Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer, once said: “Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.”
If you have already reached the point of complete self-acceptance, clear self-determination, and inner peace, you probably don’t need any external confidence boost. But if you are like me (and 99% of the population), you probably do need something to lift you up and give you wings. Sure, Red Bull might be a quick fix. However, you also need a long-term solution that doesn’t increase your heart rate. And who might know better than the always self-assured Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man, AKA Robert Downey Jr?
When he appeared on BBC Radio 1’s “Kids Ask Difficult Questions” segment, he faced some pretty uncomfortable and random questions. One kid flat-out asked, “Do you have a favorite pair of underpants and are you the kind of person like my dad who keeps them on for two days?”
The response from Downey Jr. was both surprising and amusing. “I do,” he said. “I have a pair of Iron Man underpants, and when I’m feeling froggy or like I need a little boost in confidence or I just want a secret, I’ll throw them on.”
Bingo! Have you ever wondered why Robert Downey Jr. is always so confident or has a twinkle in his eyes? Maybe that’s why! But it’s not just a personal quirk. There’s a science to this.
Adam Galinsky, an American social psychologist from Columbia Business School, and Hajo Adam, an organizational psychologist from the University of Bath, introduced the term “enclothed cognition” to describe the influence that clothes have on psychological processes. They studied the symbolic meaning of clothes and the physical experience of wearing them. And the results proved to be very intriguing…
Researchers analyzed the effects of wearing a lab coat, which is generally associated with attentiveness and carefulness. They predicted that wearing a lab coat would increase performance on tasks that require attention. And guess what? It worked!
When people in their study put on a lab coat, it strengthened their selective attention. Moreover, when the subjects wore a lab coat, which was explicitly described as a doctor’s coat, they had better sustained attention. Sustained attention is the ability to focus on an activity or stimulus over a long period of time. People who were asked to wear a lab coat, which was described as a painter’s coat, didn’t perform as well.
So, we should probably incorporate this knowledge into our daily routines. Wear a smart dress or a suit with your best watch if you want to feel like a boss. And then you will naturally start acting like one, like you are in control!
Michael W. Kraus from Yale University and Wendy Berry Mendes from the University of California also looked into this. In their study, they examined how wearing clothes that are normally associated with a certain social class engenders class-consistent behavior and physiology during interactions between two people.
Male participants put on clothing that signaled either upper-class (business-suit) or working class (sweatpants) rank prior to engaging in a negotiation. Their negotiation partners were unaware of the clothing manipulation.
Researchers concluded that “wearing an upper-class business suit increased profits within a competitive negotiation and decreased concessions offered relative to wearing lower-class sartorial symbols.”
In other words, the people in the fancy business suits actually acted like more cutthroat douchebags!
All in all, the findings are interesting, even though these conclusions are kind of uncomfortable. But what we do know is this: You can choose to wear the clothing that makes you the most comfortable and confident.
And if you’re still wondering if one of the sexiest men on Earth wears his special boxers on a repeat basis, here is the answer he gave to the kid in the BBC segment:
“I would never, no offense to your dad, wear them two days in a row,” said Robert Downey Jr. “Though, I think the trend now is that we need to wash things less.”
The Electrolux Group, a leading global appliance company, is spreading the word on more sustainable clothing care habits, too. They now have a “Don’t Overwash” project. They even partnered up with key players from the fashion industry. In their official statement, they also mention that “90% of all clothing is discarded far earlier than needed.”
We all need to find our own fine balance. Just take it one day at a time and have the confidence of a superhero.