July 10

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Clothes vs. Attitude

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent – Eleanor Roosevelt

We all have different tools in our toolbox that we take out and use depending on the situation.  One of the tools I use is my wardrobe and accessories.  We’ve all heard people say “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have”.  I typically use that when I have big meetings that I want to impress in, even if they’re on a Friday.  I will never wear jeans to an important meeting.  I just don’t think that gives off an impression I’m trying to convey.  I know at the end of the day it’s the content I provide that will either impress or not, but dressing well for important meetings helps boost my confidence so that I perform better.  Plus, at the core, we’re all visual people.  I think all of us have made judgments (many times erroneous) based on how someone looked or what they wore.  When that happens, it can sometimes take time for us to reverse or change our opinions.

Clothing is important to me.  Dressing appropriately for the occasion helps me to fit in and become comfortable in new situations, with people that I’m just meeting.  I feel as if it puts me on the same level as everyone else.

Before coming to Lesotho, I asked what the dress code in the office was.  I was told it was business casual, except on Friday when we were allowed to wear jeans.  Unless of course, there was a meeting with the Ministry of Health (MOH), in which case, business casual was the way to go.  This is what I’m used to, so I knew exactly how to pack for my stay in Lesotho.

Fast forward, or I guess in this case, rewind to two Friday’s ago.  Some of my team members had a meeting at the MOH.  I did not, as this meeting was going to focus on an aspect of the nutrition project that I was not involved in.

I came to work in jeans, a top, a blazer and my flat boots.  It was completely appropriate wear for a Friday.  I was in the office for approximately 15 mins, when I got an email from my boss asking me if I could in fact come to the meeting (that was going to start in 45 mins) at the MOH, as upon more reflection, it made sense to introduce the whole team at one time.

I emailed my boss back to let her know that I could come to the meeting, however I was in jeans, and there was no time to go home and change.  She told me that was fine and to come anyway.

I’ll admit, I freaked out a bit at this point.  I wasn’t prepared for this meeting.  Not in terms of what I knew, I felt fine about that.  The issue was that I was in jeans.  Jeans!!  This was to be my first meeting with the MOH and I was going to show up in jeans.  Not really the first impression I wanted to make.  To make things worse, I wasn’t even wearing heels.  A good pair of heels can really boost confidence, at least they can for me.

Then I just stopped and took a breath.  I realized that I could continue freaking out, which wouldn’t solve anything.  Or, I could just deal with the situation.  Was it ideal?  No.  But it wasn’t the end of the world either.  I had a choice on how I was going to be perceived.  I just needed to go into that meeting with confidence.  If I did that, it wouldn’t matter what I was wearing.

While clothes, shoes, accessories, and makeup are tools that I use, they are not the only tools at my disposal.  My attitude and personality play a big part in how others see me.  I just needed to remind myself of that.

At GSK we talk a lot about re-framing the discussion/situation.  When something can be perceived as negative, flip it on its head and see the positive in the situation.  I made the conscience choice of doing that for this meeting.  I decided to go in with the attitude that regardless of what I wore, what I had to say was far more important.  Plus, this would give me the opportunity to meet people I would be working with for the duration of my project in Lesotho.  Wouldn’t you know it, the meeting went very well.

After this meeting, I was debating if I should write a blog about this or not.  What finally made me decide to do it was a conversation I had with one of my teammates.  I was talking to her about my idea for this blog entry but that I wasn’t sure about it.  She was at that meeting, and she said to me “I didn’t even notice that you were wearing jeans”  Score a big win for attitude!!

It’s true that our attitude has a big part in determining our success or failure.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I still plan on dressing right for the occasion.  However, knowing that life will always throw curve balls, I will take the lesson I learned from this situation, to not freak out about what I can’t control.  I will also remember that my frame of mind can determine the outcome I’m looking for.