Dress for success

As we are all well aware of, finals are coming up.

This entails much-dreaded, sleepless nights of trying to relearn all the material we’ve learned this entire quarter. Amidst frantically going over homework problems, making sense of stacks of unorganized notes and lecture slides, and frantically attempting to understand long-winded textbooks, we tend to put a halt to caring about our appearances. Because when it comes down to the final crunch, every extra minute of sleep or cramming counts.

I have a small confession to make. Although I have a column focusing on beauty and fashion, I’m surprisingly lazy when it comes down to it. I would like to think that I usually look at least somewhat presentable, but I don’t wake up early enough to deal with cute outfits, much less painting on a face. In fact, I’m probably one of the bigger advocates for the no-make-up, somewhat messy high ponytail, T-shirt and sweats look.

However, I want to emphasize the importance of dressing for success.

In my Communication 134 class, my professor showed a video clip of a TED Talk by Amy Cuddy. In her talk, she informs us about the influence of our nonverbal behaviors. It doesn’t come as unexpected that our nonverbal behaviors influence how others perceive us, but surprisingly, they have a large impact on ourselves as well.

Cuddy focused on power dynamics and nonverbal expressions of power dominance. She notes a universal act that appears throughout the entire animal kingdom. Those who exhibit high power tend to open up, expand themselves and take up more space, while those who exhibit lower power tend to close up and try to take up less space.

From there, she performed a study in which a group of people pose in either high-power poses or low-power poses before they go into a job interview. Interviewers were specifically trained to give absolutely no nonverbal feedback during the taped interview.

Another set of people who were completely unaware of the purpose of the study watched the interview video, and, not surprisingly, everyone said they would rather hire the high-power posers than the people who were in poses that exhibit low power. The high-power posers also received higher ratings for overall presence and confidence during the interview, indicating that nonverbal behaviors do in fact affect how we think and feel.

I think this study is relevant and translates into what we wear. How we dress and present ourselves is part of our nonverbal behavior. Our clothing and our all-together look can be powerful forms of expression that can partly define who we are to others as well as to ourselves.

The aspect where our clothes send messages to others about who we are is apparent in an interview situation. If you show up disheveled and sloppy, the interviewer is going to assume you don’t care and not view you as a viable candidate.

Our look can also influence how we think and feel as well. As a kid, I grew up watching “Lizzie McGuire.” The popular girl, Kate, often had her hair tied up in a high ponytail. Nowadays, I still find myself more confident when my hair is tied up in a high ponytail. Although my ability to concentrate better without hair in my face may also be a contributing factor.

So to explain my casual, lazy attire, I tell myself that I’ll perform better if I’m comfortable and cozy. Since I have that attitude, I feel confident in myself, even if my attire doesn’t exactly send a message of confidence for others.

On the other end of the spectrum, if I put in some effort into my look, I feel prettier and thus, feel more confident.

Therefore, because our look is a form of expression, how we dress depends on how we feel day to day, as it should be. Ultimately, how you decide to present yourself is decided by you and for you. I am a strong believer that how you present yourself is not solely to impress others.

But if you insist on dressing to impress, well, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to look cute. Honestly though, you can probably take a break for finals week. Everyone’s probably too busy with their noses in their textbooks to notice your efforts.

Whatever you decide to wear, or not wear, good luck on finals. And have an amazing spring break!

EUGENIA CHUNG can be reached at ehchung@ucdavis.edu.

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