Confidence, Clothes, & Classes

While all this talk about being confident in yourself may seem fine, by now you’re probably wondering how it would really benefit you. The way that confidence will affect your everyday life — for better or for worse — is shown in the way clothes can affect performance. There are articles such as this one that draw upon several studies, all of which ended up showing that dressing in formal clothing raised performance in one way or another. Some scientists who study the effect of clothing on confidence and performance consider it part of embodied cognition,  which is “when aspects of the agent’s body beyond the brain play a significant causal or physically constitutive role in cognitive processing.” Although stretching that out to clothing may seem like a bit of a stretch, the evidence available so far shows that the old saying “Dress for success” is probably onto something!

In a set of experiments done on undergraduates, students who wore a white coat that they were told was a doctor’s coat only made half as many errors as those in street clothes. Students wearing the “doctor’s coat” also made significantly fewer errors that students who looked at a doctor’s coat or wore a completely identical “painter’s coat.”

I think it’s important to take a break here to note that self-confidence, whether from internal or external factors, is not the same as self-esteem. Self-esteem, thinking you’re perfect just the way you are, will actually hinder your education and hurt your grades more than anything. Instead of striving for excellence and being confident in your capability to succeed, self-esteem is based on the fact that you are just as good as anybody else. This mindset leaves little to no room for growth, and no reason to try doing something differently to achieve a different result. Self-confidence is all about doing your best, and if you do not like the outcome, being confident in your capability to change it.

At the end of the day, confidence ought to be internal before it is external, but an outfit that makes you feel good definitely doesn’t hurt anything, and may well help you achieve more and be your very best self. I, for one, try to dress up a little everyday and use the best outfits on test days — if nothing else, it makes me feel great!


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