I'm going to be brutally honest here and say that I was a supremely confident tween. Just ask the boys who I told flat out that I had crushes on them in middle school or the teachers who year after year wrote "great participation, talks a little too much" on all of my elementary school report cards.
But something happened once I got a little bit older. I had to start going on awful things like job interviews and even worse...the occasional date. Suddenly, the chutzpah (or ballsiness for you non-yiddish speakers) I so heavily relied on seemed to vanish into thin air. Instead of feeling excited about meeting new people, I ended up dreading it, breaking out into hives and consequently calling it off.
So, naturally, I was pretty excited when I found out Marshalls, the store I was essentially raised in (my mother is rightfully and severely allergic to paying full price for anything), was teaming up with body confidence expert Dr. Lillian Glass AND celebrity stylist Elizabeth Stewart on a study about women's confidence. I couldn't wait to pick their brains (and you know, let them dress me in super awesome clothing.)
I'll admit, I was intimidated at first to sit down with with a body image expert and a woman who has styled the likes of Cate Blanchett and Sandra Bullock. Did I look OK? What was my body language saying? Did I really just spill that cup of coffee all over the table (yes, that happened). But within minutes, I felt at ease and completely enthralled in the findings of their study. While the results are not necessarily news, the numbers did surprise me.
In a survey of 1,000 women, Dr. Glass told me that "71 percent said they have issues with confidence. We're all in the same boat," adding that, "58 percent of those women said quality clothing made them feel more confident."
"FINALLY," I thought. "A way to justify my slight shopping problem." Unfortunately, Dr.Glass was quick to break the news that "if you buy something, no matter what, you have to love it. You have to get that adrenaline rush." I thought back to all the times I bought something just because it was on sale and made a mental note to (try) to stop doing that so much. Then, she shared the three pieces of advice she gives her clients:
Always pretend you have a string pulling you from the top of your head. Real confidence isn't eye contact, it's face contact. Roll each shoulder back (just a little bit!) and never, ever walk without tightening your butt. When your core is tight, you immediately look more confident.
Of course, I had more questions. No matter how good a piece of clothing makes you feel when you put it on for the first time, clothes don't have magical powers that negate the ugly effects of low self-esteem. Or if they do, I guess I haven't found them yet. And no matter how hard I clench my abs, some days I'm still going to look in the mirror and struggle with what I see staring back at me.
Dr. Glass recommended I try and figure out what my intention is each day. Do I have an important meeting? What kind of day is it going to be? Figuring out how to make the day work for me instead of everyone else and dressing from there is my best bet. She also stressed the importance of "breathing your way into the dressing room," and how badly we as women need to get over over our obsession with sizing. "Sizes are not the same in every brand. As long as it feels and looks good, that's the magic of it," she said.
And even though it might sound silly, I started to feel a little bit better. It was perfect timing, too, because minutes later I found myself getting completely naked in a bathroom with Elizabeth and her assistant while they chose a selection of Marshalls clothing for me. We all bonded over a love of mixed prints and hats, two things that I incorporate regularly into my wardrobe.
I already knew that Marshalls offers just about something for everyone, but it became more obvious than ever as I transitioned from a patterned, more corporate outfit to a fun and bold dress/bag combo. It felt so good that everything not just fit me, but fit well. Add that to the fact that most of the pieces I tried on retail for under $50, and not only was I styled for confidence, but ecstatic over the fact that I could actually afford to go out and buy these outfits, too.
So, do I believe that standing up straight and rolling my shoulders back is a cure all for any negative feelings I have about myself at a given point? Of course not. We are all normal, and we all have bad moments. But, being more aware of my body, thinking about myself instead of everyone else and yes, even clenching my butt while I walk, has already given me a confidence boost... even if I still don't love dating.