I just got off the phone. Why was I on the phone? It was an interview to do work for a startup. What did I do before the phone interview? I took a shower, shaved, and then put on some damn nice looking cloths. I didn’t need to, I could have just worn the jeans and t-shirt I had been wearing all morning. I’m the same person in both outfits, but I chose to look nice for people who can’t see me. Why would I go through the trouble?
To answer that question I have to explain that I, like so many other people in the world, get depressed. Often I mange to keep up a good front in the face of depression but I still get bogged down in a mire of self doubt and apathy. When this happens I find it hard to write, to respond to email, to create, and to go out and look for work that puts food on my table. Not being able to do these things has a serious effect on my life. First and foremost is the no work thing, I like to eat and have nice things like electricity and an apartment. Going out and finding the contracts I need to keep the bills paid is really important. Beyond that, I love to write and create. Not being able to do these things often makes my mood worse, leading to a spiral that often includes depressing music and lots of ice cream being consumed.
So where does dressing up come in? Well through out my life I have found a few things that help me move past my depression.
Success: Success is a big one, when I manage to make something I am really proud of, or I’m able give an over the top performance on a project it can often snap me out of a funk. The down side to this is that when something is too awesome it often leads to a small bout of depression following. I guess it’s that after I do something that is amazing my regular work feels somehow diminished by it. Nonetheless, I have found that DIY projects, focusing hard on work I have to complete, or trying something new and succeeding really do help with my depression. Sadly there are few projects I can get done on a whim in order to ensure I am pumped up before a phone meeting or interview.
Exercise: I hate it! Well I guess I love it too but I hate the thought of exercise when I’m hard at work doing other things, or hard at work doing nothing at all. I spend an exorbitant amount of time trying to convince myself that I don’t need to go to the gym. Or that I don’t have enough time. Often when I’m in a funk I can do the convincing with little to no effort at all. When I do make it to the gym I often find that my attitude changes almost immediately. Perhaps it has something to do with succeeding; if I can run two or three miles it’s something to be proud of. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with chemicals released into my brain as I work out. I could get more into the science behind it but let’s just say that there are chemicals in my brain, and working out makes the happy chemicals more abundant.
Image: Image isn’t everything. A lot of people will tell you that it is, but most of the successful people I have met in life will tell you that hard work has a lot to do with it. Also, knowing appears to be at least half of the battle. Really though, image has a lot to do with how I fight my bad moods. When I’m in a funk or depressed, getting dressed can become the same mountainous task the rest of my work is. I tend to wear the same thing, often for days at a time: jeans, a black hoodie , old sneakers and done. Oh I wear underwear too, though the color doesn’t really matter and I do change them daily, cause I know it makes my mom happy.
The simple act of putting on something nice, of wearing something that took effort to put together, somehow helps me break out of my funks. It’s a first step in doing things that need to be done, things I usually avoid when I’m down. When I put together an outfit I like, put it on, and then look in the mirror it’s as if I can see the road leading out of my depression and I can begin to walk that path. It’s not as if I put on a jacket and suddenly I feel all better, but the investing of a little of my time into myself that begins the turnaround.
My style and my image do not determine how my day will go. If I walk out of the house in an old shirt and some ripped jeans I won’t have a bad day. But if I’m having a bad day taking the time time to look better often helps me feel better. I woke up this morning and I was in a darker place, but I had things I needed to get done. Now I look good, and I’m starting to feel better. When I get done writing this I’m going to go to the gym, then come home and get more work done. It’s not all because I got dressed, but it definitely started there.