Recently I did a stock take of my wardrobe. I do it every year or so and it always results in me throwing out a lot of stuff that is worn out, out of fashion or is better suited to washing my car. The stocktake was interesting but not surprising. It consisted of one suit which I bought for my wedding in 2002, half a dozen business shirts, a single pair of business slacks, a couple of jackets, a few jumpers,5 pairs of jeans, 30 T shirts or polos and about 5 pair of shoes (2 of which were a little worse for wear).
The stocktake confirmed what I already knew – I like to wear T shirts and jeans at every opportunity including in business. And I’ve been doing it for nearly 20 years. It annoys my wife sometimes especially when we’re supposed to be ‘dressing up’ for a function but I can’t help it – it’s what I’m comfortable in.
Because I dress casually in business it can create an interesting dynamic when you meet people for the first time. Some will pay attention to your casualness, at times even discretely looking you up and down while trying to hide their surprise that you’re not wearing a suit. In some cases their automatic reaction might be to underestimate you and your capabilities. It’s a shallow assessment but an understandable one.
Here’s the point – there’s nothing wrong with dressing up OR down. Wear what suits you best and what you’re comfortable in. Despite the old saying to the contrary clothes don’t make the man. The man makes the man and the measure of a man is what he chooses to do, not what he wears.
The same applies for the use of flowery language or corporate-speak. Basically, if you chose to speak like a Harvard Professor then you better have the stuff to back it up.
Authenticity is a highly prized asset and to be authentic you have to be comfortable in your own skin and that requires you to just be yourself wherever you are. To do that you have to accept the fact that you have vulnerabilities and weaknesses (we all do). They are part of who you are and there’s no point in hiding them. You’ll get found out. By all means emphasise your uniqueness and special qualities but be open about your failures and weaknesses. You’ll connect faster and easier with the people you want to with this approach. You’ll know you’re doing it right when the person you are at home is no different to the one you are at work.
Our personal journeys are what makes us human and is the DNA of why each of us is different. You are not the language you use or what you wear. And you’re certainly not defined by your job title, net worth or the people you know. Everybody is much more complicated (and interesting) than that.
In the end don’t fake it. If you need to get better, then do it. But don’t put on a mask to hide your weaknesses or failures. Just be yourself. Show who you really are (warts and all) and what you can do. In the end that’s all that really matters…