Far too many of us live life on a short leash of false safety when it comes to presenting ourselves professionally. The fear of paths less trodden is instilled in us by default. We rarely break free because if we did, we would soon understand that the precarious cliffs that we are warned of, mark the boundaries between where we want to go and where others would have us stay.
“Don’t wear this”, “Don’t apply that”, “That’s too flashy”, “You are showing off”, and so on. When rarely dare to defy these set ways of personal presentation because our default thinking is that something bad might happen. It is not our fault.
That is the messaging we have received over and over again from those who have come before us or those we spend more time with that is productive for our progression in this aspect of life. It sounds like gospel truth. So we step away from the boundary and make mental notes never to go near it again.
At work, we might want to try a different format to execute a project but the manager’s unimpressed look and the disapproving words that accompany the look push us back “in line’, never to engage our creativity again.
We live out our careers in the shadows of our managers and rarely position ourselves to weather the market’s dynamism. When the wind of change blows, as it is wont to, it blows us away first and we are left jobless and cursing imaginary saboteurs to our progress.
Shake things up! Upgrade your professional presentation; update and refresh your wardrobe, change your hair and get a rejuvenated spring in your walk. A good professional image consultant will help you do this in under a month. It will take some effort, investment and daily maintenance but you’ll soon start noticing looks of appreciation and a few unexpected coffee and lunch-date propositions.
Some are likely to ask what the occasion or which job interview you’re scheduled to attend. The spotlight is on. This can be a most positive thing but most of us are unaccustomed and bothered by attention. They prefer the hassle-free sloppy dressing and manner — the kind that seals our fates as a mere statistics in human resource because we simply do not stand out from everyone else.
Unfortunately, however, intelligent or good we may be, if like everyone else, our presentation is lacklustre, we look lethargic and disinterested in our work and life overall. Few exposure opportunities are likely to come our way and even fewer possibilities of promotions.
We prefer to conform to what everyone else is doing. This isn’t fitting in and becoming a member of the team. It is laziness and cowardice. It keeps us thinking, feeling and doing only what others find usual and comfortable —that does not challenge the status quo by forcing them to witness how much more, better, bigger and brilliant possibilities they close themselves to.
It is akin to self-imprisonment in jails that we don’t have to be in because wanting to stand out is no crime. When we conform to other people’s mental limitations, we give up our power to create new and improved ways of life — better than the ways we are socialised to live.
This power is hiding at the boundary of what we want and what others want for ourselves. We must spend tremendous amounts of time at this boundary — the very boundary that we are taught to fear. And yes again; it is scary because we could fall off, get hurt, lose money, fail flat, get embarrassed and so on.
Another possibility is that we could tread carefully, weather the treacherous areas and move on to enjoy the happiness, luxury and success that lay on the other side.