It’s somewhat ironic that humans often worry a great deal about how people will view and judge them, but may behave unconsciously in ways that elicit judgment. It’s vital that we are all in touch with how we present ourselves—from our appearance to our words and tone to how we behave. We may not wish to be judged, but we will be, because that’s simple the way of humanity.
Robert Parkinson talks about the impressions we make in “Being perceived as you want to be” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 6/24/17, D3). He maintains that, “People will assume many things about you. Help them make the correct ones.” I love this directive because it says that we get to play a big part in how others perceive us. On a related note, I recall a social work school instructor suggesting that we get clinical clues about how clients value themselves from their appearance. He said that people who dress and groom themselves carelessly often have poor self-esteem. And, that people who need to look perfect all the time also likely suffer from poor self-esteem. How wise he was.
I’m not talking about being judged by weight or size here. I’m speaking of all the other variables in our presentation. No matter what your weight, you can dress presentably to flatter your body. I’ve had clients too poor to pay a mental health agency counseling fee come in looking neat, clean and attractive. And, I’ve been to social work seminars, where therapists looked as if they never checked out how they look in the mirror. If you are unhappy with your weight or size, you might say, the heck with it, and not care what clothing you don. This is behavior consistent with an all-or-nothing mentality. Never mind your “what’s the point of dressing well?” attitude. The point is looking the best you can so you’ll feel better and make a better impression.
How do you want people to perceive you? Think long and hard about this. When I’m out and about, I always chance bumping into clients or people who’ve hired me to consult to or teach for them. I try to pay attention to looking as a professional would in her time off. With clients, I purposely choose my words and tone to sound professional—yet compassionate and approachable. I try to show that I’m flexible, but have strong convictions and won’t be pushed around. I am clear on which qualities I want to project.
If you say “I’m sorry” all the time, interrupt frequently, use inappropriate public language, or exhibit poor boundaries, talk all about yourself, or put yourself down, people cannot help judge you by these behaviors. It pays to be more concerned about these actions than about your size. Decide on what you want to project, then project that image.