Friday, September 12, 2008

Words To Live By: Suffer For Beauty

Let's get started analyzing how my parents 'words to live by' relate to excellent communication to be used in the office, on a sales call or at home.


At first blush this may seem like a comment to make Ms. Steinem scowl. But before you link arms to plan a protest in front of my office believe me when I tell you this in NOT advice to wear four inch Manolo Blahniks, to sleep with soup cans on your head, or sign up to have your face surgically rearranged. Guys, this goes for you too. (Even though I am guessing only a couple of you know anything about the relationship of soup cans to hair.)

Speaking of heels, did you see that high heel shoes for baby girls are on the market? Come on people. What’s next, garter belt and fishnets. Stop it!!! What message is a heeled baby supposed to send? I cannot even answer that!

Ok, back to mom. The ‘suffer for beauty’ advice began as my mother’s way of silencing my yelps as she was combing a waist long ponytail. Not sure if she made this up but maybe she will comment and tell us how she came to this. (Mom?) Her point was not that long hair was more or less beautiful than other hair. It was, and is to this day, whatever you choose your personal persona to be, it should be represented at its best, and that may take a little suffering. You want long hair, it has to be combed. You want short hair, your pain is different but the commitment is the same.

In my mother’s eyes, paying attention to how you look sends the message to those around you that you respected them. Getting spiffed up at our house communicates that we care about each other. Making sure we were properly attired and groomed when going to work or a party or the gym sends the message "I respect YOU."

Recently I went to a birthday party and knew not a single person except he who brought me. This put me in a unique position to contemplate who had “suffered for beauty” and who had not. It doesn't take much effort to see those who respect their perspective over the hosts.

How to know if you are not suffering quite enough for beauty:
  • Your family teases you about not owning a sport coat/suit to bury you in.
  • You look around the room and you and the toddlers are the only ones wearing athletic shoes.
  • The waiter is dressed better than you.
  • You haven’t seen the back of your head all year.
  • Your favorite tools for nail care are your teeth.
  • No one ever asks your advice on what to wear.
  • You think not washing your hair is somehow good for your scalp.
  • You are trying to start a new trend and NOBODY is following you.
  • You don’t believe that how you look reflects what message you are sending.

You can’t always wear the most comfortable shoes or the baggiest pants or a baseball cap. When your host, for example, has gone to great lengths to make himself and his office or home festive, to ignore the effort (or suffering) is to show disrespect or at the very least a lack of appreciation. When I comb my ponytail, I want you to comb yours too damn it!!

Spiff up. It says “I respect you.” An EXCELLENT communication for anyone, anytime. MOM, did I get it correct?


Urban Panther said...

Hmmm.... a lack of respect for others, or do you need to roll it back yet another notch? I think it's a lack of respect for oneself. And you can hardly show respect for others, if you don't respect yourself. Not to say, if the most self-respecting of us don't have schlumpy days, but if it is chronic? Hmmm....

Barbara Swafford said...

Hi Theresa,

I have to agree with Urban Panther on this one. We also need to show respect for ourselves.

Dressing appropriately and combing our hair to me, is common sense. However, it's a good thing I'm not on a web cam today as I'm in my paint clothes.

Steven Clough said...

I think I agree and disagree with...everyone :)

urban panther: I think that self respecting people groom themselves well because they understand that psychologically and physiologically, looking good and feeling good go hand-in-hand. When I have a big day, even if I'm not meeting or presenting with anyone, I will almost always look my best, because I know it will help put me on my A-game. I also think that respect is reflexive. When we show respect to others, by grooming appropriately, we warrant respect in return, therefore increasing our social value and self-worth.

I would argue you that people can't show respect for others if they don't respect themselves. In fact, I'd argue it's almost the opposite relationship. People who don't respect themselves are more likely to be subservient and display more signs of respect than those who don't respect themselves. It's more likely an employee would dress up for a meeting with a boss than have the boss get dolled up for a meeting with a low level employee. An employee dresses up not only to raise his own worth in front of a superior individual, but also as a sign of respect the his boss.

I agree with Theresa on some points, but mostly on what barbara said and that's "dressing appropriately" is the key to showing respect. Signs of respect are based purely on societal and situational norms. If you wore a tux to a social gathering at a dive bar, you'd probably come across as arrogant and an elitist. If you wore sweats to a business interview, you probably wouldn't get the job. I think on some level, either situation reflects to the other person that "this person doesn't respect me enough to conform to my norms or standards." Research shows that one of the best ways to connect with someone is to mirror them, and I think this holds a lot of truth when talking about how we present ourselves.

In summation, respect yourself enough to take care of yourself physically. You'll be healthier and happier in return. And respect others enough to take the time to understand a situation you're entering (especially if it's a new one) an dress appropriately for the situation.

Bill said...

Agree, respect is the foundation of human interaction. Also interesting how tastes change, and those at the forefront of some of those changes were viewed as disrespectful or worse. Remember how we used to view long hair (hippie), shaved head (skinhead), baggy shorts (ghetto punk). Long hair, short hair, no hair has little meaning today (although those short shorts basketball players used to wear almost look obscene now).

Amazing how we're able to post comments in the future.

Theresa Zagnoli said...

Back to Bill, the baggy shorts are still a symbol of not knowing what is appropriate. Anytime we teach or even encourage young men to emulate a prison inmate that cannot be sending a good message to themselves or those around them.

Theresa Zagnoli said...

UP and Barbara - Sorry for the delayed response; my travel schedule has been hectic the past several weeks, leaving no time for internet or blogging :(

We are definitely all entitled to our schlumpy days, but a chronic schlump likely says I don't care about my presentation to the world and subsequently I don't care about the audience.

Theresa Zagnoli said...

Steven - Again, sorry for the delayed response.

Thanks for the lengthy comment -you raise some good points. I particularly like the topic of mirroring and agree that it provides a source of connection with those you are communicating to.

Lori said...

Theresa: Congratulations on stating the obvious to the clueless employees out there. Casual day has turned the business environment into pajama day or beach day depending on the weather. You nicely put in perspective the message one is sending when wearing grunge to work. I would add one comment though: men AND women: get your shoes shined professionally and regularly. It tells a lot about the person and attention to detail when the shoes are shined.

Theresa Zagnoli said...

Good comment re: shoes. The fashion industry preaches to men constantly about the importance of good shoes, polished shoes, the right shoes. Last week I read that the 7” heel is today’s 3” of yesterday. OMG. I can barely stand up on my own two feet. I see waaaay more bad shoes (not so many towering stilts) on women. They are either worn, frumpy or just wrong. Thanks for the feedback. T