The Science of Looking Your Best
Why a Shower, Shave or New Suit
Makes You Feel Better
The science (and pay-off) of looking your best
It's a familiar feeling. One that's not unique to me but one that I've come to look forward to. After a haircut, I step out onto the sidewalk and feel the slight tickle of the breeze hitting the back of my neck and around my ears. It's a subtle sensation that signals a change has occurred—fresh skin exposed after being freed from overgrown hair. It's a bodily reaction to the satisfaction and confidence boost one gets after doing something good for yourself. Call it the self-care stimulus.
After all, can you ever really feel your best when you don't look your best? Think about when you go in for a job interview or get ready before a first date. Put in the effort to look sharp and in return you show up feeling like you've got your shit together. Think about how even the simplest grooming rituals—a hot shower and a fresh shave—can lift your spirits and help rouse you from a funk. Reddit even has its own "Life Pro Tips" subreddit dedicated to the phenomenon.
But it isn't just vanity. Turns out, this is more than skin deep. "Cleaning up of any kind, including making your bed, has been revealed to increase happiness," says psychoanalyst Claudia Luiz. "Simply by doing something positive, you set yourself in motion to feel better and do better." She likened it to a behavioral philosophy, where one acts like a person with high self-esteem to actually become someone with high self-esteem.
You know the old saying, "dress for the job you want, not the one you have." The bossman's suit actually does have some power attached to it. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology divided people into three groups: One wore a suit, one dressed in sweats and the third group kept their original clothing on. They were then put in a scenario where they had to negotiate. The subjects wearing suits routinely out-negotiated those who were dressed down. Perhaps what's even more interesting, is that the men in sweats actually showed lower testosterone levels, further reducing their aggression and power at the negotiating table.
It all seems to boil down to the value we attach to being well-kempt. It conveys an investment in oneself. Think about it like this: when your life seems to be spinning and your stress is piling up, your motivation and self-worth can take a serious hit. You can feel like control over your life is slipping away but one of the things you can control is tidying up—your home, your body and your wardrobe. It's a short-term fix, of course, but it's one that can get you into a good place to take stock of what's important and guide you to what should be tackled next.
After you've maximized your best features by cleaning up your appearance, you'll be able to wash away the negative self-doubt that can get in the way of your ability to make things happen for yourself.