Image can be changed

I watched an interesting TED talk by Cameron Russell called Looks Aren't Everything.

In one portion of her talk she shows a photo of herself in a magazine--which is sexy sculpted and portrays an idea of her--then another photo of later that day when she just looks like a middle school girl on the beach with her grandmother.

The takeaway? Image is crafted and doesn't always match reality. 

The thing that struck me about Cameron's talk was that if image is crafted, then it can be changed. We do this all the time. We dress for job interviews. We dress for dates. We dress to look like a part of a certain group.

What we do with our hair, clothing, posture and facial expression communicates an image to people. And you know what? We have a lot of control over what that image is.

When my daughter was in 7th grade, she liked the goth style.  Hot Topic was her favorite store. The way she dressed identified her as part of a tribe and as a mom I knew that during the teen years, my kids would try on lots of different tribes and images until they found one that fit.

The last week of summer, I gave her the entire budget for her back-to-school wardrobe and took her and her friends to the mall giving her the responsibility of choosing her clothes. She could spend the money on a few key items or a lot of items--her choice. It was a lesson in budgeting and whatever she chose she would live with.  (Of course, this also meant as a mom, I made a decision to live with her choices, too.)

When she came out dressed for the first day of school, she wore really cute black/white striped stockings, a black skirt and a t-shirt that said "I need supervision."  I looked at the saying on the shirt and warned her that the teachers were going to make decisions on her based on what she wore that day that would follow her the rest of the year. I told her she might want to rethink the shirt.

Noooooooooo. She loved the shirt and was sticking with it.

As it turned out, it was a tough year. She was often in trouble for small things, and was never cut any slack for anything.  She was treated like a "bad kid" and nothing like the sweet and sensitive girl we knew at home. (The next year, she opted for a pink hoodie and jeans on the first day of school and had a different experience.)

We have the power to craft our image.  Do some people "win the genetic lottery"?  Absolutely.  But it doesn't make those of us who don't any less. We can affect our image to achieve a desired result of professionalism, artistry, athleticism--whatever it is we want to achieve.  Crafting image is a skill that can be learned, and it isn't about "thinner thighs and shiny hair" nor is it about mimicking the looks portrayed in Vogue which are centered around one body type.

We can read books, go through a system like Dressing your Truth (which I love) or pay a stylist to help. But chances are, we may have a friend who is really good at this who will help us for free. (I've been known to ask people whose style I admire for help.) The thing is crafting an image takes some time and attention, and just like when we were in middle school, we may need to experiment a bit before we find what truly fits.
© Random Cathy
Maira Gall