Growing up, I was the shy girl. I was the one who wanted to fade into the woodwork and not be noticed, but my favorite color was red.
Mom often bought me red dresses, because those were the ones I really liked to wear.
As I got older, she noticed that I would go for the light yellow, pale blue, and pastel colors that didn’t sparkle and shine. She began buying me more and more tailored clothing, because that’s what she wore, and that’s what I liked.
But the emphasis of blending in with my surroundings caught up with me one night at a meeting as I neared my 19th birthday. I’d opted to wear the dark blue pleated skirt, white silk blouse, and a dark on dark checked blazer with a tiny red scarf in the pocket. Every other girl at the meeting was dressed in a cocktail dress, in a peacock-like array of brilliant colors.
My ‘date’ for the meeting (I never thought of him as a date, but rather a business partner) casually commented on my lack of ‘eloquence’ that night. He wasn’t being mean, in fact, his comment was rather complementary, because he liked the fact that I had dressed for the meeting rather than cocktails. But I noticed a dramatic element of difference in the cocktail crowd.
There were three varieties of dress in the room:
These were the overdressed drama queens who were dressed to party and had no intent whatsoever to learn anything at the meeting that night. About half the women in the room were in this category, and a good number of men in the room matched their attire in over-the-top tuxedo-style suits, ties, and dress shirts. These lovely folks were dressed to prove their power in the room, imposingly beautiful and well adorned. As much as they ‘stood out’ in their attire, they disappeared into the walls in knowledge, power, and impact. They weren’t the ones who made an impact on the audience. They were there to party and absorb the atmosphere, not the knowledge.
2 – Business Professional
Intent on growing their knowledge, they showed up in business/professional attire, with notepads, pens, and ready to learn. They were determined to soak up the knowledge in the room, and quickly became part of the furniture, waiting for wisdom to soak into their being. Men in this group were dressed as if they were wearing their Sunday suits in the middle of the week. Their positions in the room, the power they brought to the room, and the challenge of learning was readily accepted by them. As their knowledge increased, so did their positions in the room. They ceased to be furniture and became part of the crowd.
3 – Power Mongers
This isn’t a negative statement, but rather a recognition of the pose and power of the third group of people. The biggest factor of this group is that I can’t readily tell you what they were wearing. Their clothing wasn’t of major importance that night, or even now, as I think about the meeting. I have a picture of a group of people; three women and three men. I was one of the women. The other two women were wearing similar attire, one a plaid, pleated skirt with a red button down and a dark blue blazer, her scarf was gold, and she wore a gold chain necklace. The other one was wearing a simple dark red dress with pearls and a black silky jacket. The men in this photo were all wearing black suits, black ties, and white button downs. The key element of the photo, and my memory of the night, is the power of knowledge and information being shared at our table that night.
Notice, I remembered what others were wearing, but I had to go back to the picture to remember what the people at my table were wearing. Clothing didn’t make a difference.
I remember a girl in a lavender dress with ruffles at the skirt and bodice, flowing ruffly sleeves, and super high heels, her hair curly and tumbling down her back – I can’t tell you who she was, or anything about her, except that she was bored silly and kept wanting to leave the meeting. If I met her today, I wouldn’t recognize her, because I can’t remember her face. I don’t know her name.
Oddly enough, the girl I remember most was the one who sat at my table wearing the dark red dress. I literally had to go find her picture to remember what she was wearing. Because in my memory of the night, I would have said she was probably wearing a black and white suit, similar to mine with a narrow skirt. The point it, it wouldn’t have mattered what she was wearing, her power was in the knowledge and impact she made through sharing information.
Looking back, I realize that I’ve spent my lifetime working to be the woman in the red dress. My life intent is to make a difference, to offer knowledge, make an impact, and challenge those in my circle to recognize the power and position from which I speak rather than what I’m wearing or what I look like. Confidence doesn’t come in a frilly lavender dress, but rather in a less memorable dark red dress that frames the knowledge of the girl wearing it.
I want to be the girl in the red dress, making an impact.
What about you? What is your goal position at the meeting? Are you the girl in the lavender dress, or the one in the red dress?
Leave me a comment and tell me which girl is you.
― Michael Jordan