Saturday, June 2, 2007

Law of Evolution #5: Be Impeccable With Your Appearance

Evolutionary Law #5: Be Impeccable with Your Appearance. I will master my appearance and groom/clothe with impeccable regularity as I understand that a neat, stylish appearance will have a positive impact on how I view myself and others view me.
So far, most of what I have written about deals primarily with abstract concepts that you can apply to your life. "Accepting Responsibility", "Measurement is Empowering", and "Stop Complaining" all contain instructions on things to do to change you life during your divorce, but focus more on inner changes rather than external ones. These types of changes can be challenging to perform on a daily basis. Well, here is a law that is fun to practice and should catapult you to achieve with the other Twenty-Five Laws of Evolution.

When we feel poorly about anything it usually first shows up in our appearance. Think about when we get sick, or look at how people dress at wakes and funerals or other mournful occasions. We care less about the details involved with your appearance as some sort of trade-off for feeling bad or depressed. It is a way for us to announce that something is wrong and to create space between us and the rest of the world as if to say "I choose to be alone right now". Before too long, our posture changes; we slump over and do not own our space. We choose not to make eye contact with people, partly out of how we feel as well as because we know our appearance is flawed. We choose to not project our voice, so as not to garner attention to ourselves. This behavior is completely natural, but if not monitored it can quickly spiral into the first stages of establishing a negative self-image.

As people, we never forget what it feels like to "feel and look good" just as we always remember how it is to "feel bad". Think through your history to moments where you looked your best. Sure, you looked in a mirror and got feedback from your family and friends that said you looked great. Intuitively, however, you knew it. We recognize it, because when this happens it causes a shift in ourselves that breathes confidence and conviction into our bodies and personalities. When we look good, we stand taller; straighter. We make eye contact with others. We are more vocal with our voices; they project more, and we own the space beneath our feet. Everyone has moments like this in their life; whether their appearance was a catalyst for everything in their body and personality coming together as their "best self."

During a divorce, we go through a grieving process to acknowledge the end of our relationship. Marriages and family relationships are living, breathing things. When one ends, it very much mirrors the death of something, and our body and personality react to it as such. Sure, we may be angry, sad, or bitter; there may be a whole slew of other emotions that we conflict ourselves with during this process. But we grieve since the divorce signifies the end of something that we once loved, lived and suffered through, or wish that we could change. The relationship has finally come to an end. The reasons really do not matter; what matters is the recognition that the grief is real, and that this can lead to neglecting our appearance and well being.

In order to break this cycle and continue evolving through your divorce, consider looking at this differently. Your divorce experience should be severed from physical appearance; there should be no connection between the two. Instead, your divorce should be viewed as an opportunity to leave your past behind you and re-invent and discover your "best self". That being said, be empowered by this and make time to establish your own personal sense of style. Now, by doing this I am not suggesting that you spend money on expensive clothes, cologne, or treatments. This is not about being concerned with how people perceive the value of your appearance. If you have money, the easy thing to do is spend it on expense clothes and accessories that people will be impressed with. Rather, this is about you demonstrating to yourself that you value your appearance and establish a sense of style and worth that permeates your being. This is something that money cannot buy. That being said, here are some things you can do to transform your appearance.
  1. First things first: Grooming is key; get haircuts regularly. Now, if you like shaggy, then be shaggy. Make sure that your haircut makes you feel good, and that people react to it the way you want. If you find yourself saying things like "I hate my hair", "I don't know what to do with it", "I should just cut it all off", or you wear hats frequently to hide your hair then find a stylist or salon and work with them to create your new look (you can find one on Google).

    On another note, if you are bald or balding do not hide it. Embrace it, and either ignore or deal with it by finding a look that makes you feel good. Hiding your balding reveals and insecurity that people around you will pick up on. Everyone loses hair, dude.

  2. Teeth and nails should always be clean. Whether you realize it or not, the entire world (and especially women) look at your teeth and nails and establish judgments about you based on how clean and well kept they appear to be. Do you bite your nails? Are your nails dirty? How about your teeth? Do you smoke? Are they yellow? Do your gums look healthy? Are your toe nails often confused with talons or claws? More often than not, every woman you meet asks herself these questions about you. Demonstrating that you take care of your nails and teeth shows that you are detail oriented. This will set you apart from other men.

    If you bite your nails, stop. There are a number of treatments that can be used to curb this habit (and coming from a habitual nail biter of 33 years, I can attest that they work). Try this: get a manicure and have your nails buffed. For me, getting a manicure and seeing how good my nails looked after was incentive enough to continue the practice. Yes, this may be a bit metro-sexual. How may compliments, though, have you received about your nails recently?

    On the topic of teeth, brush and floss regularly. There are a number of teeth-whitening kits you can buy that work reasonably well and are inexpensive to purchase and implement. Try one if you are unhappy with the color of your teeth. For me, I took a picture of my teeth every three days over three weeks and was able to notice a difference in their color. It takes time and patience, but it does work.

  3. Take pride in being clean. Too often, we rush through things. We take quick showers, forget to wash our hands, are sloppy eaters. Each of these things demonstrate that we take hygiene less seriously than the world around us. Instead of living thinking "I want to be clean enough for me", think "I want to be cleaner than the people around me". Use deodorant regularly, wash your hands often, and eat slowly. In the shower, take time to clean yourself thoroughly. How much? Take enough so that you can feel pride in your cleanliness. Face facts; we know when we are not clean and when we go out in public, those around us can feel it as well.

  4. Bad breath is worse than bad clothes and is rarely forgotten. Ever meet someone with bad breath? Now, think about the moment when you met this someone. Can you remember what they were wearing? Probably not. My point is that having bad breath will label you, and this label is difficult to shake (unless, of course, you can change your breath). You should regularly use a mouthwash, alternating between something that kills bacteria and freshens your breath. Listerine is a great bacteria killer, but can also cause gum recession if overused due to the amount of alcohol in it. Oral B is also good, and alcohol free to boot. Whatever you decide to do, remember this: people will always remember bad breath.

  5. Smell good; people (and especially women) will notice. Another metro-sexualish item to take on is finding a fragrance or cologne that you like the smell of, and wearing it every day. Now, you don't need to shower in it or spray it all over your body. Rather, be subtle with it. Spray some in your clean hands, and place the cologne on your neck, cheeks, and behind your ears (put it in places that when you get close to people's faces, they will smell it). A good cologne that you makes you feel good every day is better than an expensive piece of clothing you only wear once in a while. That being said, do not be afraid to spend a little money on a quality fragrance (fellas, Irish Spring doesn't count).

  6. "Good clothes" does not mean "Expensive clothes"; shop around and shop smart. I meet a lot of men that think that expensive clothes equate to style. I suppose to a certain degree it does, but then I ask them "how do these clothes make you feel?" Very often, the answers I get back are mixed. When I look for good clothes, I focus more on how I look and feel wearing the clothes. The clothes don't have to be expensive; if anything, I find myself moving away from expensive clothes because there are better values available. You just need to know where to look. Clothes should reflect an aspect of your personality that you consider a strength. Brand labels are great; especially at the right price (thank you eBay!). But don't get seduced into thinking that expensive clothes equal style. They don't; if anything, they can be a crutch.

    When you're buying clothes, keep things simple. Buy pieces that go with the majority of things in your wardrobe. Stay away from expensive, "cool" pieces that you can't wear very often. Remember that expense does not necessarily mean quality, and that quality should be measured by more than the price tag. Quality now means fabric strength and color, frequency of use, flexibility (what can you wear this with), and the statement it makes on you; in addition to price. A shirt here. Jeans there. Pants. Jacket. Before long, your wardrobe will start coming together. As you add items, make sure to
    clean out your wardrobe and give to Goodwill or the Salvation Army clothing that you no longer wear but are in good quality (pay it forward).

  7. Learn and love to iron and do laundry. How often do you not wear something because its dirty, or has to go to the cleaners, or because its clean but wrinkled? You know, these are just not acceptable justifications for a lack of style today. It took me years, but I finally learned to do laundry and not shrink, dye, or destroy what I was washing. I also have ironed with starch for years (creases in shirts reflect on you the same way that manicured nails do). Not only will this save you money, but it will increase the flexibility and frequency of your wardrobe. Take pride in this, because as tiny of a detail it may seem it will make a difference for you.

  8. Shoes matter; get a nice pair and learn to polish. Have you ever seen someone dressed very well, but their shoes did not quite match their outfit, or the quality of their shoes seemed mismatched with everything else that was worn? Or how about this; someone walks in with a great look, but the first thing you noticed were his dirty shoes? Very simply, don't be that guy. Shoes matter for a lot, and frankly women look at shoes the same way they look at nails and teeth.

    Buy shoes that speak of quality but will also be easy to take care of. If you need to spend some money, go ahead but make sure that you can wear the shoes across your wardrobe (a cool pair of shoes that only goes with a special pair of pants and jacket will spend more time in your closet than on your feet). On that note, learn how to polish shoes using a brush, shoe polish, and a buff cloth. Again, people will notice; you just need to put in the effort.

  9. Honor your health: eat well and exercise. When you think about the things you can do to improve how you feel and look, eating healthy and exercising regularly count for more than anything else discussed here. I have dedicated one of the Twenty-Five Laws of Evolution to this topic because during my divorce, this single most important decision I made was to join a gym and eat better. This, for me, was the catalyst that began my own evolution. The simple fact is what we eat has a huge impact on how we feel and look. If you eat junk food, try to stop. If you drink soda all day, start trying to drink water. Cook food, instead of buying processed food and reheating it. As much as you can change your appearance, changing your diet and exercise habits will have a greater impact on how you feel than anything else you can do.

  10. Understand and practice that impeccable means always. Listen, you don't have to practice these things every day. If you do, however, you'll feel better about yourself. You'll take more pride in your appearance. People around you will notice more. Research has shown that it takes thirty days, roughly, to change a habit in people. If you are looking to change your image, be rigorous and disciplined about practicing these items every day. Groom well. Keep your nails. Brush your teeth. Manage your breath. Smell good. Dress well. Eat healthy. Exercise, if only to take a walk and show the world what its like to feel good. The more you do this, the more it will become part of your everyday routine. There is value in this. Think about it; don't you want your wife to see you feeling good about yourself?
Remember that a clean, healthy, well kept, and vibrant appearance will reap dividends internally, personally, professionally, and socially. Everyone, whether they say it or not, will notice. You will see it in how people look at you and carry themselves around you. Taking pride in your image will nurture your confidence and self-worth as well. Sometimes, in order to change, we need to change on the outside before we can change internally. Its certainly a cliche, but rings true at different moments in our life. Embrace this opportunity to change, and honor yourself by stating that your image matters. It may take time, but you will thank yourself for it.