I’m facing a conundrum this week. I know I’ve touched on clothing choices in a previous blog but it came up in my life and I’m really baffled!
So, I had a team ‘away day’ with work and we got on to talking about whether we were taken seriously in our field of work and what we can do to combat that. We discussed something called ‘imposter syndrome’ which is apparently very common throughout all seniority levels in a work place. It’s the feeling of ‘am I really qualified for this?! When will they discover that I can’t actually do this?!’
I’m 28 years old and have been fulfilling a relatively serious management role for the past year in a Local Authority – within a Children’s Services department. Pretty important stuff – sure. Majority of my work is office based at my desk or in meetings with other professionals i.e. not customer facing.
Now, I hate work clothes. I’ve always struggled with looking smart. I feel like a total fraud and it genuinely does affect my performance and comfort levels at work. I just feel like everyone is looking at me thinking ‘who on earth does she think she is?!’ (Imposter syndrome) But I also really struggle to find a work look that I feel comfortable in. Most other females at work wear skirts or dresses when they want to look smart and I sure as hell won’t be doing that. I also won’t be seen in heels or ‘pumps’ or whatever they are called. I wear my maroon converse, black jeans and shirt/jumper and I feel very happy about it. I have a multitude of rings, a tight necklace, a nose piercing and lots of earrings shimmying up both ears… it’s what makes me, me.
However, at this away day my boss starting talking about how we need to present ourselves in a certain way if we want to be taken seriously. She spoke about dressing smart, wearing more makeup and not “looking like a child”. It’s a well-known and frequently discussed topic within my team that I am not the most professionally dressed worker. My colleague framed it nicely by saying I ‘do casual well’. I took it as a compliment of course!
Anyway – when my boss made these remarks, I felt my blood starting to boil. My face went red and my voice got a bit louder… very out of character for me, may I add. I told the rest of them that if they want me to present well and work to the best of my ability, I need to be feeling confident in myself and not feel like I’m trying to be something I’m not. The debate went on for a while. The older members of the team agreed that you need to dress a certain way in order to be taken seriously. The younger crew in the room argued that people’s views of us should be based on our actions and what comes out of our mouths, not what shoes we are wearing! I’m typing really fast coz I’m angry again!!
I’ve reflected on this a lot since that meeting on Wednesday. I can understand it to some extent. I obviously wouldn’t walk in to an important Board meeting with rips in the knees of my jeans or in a zip up hoody (umm… I may have done that once but it was cold…). But if I want to have my ears and nose pierced and wear my converse, what possible difference does it make to my ability to do my job well? Why should it matter?
Growing up, my Mum always told me to wear more eye liner or wear different clothes so I clearly have some innate issues to work through here. But I’m also going to make a stand! I’ll wear what makes me comfortable while remaining respectful of my colleagues. I will also continue to work to the best of my ability. The two are not related!
Spraggers talks about it a bit in this interview which I enjoyed reading this morning.
My shoe choice hasn’t hindered me so far. So I say keep feeling comfortable in what you wear and keep working hard and to a high standard. Better to be in trainers and know what you’re talking about than in heels and talking rubbish! 🙂