Fake It Until You Make It

Looks can sometimes be deceiving.

The executive who looks like she stepped out of a fashion catalog. The actor crossing a stage with swag and confidence. The volunteer running a boardroom meeting like a boss.

Sometimes there’s well more working behind the scenes, but in many cases, these people have learned the carefully crafted art of perception.

The day after I lost my job, my parents both tag-teamed a phone call intended to pump me up with vim and vinegar. My dad, a retired marketing executive himself, detailed a litany of skills that make me valuable to my next employer. My mother, while she has no official PR or marketing experience of her own, offered what could be one of the most valuable points I’ve heard in recent weeks:

“Don’t leave the house unless you look like a million bucks.”

She went on to offer that my hair should be perfectly coiffed, my makeup well applied. I should forgo the yoga pants-and-tank tops uniform for a wardrobe that implies my professional stature.

I initially dismissed it. What does it matter how I look? What a superficial premise, I quipped. But then my mother reasoned a valuable point about appearance. Whether we like it or not, our outward appearance speaks volumes about what’s happening inside us.

And while inside I might vacillate between abject devastation and unwavering confidence, the world only needs to see me happy, optimistic and eager.

Make no mistake about it, I am excited about my future. This unexpected vacancy has made me available for unknown opportunities and rich experience.

And those unknown opportunities may not reveal themselves if I’m in a perpetual state of slovenly sweats and greasy hair.

I have taken my mother’s advice to heart. That in itself is practically a miracle.

With the exception of my almost-religious morning exercise routine, I’ve made an effort to fix my hair and belabor the finer points of eye makeup. Call it trivial if you will, but there’s something valuable about going through the paces of normalcy.

Months ago I changed the home screen of my iPhone to an old Elizabeth Taylor quote. The Hollywood grand dame once said, “Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together.” There’s something to be said about gathering your druthers to change your disposition.

Marketing is sometimes all smoke and mirrors. A company jockeys to appear larger or more successful than they really are. A professional spins yarns of thought leadership to develop a position of expertise.

Every company is working to change perceptions and cultivate new opportunities of success.

The same goes for regular folks.

We’re each developing our personal brand, whether we want to admit it or not.

As much as we may protest, the photos we post on Facebook and the missives we Tweet can sometimes speak louder about our personal brand than a face-to-face interaction.

And so I am working to cultivate a personal brand that projects optimism, creativity, determination, adventure and curiosity.

I guess that rules out sweats.

Here’s to lipstick and cocktails and Elizabeth Taylor.

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