Olateju and her colleagues

The need to be confident in the workplace goes without saying, but how much can it be said that our appearance contributes to our sense of confidence, even to our ability to focus on getting the job done?

Total Jobs recently held an online Twitter Party – the ultimate twenty-first century get together – hosted by Joanna Gaudoin, founder of image consultancy InsideOut. The premise of the debate stated: “How you look and feel influences your confidence, your performance and how others perceive and respond to you in everyday life, particularly your professional life.”

Gaudoin answered questions about dressing for interviews, and work-wear in general, but the discussion really got interesting when questions of style and confidence arose. “How important is style to confidence?”, someone asked. Another replied, “I’d turn that around and say that confidence is important to style,” with another commenting that “it’s a bit of a chicken and egg argument”.

So, which comes first? We live in a world that often dictates that style and image are the determining factors of how good we (should) feel about ourselves. Even at work, where ability should determine success, what we look like can override our talent, knowledge and self-awareness when it comes to our confidence. But what do women really think?

Natasha Devon, of Body Gossip commented that “confident people always appear stylish, no matter what they happen to be wearing”. I wanted to see how much truth there was in this, so I quizzed the women in my office about much their confidence was really tied to their appearance:

How would you define confidence, and what does it mean to you?

“Confidence, I think, is always centred in knowing who you are as an individual”

“It’s something a person exudes, a sensation that makes a person seem grounded, secure and approachable”

Are style and confidence related in your eyes?

“Wearing something that you love makes everything better, your natural swag level shoots through the roof so symbiotically they feed into each other”

“The more comfortable a person is with who they are, the more comfortable they’ll be not only in their own clothes but also in their own skin”

How much of an impact do these factors have on the way you feel at work?

“I think everyone has wardrobe malfunction days, which lessens confidence simply because you’re worried about things that take you away from the job – the things that really matter. A great outfit isn’t going to make you confident, just amplify confidence that you may or may not already have”

“If you’re confident and stylish then the world is your burrito”

For me, Natasha’s statement rings true, echoing the old saying that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Grooming our appearance can make us feel good and can positively affect the way we present ourselves to others, but taking just as much care to groom our inner emotions and self-awareness will help to boost not just our confidence, but our style too.

***

Tej Adeleye works full-time at a creative agency, but moonlights as a freelance writer with interests in music, culture, politics and fashion.