How we see the world shapes who we choose to be — and sharing compelling experiences can frame the way we treat each other, for the better. This is a powerful perspective.
I sat in my therapist’s waiting room in my floral mini dress with wedge heels. Today was the day I was going to share something with my therapist that I had never shared with anyone else.
And while I knew I would likely spend most of the session crying, at least I’d be doing it while wearing a cute outfit. It’s the little things.
When I was younger, I couldn’t wait until I was an adult and could wear suits and heels to an office. I always loved dressing up and would do so any chance I got. It made me feel confident and powerful — like I could take on anything.
After college, I learned that office life wasn’t for me. Instead, I spend my days working from home as a freelance writer in comfy pants and big sweatshirts.
But if I know I’m going to be having a particularly stressful day, I still throw on a cute top and jeans. It makes me feel like I can conquer the day and all of the challenges thrown my way.
When I first started going to therapy, I’d show up in my comfy clothes and start rambling the moment I sat down. I’d talk about my week and vent about any problems I was having. But once I started to really trust my therapist, I knew it was time to start opening up and sharing what was really going through my head.
One time, I had a work event after my session and wouldn’t have time to go home and change. So I threw on a little black dress and my pumps and went to see my therapist.
It ended up being a really hard but insightful session. This may sound silly, but afterward, I realized that what I was wearing made a difference.
I went into the session with more confidence (even my therapist commented on this), and this in turn allowed me to open up more and really share with her what was going on. I felt like my head was clearer, and I was able to better communicate my thoughts and emotions.
Sarah Loughlin, who also goes to therapy, agrees. “If I look good, I feel good, and going into a session feeling good is more productive for me than going in with a [terrible] mindset.”
The more I thought about this, the more it makes sense.
For years people have been talking about how dressing up for work can change the way both you and others see yourself. And why should therapy be any different?
If I’m going to sit for an hour sharing my deepest, darkest thoughts, I might as well feel good about myself while doing it.
Plus, this is an hour every week where I get to focus on me. I consider the time spent getting ready for it as part of my self-care routine.
Melanie Sweeney, a mother of three, says that when she was going to therapy, she’d spend a little extra time getting ready because it was the only time she had to really focus on herself.
“Taking more care in dressing well had to do in part with an outward signal (for myself) that it was time to focus on me. It was a similar feeling to dressing for work. It felt like a luxury to think of myself and to mark that time as mine, which was also necessary for the work of therapy.”
Now, I don’t have kids and don’t really have an excuse for not getting dressed in proper clothes every day, but I do spend most of my day answering to others, including my dog.
Dressing up for therapy has now become a habit, and I do it almost every time, even when I’m going through a major depressive episode. I still make sure to tell my therapist exactly how I’m feeling, so that I’m not putting up a front — but putting on a cute dress or a new pair of jeans reminds me that I’m more than just my depression and anxiety.
My younger self probably didn’t have therapy in mind when she dreamed about dressing up and heading to a big, corporate office.
But I’m dressing up and going somewhere where I am working on myself so I can reach all of my goals and live an authentic life. And I think that’s even better.
Allyson Byers is a freelance writer and editor based in Los Angeles who loves writing about anything health-related. You can see more of her work at www.allysonbyers.com and follow her on social media.