Dress the Part
“What part?” you may ask. “I’m a parent, and parents don’t have time to look put together and stylish.” Yes, yes they do. And if you don’t take time to look good then you will not feel good and you’ll begin acting like a slob. Don’t be a slob. Take pride in yourself and take the necessary time to make yourself look like the person you want to be. Much of your success as a parent is determined by your ability to convince your kids that you are in charge. Not only in charge of them, but in charge of the world around you as well. They need to know that you control your environment and that they can rely on you. The first step in making that happen is to wear the uniform of a successful parent. Let me give you two examples that will illustrate what I’m getting at here.
Six years ago I worked in an office. I worked with a bunch of very professional people who were quite competent and whom I respected for their work. However, when I got hired it was obvious that I did not have the same level of expertise. These people were intimidating to me because they just seemed like they knew everything and I knew nothing. The friend who hired me (yes, cronyism) suggested something to me that wound up working better than I ever could have imagined. He said, “you’ve gotta look like an executive because nobody knows who you are and they’ll assume that’s what you are.” That was a pretty novel idea. That week I went to Nordstrom and bought myself a whole new wardrobe. I made sure every detail looked perfect right down to the 500 dollar pair of Allen Edmund Shoes. I walked into the office the next week and my friend was right. Nobody gave me any grief about anything because they had formed an opinion about me based on how I dressed. Sweet!
The opposite is also true. I was in the park yesterday watching over my kids as they played. I saw a guy come walking across the grass who was dressed in a ripped and stained t-shirt and who hadn’t shaved in at least a week. He was also a bit overweight and he slouched. My immediate thought was that he was up to no good. I took several steps closer to my kids and made sure my knife was handy. It turns out the guy was there to meet his wife who was playing with her kids on the swings. I started to feel a little bad about making a prejudgment about the guy, but then I decided I was perfectly justified. If we don’t make snap judgments about people then we put ourselves and our kids at risk. We are hard-wired to protect our kids and that is just one mechanism we have to do it, our perceptions of other people. I’m convinced his slouching, shaving habits, and clothes are not true expressions of who he is as a person. It’s unfortunate, but not unexpected, that my first impression would be so negative. And, by the way, kids emulate their role models. I’m sure this guy does not want his kid emulating a style that leaves a bad first impression. What parent wants their kid to have to overcome that obstacle?
What is the uniform of a parent? It is whatever you want to wear that projects the image you wish to convey to your kids and to others. I like to project the image of a rugged individualist. I carefully planned it out because I want my kids to pick up on that vibe as well. I would like them to see themselves as people who don’t bow to authority and who aren’t afraid to be who they are. They should know that I am confident and unafraid to show other people who I am so that they will learn to do the same. It may seem silly that cloths can be be such a powerful symbol to your kids about you, but they are. The most important part of who you are will always be your character, that will never change. But, if you want people so see that unique character in you then you’ll need to first shine a light on it by using clothing as the outward expression of your inner self. When done properly and truthfully it will be the most effective first impression you can give. One of my favorite quotes is by “Anonymous” and it goes like this: “Life is not about finding yourself, it is about creating yourself.” And that’s true.