What you wear affects how you feel. What about what you don't wear?

Andrew Badham 2018-07-10 15:59:57

My approach to what I wear to gym has always been fairly practical, old shirts and shorts that I don’t mind getting worn out are my staple. So, naturally, these are not always the most flattering items in wardrobe. But who cares, right? It’s the workout that’s important, not how you looked doing it.

I was the type of person who would chuckle at gym goers ogling themselves in the mirror while they exercised. I would deride folks who wore immaculate and carefully selected workout attire; it seemed silly to put so much effort into how you looked when the objective was to get sweaty and dishevelled. Only, now I think they might be on to something.

I was in the gym one evening wearing a baggy, faded, 7 year old shirt that hid the fact that my body could have any other shape than square. In other words, it was not flattering. I was also having a fairly weak session; I was lethargic, unmotivated and struggling to muster any sort of output. It didn’t help that, every time I caught a glimpse of my reflection, my image mirrored my feelings. I looked the part of someone worn out and bedraggled it impacted my mood accordingly.

For some of you the idea that what you wear will affect your mood is well established; it should have been for me too. I’ve spent many hours looking into ways to boost confidence — it’s a large part of my job — and what you wear is a topic that always comes up. For some reason my mind compartmentalised that information for being useful in the business environment and not the gym, but of course, there is no difference.

I’ll explain for those of you who are less familiar with this idea. What you wear or how you look affects your self-perception far more than it affects the perceptions of others. It changes how you feel about yourself and how you behave. For example, a friend of mine who works from home will still dress up as if he was headed to the office. There is no one there to see him; if we wore a spandex jumpsuit instead, none would be the wiser. So why do it? Because when he constructs his image, he is affecting how he sees himself, and how he sees himself affects his actions. Basically, if he dressed like a bum, he’d get no work done.

I still hadn’t registered just how much my workout clothes were affecting me until the following night. That evening I wore yet another old t-shirt, this one older than the last, except this shirt just happened to be quite form fitting. It’s one of those rare items that everyone has at least one of; an item that accentuates all the right spots and hides all of the bad. When I caught sporadic glimpses of my reflection in that shirt, it lifted my spirits; I worked harder, longer and felt better about myself when it was all done.

Then it occurred to me, if this is how much my clothing is affecting how I feel about myself, how much more so my actual physique? Being in shape not only changes your shape and how clothes look on you, it also changes how you feel; you have more energy and, quite literally, more power. All of that translates to a way more positive self-perception, which results in improved performance. Essentially, getting buff is a career move.

The wonderful thing about this knowledge is that it’s easily actionable. You can go ahead and start paying more attention to your clothes and your grooming, and you can start eating better and heading to gym regularly. Just remember, in everything you do make sure you feel good about how you are representing yourself. When you do, you will not only improve how you feel, but how well you perform as well


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