Do Women Have A Secret Weapon For Confidence?

Back in 2008, I met with Nikki Pattinson – a straight-talking Yorkshire woman who, once met, is never forgotten. It was the earliest days of my business and we talked about how she could help me to better sell myself (because even a personal brander like me needs added perspective at times).

After we wrapped up and I was about to walk away, she said in her broad accent: “By the way…you could do with wearing some bloody make-up.” I looked puzzled. “But I already have make-up on.” “Well, in that case, you need more of it.”

I went to the ladies and looked at myself in the mirror – and I mean really looked, seeing what Nikki had seen. And I realised that yes, I had make-up on, but it certainly wasn’t creating any impact.

So that night, I went home and dug around in my make-up bag until I found what I was looking for: a red lipstick.

I hadn’t worn it in years, but as soon as I put it on, it felt like I’d become myself again. It’s hard to describe, but it was like I became more comfortable in my own skin and, with that, more confident. (Turned out Nikki had given some great advice.)

Because, when I thought about it, I always used to wear red lipstick. It was back in my early 20s (here’s a photo from my college ID as evidence*), when I was full of youthful self-assurance and sassiness:

So I figured, ‘If wearing red lippy makes me feel more confident, why not carry on doing it?” It’s been a constant of my professional look ever since (along with red nail polish to match).

I want to make it clear though…

I’m not saying women have to wear make-up to give them confidence.

What I am saying is if, like me, your confidence benefits from wearing make-up, because it helps you feel like who you really are, think about tapping into that secret weapon. After all, personal branding is all about being yourself and, like any good brand, presenting the best version of that to others.

It’s not just me who seems to benefit from the confidence-boosting powers of make-up though.

Here’s the science bit…

A recent study has shown that women who put on make-up before taking a test achieved higher marks than those who did not wear any – between 10 – 20% higher.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Chieti University in Italy enlisted the help of 200 female undergraduates, all studying the same subject with similar self-esteem, make-up habits and IQs.

The women were randomly split into three groups and asked to put on make-up, listen to music, or draw. All then took an exam based on a chapter of a textbook they had just read. Results showed the women who used cosmetics scored an average of 24.2 out of 30, compared to 19.9 and 22 out of 30 in the other groups.

Psychologists say the result could be down to the ‘lipstick effect’, whereby using make-up boosts self-esteem and has a knock-on effect on memory, confidence and mental ability. As one researcher commented, “Women may use make-up to increase self-esteem by boosting their attractiveness; this makes them feel better during stress. Positive emotions increase information accessible in memory.”

How can you tap into this secret weapon?

Well, if you’re a bloke, maybe not as easily as us females. But if you’re a woman, I’d try asking yourself these three questions:

1) Think back through your life – all the way back as far as you can clearly remember. When are the times you felt really confident?

2) Was part of that confidence down to how you looked?

3) Do you have elements of that look giving you confidence today? If not, how could you re-introduce them? (Bearing in mind you’re not the same age so may have to adapt them to better suit.)

The way I see it: if something as simple as wearing some lipstick can boost your confidence, why not do it?

Ladies: do you agree that wearing make-up gives you more confidence? Gents: What secret weapon do you have as an equivalent? (Appreciating make-up doesn’t have to be gender specific.) I’d love it if you’d add your own insight with a comment below.

*Don’t pretend you don’t have an equally embarrassing photo from that time in your life

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