Does the way you dress affect how you feel about yourself? There are two schools of thought.

One says: “It’s not the wrapping that matters; it’s the person underneath that radiates confidence or beams out insecurity. I dress for comfort and couldn’t care less about the “in” style of the moment.”

The other says: It’s naïve to think that appearances don’t matter. Sure, it would be great if appearance had no effect on confidence, but get real. If you’re feeling fat, wearing the “wrong” clothes, having a bad hair day, how can these factors not detract from how you feel?

So who’s right?

Does your confidence waver depending on what you’re wearing and how you look? Or, does your confidence remain consistent no matter what. Do other people judge you, based on your appearance? Or, do other people see the “real” you, no matter how you look?

As with many things in life, the answer is a bit of both.

It's nice to pretend that appearance doesn’t matter. But the fact is that for most people, and especially for women, how they look (or think they look) can add or detract from their confidence level.

A prime example: Many women look forward to a day’s shopping, only to have their joyful feelings morph to misery when they look at themselves in the dressing room mirror. As they frown at their image, critique their body, focus on every flaw imaginable, of course their self-confidence diminishes.

Does this suggest that to bolster confidence, you should rush right out and get a tummy tuck? Or buy whatever Vogue or GQ declares is “hot stuff”? Or ruthlessly throw out every item of clothing that is not “in” this year?

No, no no. Indeed, if you do that, it’s likely that your self-esteem is anything but steady. Shaky would be more like it. What it does suggest, however, is that you should dress in a way that makes you feel pleased with yourself. Find your own style. Feel comfortable. If that clinging shirt or those tight pants make you feel fat, get rid of them. If your hair is driving you crazy, seek out a stylist who can suggest a new look.

What if you’re comfortable with your personal style, yet someone in your life scoffs at your choices, denigrates your appearance. Should you give credence to that person’s opinion? It depends.

If you dress in whatever topples out of your closet first, it just might be a good idea to listen to the feedback you’re receiving. Scruffy and sloppy may look cute on a Huck Finn look-alike, but on a grown adult, it wears thin. So, if your loved one wants to drag you out shopping to make you look reasonably well-groomed, go ahead and grumble a bit.

And then thank her.

If, however, in your eyes, you do dress well and the criticism feels reminiscent of a high-school snot who believes that she’s the ultimate arbiter of style, don’t cave in. Create a snappy comeback. And stick with your preferences.

Do clothes make the wo/man? Not totally. However, it’s a factor. Hence, if you’re seeking to enhance your confidence, one way to do so is to be proud of your attire, your carriage, your overall appearance. But don’t go overboard with its importance. It’s still what’s inside you that counts.

Copyright 2011

Author's Bio: 

Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice. She specializes in helping people overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior, particularly debilitating fear and procrastination.

She is the author of 5 self-help books, including the recently released, "How to Beat Procrastination in the Digital Age: 6 Unique Change Programs for 6 Personality Styles" To learn howthe book can help you or your loved one, visit visit

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