Self belief is the essence of our role as image professionals. Only yesterday I was walking in Gower Street in London when I noticed this plaque –
‘Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1847 – 1929)
Pioneer of Women’s Suffrage
Lived and died here’
She was a British suffragist who was considered instrumental in gaining the vote for six million British women over 30 years of age. She was also an intellectual, political leader, Union leader, mother, wife, and writer. But her most important work was her unrelenting struggle to improve women’s opportunities for higher education. In 1871 she co-founded Newnham College in Cambridge.
She was a woman who obviously had plenty of self-belief and her pioneering work continues to this day. Self-belief drives people to reach unimaginable possibilities. Lack of it can result in the opposite – we can even forget or lose ourselves to things that were once part of our very being.
When I took an early morning business call little did I know that I would be given an exquisite example of my Image professional role as an enabler of self belief. Being an Image Consultant is a privilege. It takes us to a place of being allowed to share the personal space of our clients in a way that is usually guarded from intrusion.
My callers manner had a sense of urgency when she spoke long before she she told me she needed an outfit for an important wedding in two weeks time.
I am sure we all know this feeling well. It’s the one where you hope a situation will take care of itself because it’s too painful or uncomfortable to deal with at the time and it gets put off until its urgency produces a run of adrenaline and anxiety. Our uncomfortableness always stems from an emotional, physical and or social cause vocalised through a powerful little “other” voice that we choose to listen to. What was hers telling her I thought as I placed my phone back in my bag!
It is strange how incidents have a way of being dealt out in unexpected ways when you least expect them. I had squeezed this client into a two hour slot between my hairdresser and a Skype call the day after her phone call. In the early morning of the appointment my ex-husband had taken a nose dive in his leukaemia treatment and had been admitted into ITU. Our children had been summoned to his bedside. The grandchildren were brought over to my home and chaos reigned for a period of time before the babysitter knocked on the door. With minutes to go before the hairdresser arrived I washed my hair and while answering the phone I managed to throw on some casual clothes.
My hairdresser is dishyy. Thirty years younger than me at least. Good looking, caring personality and a good bod. Strange that even as I grow older I still need to impress. Not so much with me but rather the whole package. Usually before he arrives the house is clean and tidy. I am dressed with make-up on and the dog and husband are prepared. This morning I let myself down on all counts.
While he set out his equipment I put my 3 minute make-up face on before putting myself into his black hairdressers gown and sitting on a small backless stool. I have my long hair cut every 8 weeks. It keeps my style and hopefully prevents that dragging unkept look which can be quite ageing.
The business entrance door rang before my hair was dry. Ted, my husband, went and let my client in and took her some coffee. Our business is on the ground floor to our apartment. As soon as I could I dashed down to the studio putting on a wrap but failing to find the shoes I was hoping to wear. As I walked into the room I smiled, trying to keep her focused on my face rather than my feet. First impressions, I know, are hugely important.
I need not have worried. She had on a rather well worn hoody, pulled over her head, with jeans, colourful socks and pink canvas trainers. She looked relieved when she saw me. I just laughed as I saw the whole scenario as extremely funny. What games we had been playing until that moment!
My client was a full time Mum and was taking her mothering role seriously. She wore clothes that meant she could have fun with her children. Her need for the consultation was to help her show her family she could scrub up well. She also wanted to demonstrate the “old well organised and successful person from the past” to the family once again. She just didn’t know where to begin.
I had asked her to bring clothes she loved with her when we booked the appointment on the phone. She had collected a selection of dresses from her working days which were in the cupboard at the mothers home.
As always I find out as much as I can about my client during the beginning stages of the consultation. She had been a very successful charted accounted and since having the children her financial situation at home meant she did not need to go back to work. Her personal story showed her to be responsible, committed and determined. Also a little bit controversial at times and prepared to express her views confidently. I really liked her.
Her consultation demonstrated that she suited strong, deep colours and that her body shape was very angular and almost boyish.
It was no surprise to me but a huge surprise to her when we pulled out her dresses and all but one, the one she least liked, were the correct colours for her skin, hair and eye colour and the shape of dresses perfect for her body silhouette. She looked at them for quite a long time internalising what had just unfolded in front of her.
But her astonishment was not to end there. I asked her to put on one of her dresses. She insisted it wound not fit her. I told her it didn’t matter as I just wanted to show her the principles and rationale for what we had learnt and what to look for when purchasing clothes in the future.
She slipped her favourite dress on. The dress looked wonderful. It zipped up with ease and she wept. When she walked down the corridor to start her journey home she turned and looked at me carefully and thanked me…not for doing her consultation but for helping her to find her self-belief.
Helping people have confidence is one thing – but rekindling self belief is another. It is an awakening on all levels.