“Judgements prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances.”- Wayne Dyer
I’ve been wanting to talk about images for a while now because I’ve realized there’s a bit of contradiction of what they really represent, even in my own thoughts. Bear with me as I begin to break this down.
Now, we all know that our appearance goes a long way. It can be the reason we get a job, or the lack thereof. It can be the reason someone wants to court you, or you want to court someone else. Most importantly, it is a way for people to judge you. People unconsciously place labels on one another for the sake of belonging. You want to know who’s like you, who’s beneath you, and who is better. Seems shallow but, everyone does it. It’s natural for people to size themselves up with the next person, and the first way they can is by judging their appearance. I’ll use two hypothetical young men to depict this.
Young man #1: Bryan
Brian attends the University of Michigan. He’s about 5’9, has what some people consider “good hair” and is a relatively nice person. Most guys on campus know Bryan and most of them are on speaking terms with him. Bryan is majoring in biomedical engineering and plans on inventing the first drug to cure all terminal diseases. On an average day, Bryan wakes up, takes a run, reads the paper, grabs an orange juice, and proceeds to getting ready for class. He grabs some of his Ralph Lauren khaki pants, a button- up, a pair of oxfords, a pair of argyle socks, and a wool blazer. He then adds his necessary accessories (glasses, tie, watch, etc.). As Bryan walks to class, many of the girls on campus stare at him. They think he’s somewhat attractive and likes how he carries himself. When people hear Bryan speak in class, they seemingly always think his responses or inputs are correct, because of the confidence in his voice. Older guys on campus recognize him and sees the potential Bryan has to become a leader and further his success.
Young man #2: David
David attends Penn State University. He’s about 6’2, somewhat muscular build and is relatively handsome. Many people at Penn State know Dave, resulting in him having many friends. David plays intramural basketball and rugby. David is majoring in Physics and isn’t quite sure what he wants to do with his degree. On an average day, Dave wakes up, throws on some Adidas sweats, some Nike flip flops, and a random V- neck. He runs to the schools cafe, grabs a Vitamin Water, and listens to his iPod before class starts. As Dave walks to class he daps most of the guys who walk past and talks to all of the girls. In class Dave is relatively quiet. He doesn’t participate much, but gets most of his work done. He actually aces all of his tests and is on his way to making the Dean’s
List this semester. Dave spends his days at practice, then chills with some friends after. He goes to library after he works out at night and his days remain the same.
Who would a girl rather date? Would she rather date Bryan, with his healthy, GQ style? Or would she rather hang out with Dave, enjoy his energetic vibe and beautiful smile. I read the description of the two guys to a group of girls and asked their opinions of the two. One girl stated “I wouldn’t want to date Bryan because I feel that I’d always have to look nice around him.” Another stated, “I would definitely date Dave because he seems so much cooler than Bryan. You know? Like someone you could chill with.” Then I wondered, what about Bryan makes him seem uncool? What about David makes him seem more easy going? I then had an epiphanical moment; it was the outfit.
This is where we go wrong.
I did a small case study on some of my closest female friends. I showed them three pictures of myself. All of them were taken at the same age but, with different outfits, hairstyles and locations.
I then asked them if they were to meet the person in the picture for the first time — in the location that the picture was taken — what would they think about them? Majority of them used words like “successful,” “intelligent” and “arrogant” to describe the first picture. I then questioned them about the third picture. One of my friends said “well, she looks like one of those pretty girls. Like the one’s who usually don’t speak to people.”
I then started to dissect those comments. What about the first picture gives the girl an arrogant air? What about the third picture makes the girl look conceited? I lastly asked them about the last picture (which is the center image). One of my friends described the girl as “approachable.” Okay, I understand now.
People have adapted themselves to make snap judgments of people off of the first things they see, in this case, their outfits. You all know that stare a girl gets when she walks into a room full of other girls. She self-consciously hopes that everything about her appearance is perfect, or else she’s left herself open for negative judgment. Some girls simply don’t care about the things they wear. Clothes are really just clothes to them. While others think fashion is as important as nominating a female presidential candidate.
The one comment I had a problem with was the girl in the center image being described as “approachable.” I’ve seen this happen a lot, in many cases, with myself. What people consider “well- dressed” is often times synonymous with conceited, self- indulgent, and unsociable. I’ve seen how your outfit determines your comfortability rating with other people. How wearing a pair of track shorts and a fleece makes me more approachable, than wearing a blazer and a skirt. Is it possible to make our personalities shine brighter than our outfits? Do people have to go through that adjustment period, or what I like to call the “de-judgment” period (once people get to know you, their judgment of you changes), before they want to befriend you? Our lives have become bound with images and labels. They give us a sense of belonging. Where we belong and who belongs with us.
I believe in all aspects that our outfits don’t always befit our personalities.