored the concept of “enclothed cognition.” They found that wearing a white lab coat described as a doctor’s coat increased sustained attention compared to wearing the same coat described as a painter’s coat or seeing the coat without wearing it. This study suggested that clothing can influence cognitive processes and behavior.

PHYSIOLOGICAL FACTORS

Feeling and looking better can have physiological effects on our bodies, such as reducing stress levels, lowering cortisol (the stress hormone) levels, and increasing dopamine (the “feel-good” hormone) release. These physiological changes can improve our overall well-being and cognitive functioning, resulting in better performance in various tasks.

SELF-EFFICACY AND CONFIDENCE

Feeling and looking better can boost our self-efficacy, which is our belief in our ability to succeed in specific situations. When we perceive ourselves as competent, we approach tasks with greater confidence and determination, leading to better outcomes. Additionally, feeling confident in our appearance can reduce anxiety and self-doubt, allowing us to perform at our best without the hindrance of negative thoughts and emotions.

In a 2009 the Heflick and Goldenberg Study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Heflick and Goldenberg explored the effect of wearing a Superman t-shirt on feelings of empowerment and strength. They found that individuals who wore the Superman t-shirt reported feeling stronger and more confident compared to those who wore a plain t-shirt or a t-shirt with a neutral logo. This study suggests that symbolic clothing can influence feelings of power and confidence.

YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE YOU FEEL WHEN YOU LOOK GOOD

You know the difference you feel when you feel confident in what you are wearing, how you more confidently you approach situations, how much more at ease you feel, and how wearing what you love makes you feel truly seen.  Of course, keep in mind that while looking better can certainly contribute to improved performance, it’s essential to remember that appearance is just one aspect of who we are. It’s essential not to place all your emphasis on external appearance and to focus on developing skills, knowledge, and personal qualities that contribute to success in the long term. When done with a healthy balance in mind, when you change, things change and when you walk through life with the confidence your appearance creates, things around you have no choice but to also change.  Don’t discount the power of your appearance, not just on others, but yourself.