Do you believe it? According to a study from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, the clothing that people wear influences their psychological processes. It is important that the clothing people worn were associated with a symbolic meaning.

This may all sound confusing, but a friend of mine recently did something like this. During the Lenten season, his goal was to refrain from swearing. In today’s world, that’s not an easy goal. He chose (without any input from me) to wear a button-down shirt, along with a tie, every day. He even wore the shirt and tie with jeans on days when he wasn’t expecting to meet with a business associate. At the end of the Lenten season, he reported that he had been successful—he had not used any swear words during the 40 day season.

Based on the study, the clothing we wear has to already have a symbolic meaning in order for the wearer to be impacted by the clothing. Thus, I believe my friend made the correct choice—a collared, button-down shirt says “fine upstanding citizen.” The tie says “I am contained.” Most people would say that fine upstanding citizens do not use profanity throughout their everyday speech. And containing ourselves means that we are careful about what we are doing.

Many people, when they feel poorly, dress in comfortable, more casual clothes. If the clothing is more casual than usual, people notice this and spend the entire day asking you if you feel alright or telling you that you look tired. This external talk reinforces the negativity you are already feeling.

When I feel poorly, I usually grab a skirt from my closet, find the colors that look the best on me and make sure that I am wearing a bright lip color. I admit, I do have to push myself to do this. But if everything in my closet already is my best color and flattering to my body, it’s not a lot of work. The skirt requires me to pay attention to the way I am sitting, my best colors help me to look healthy (even when I don’t feel it) and the bright lip color encourages people to smile at me. Usually, I receive compliments or smiles all day long and before I know it, I am feeling more positive. My throat might still hurt, but at least my psychological attitude is more positive.

What is the symbolic meaning behind the clothing you are wearing? Do you find that it has any impact on your performance or how others treat you?

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