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A Dress, Stress & Success

Did anyone ever tell you to dress a certain way if you were going for a job interview? The term "dress for success" is advice that's been handed down forever (or, at least for a very long time) to anyone who wants to get a good job. First impressions often do count -- a lot. It could be that a very qualified person might be overlooked based on how they look. It might be that a person who is desperate for a job just can't afford a nice outfit. To address that, Nancy Lublin started Dress for Success ( in 1995. As the internet states, they are a "global, non-profit organization that promotes economic independence of women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life." I think it deals with a need in a wonderful way.

This past week, however, the phrase "stress for success" popped onto my radar. I can imagine that not having any clothes that look good for meeting a prospective employer would be stressful, but I wonder if we put too much pressure on ourselves regarding our capabilities and also, how much we think we deserve to have things work out well?!?

Having facilitated 8-week stress management programs in a clinical setting for several years, I know that stress can really mess up our lives. I've also seen people who seem to wear their stress like a "badge of courage". There's something in society that actually supports being and staying stressed. Imagine telling people at a party that you need at least 8-9 hours of sleep every night. Now, picture hearing someone say that they can never seem to get more than 4 or 5 hours of sleep because their life is just soooo crazy. Initially, more people would probably find the sleep-deprived zombie more interesting. Even more fascinating is how much more important we feel the more stressed we are. As if taking care of ourselves isn't something we qualify for unless we've earned it, somehow.

Since I'm from New England (and, Boston, no less!), I have a feeling it's all a throw-back to those dang Puritans. The harder and more miserable things were (or, at least that's the way they've been portrayed), the better. Even as life got easier and there was room for more pleasure, we somehow got the impression that it was more "noble" to struggle. Well, I have good news ... it's really awesome to let go of the over-achieving, pressure and anxiety. As this week's Pleasure Point recommended, Relax, get in the flow and let the good times roll.

I'll give you some examples from my life currently in a rural area of southern Oregon:

  • As much as I love a great gel manicure, it would be very stressful to keep up with that out here. Instead, I'm keeping my nails short, rubbing wonderful creams and oils into my hands and cuticles every night, and even painting my nails with one coat of a shiny polish once a week. My hands and nails look and feel great.

  • I found my full-time job at a hospital to be too stressful for the quality of life I craved. Now, I've discovered I can work part-time and still do many of the things that are really important to me, like visit my daughter in Oregon for a month.

  • In the mentoring part of my career, I used to stress out (a lot!) about helping people. Part of the stress was that I thought I had to be perfect at whatever I did, said, or how I looked. As I'm letting that go and recognizing what I have to offer is simple and valid, I'm able to help others move forward.

The next time you find yourself in "stress for success" mode, notice how it feels. Then, take a couple of deep breaths, step out of that stress, figure out just your next step, and trust that you've got it.


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About the Author




Barbara L Cummings, MS, RN

the Mindful Maven and Mistress of Meditation, is a sassy Queen-ager, mentor, confidante and trusted guide who provides people with everyday life support. 

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