Dressing Your Best, Inside Out

05 Jan 2017

By: Natalie Tully

Every year after the post-midnight New Year’s celebrations wind down, we each start the all-too familiar process of declaring resolutions for the coming twelve months. In that spirit, I hope to explore ideas (most old, but perhaps a few you haven’t heard) and encourage some of you to put on your best self in 2017- mind, body, and wardrobe.
Dressing your best-literally
Fair warning: most of my clothing is sportswear and I prefer the DMV and the Dentist to going clothes shopping. That said, this is something I struggle with but have found strategies that result in me feeling more confident in professional situations without excessive strain.

  1. Err on the Conservative-Yes, you’ve heard this ad nauseum, but no matter your career stage or if it’s an interview, clinic, or social event, you never want your clothing to distract from you. If you question your outfit’s appropriateness, either change or double check with someone else. You don’t have to wear a Muumuu, but do focus on well-fitting clothes that present a great you.
  2. Comfort adds to Confidence- Feeling comfortable in your clothes can help you feel comfortable in your own skin and contribute to your overall confidence. Finding clothes that fit you and your style comfortably can help you to feel at ease. If you’re not the type to define ‘your style’ (I call mine Gym Clothes Chic), finding a few pieces that you love can be a great way to dip your toes in the water.
  3. Form, but Function- Whether it’s shoes, a skirt, or any other piece of clothing, you should like the way it looks, and looks on you. One caveat to that, however, is that it’s important to balance that form with functionality- probably most notably with shoes.

These are some themes that help me to feel professional and confident without sacrificing my femininity. If you’re looking for more specific fashion advice, particularly for interview apparel there is a great blog post at Love and The Sky covering this topic.
Putting your best foot forward
Putting on your best self goes much deeper than your clothing-and one important facet of dressing your best is taking care of the body wearing the clothes. The demanding schedule of this field can make it challenging and sometimes impossible to maintain a diet and exercise routine-but giving your body a leg up where possible can have wide-ranging benefits.

  1. Small Steps to Bigger Change-Whether it’s taking the stairs in the hospital, adding an extra block to your evening walk, or playing tag with your kids or pets-exercise does not have to take place in the gym or on the running trail. What is most important is not the duration, intensity or frequency of your exercise-but simply doing it.
  2. Fuel your Success-3am graham cracker and peanut butter sandwiches washed down with coffee or juice are a reality of this field. Eating better can range from meal prepping on a day off, having one whole-food-only day a week, or even just replacing one candy bar with an apple-little changes add up. Find the modifications that fit in with your life and needs, and you will likely find them more palatable to maintain.
  3. The Pizza and Couch Cleanse-This is the part where you forget those two previous points briefly. When your body needs a break, listen. Everyone gets sick, has sleepless nights, or can even be injured- give your body a chance to heal before making it worse. Additionally, enjoy the foods you love, and when you honestly don’t have the energy to cook, don’t-forcing healthy food and cooking on yourself will make you hate them.

Our bodies are the machines that we use to make our work and lives happen, so it only makes sense to keep them in the best working order possible. This is a time of year when many people are looking to change their bodies, but shooting for improved wellness over a dress size or scale number is a far more important goal.
Your most important look is your outlook
The start of the year is always a little bittersweet for me-it represents the return to work/school and the stress that it and the tasks ahead in the year bring. Battling stress and negativity is a constant challenge-one I struggle with mightily-but the way you see into the mirror is the foundation of how others see everything on the outside.

  1. Breathe, just breathe- Taking even a few seconds at the beginning of the day, during stressful moments, or in the car at home can be profoundly beneficial in dealing with acutely stressful situations as well as dampening general stress. Building this habit into your daily routine is a great change by itself or as part of building a meditation practice.
  2. Check your boxes, fill your buckets-All of us have seemingly endless to-do lists-it’s so important not to feel enslaved or entrapped by them. Give yourself credit for accomplishing each task, and use it to build toward successive tasks in your day (H/T to this speech). Use this momentum to get through your day, but keep track of your mental ‘buckets’ so that you can find ways to replenish your stores.
  3. Small bricks build big buildings-It’s so easy to let little failures chip away at our confidence and spirit, forcing us to put on a defensive front simply to survive. Allow yourself infinitesimally small victories, and use them to reassure yourself in times of doubt and to build a stronger foundation for your own sense of well-being.

A very wise person once told me never to give rent-free space in your head to anyone or anything. Working toward a more positive outlook and sense of self are critical steps to creating a stable framework on which to build a healthy body and perch clothes that add to your positive image and confidence, and contribute to putting on your best, most well self for this new year.

headshotNatalie is a 2nd year MD/MPH student at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock, TX. Before starting medical school, she received her bachelors of science degree at the University of Texas at Austin followed by two years working in basic science research at Baylor College of Medicine. Natalie hopes to pursue a career in surgery, and has particular interest in applying her dual degree in Pediatric or Trauma Surgery. In her free time, she enjoys running, cooking, and playing with her dog, Sadie.
Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.

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