How You Look = What You Are?

Visitor's Question from a 13-15 year old Female
how does the way you look make you what you are? Advice
This sounds like the sort of thing a parent says to a kid when they want the kid to start dressing differently :) It's the sort of thing I love thinking about though, so here's the long answer :)

You don't live in isolation. The way you are is heavily influenced by those around you - your family, friends and culture. Let's assume you're female just so I don't have to say his/her all the time, but this works just the same if you're male. So say you're a female and grew up in religious Iran, raised to believe that you should not be seen by men, should be quiet and dutiful, and should marry and have kids when you turned 18. You probably would hit 18 and assume you were then going to marry and have kids, because it had been drummed into your skull from birth.

If you grew up in the US and were raised by a free-loving Californian couple, and taught to wear shorts and halter tops and to love freely, then you would probably hit 18 after having many boyfriends and running around in little clothing, and being quite happy with that. And if you then brought those two 18 year old girls together and asked them to look at each other, both would be pretty horrified at what the other was like.

So, one of the most important things a person can decide is how they are going to be, and how they are going to present themselves to the world, regardless of what MTV or other culture is hammering into their head. What do YOU want to be when you are an adult. Because, again, we don't live on islands. We live within a culture. So say you choose to dress very conservatively, always wearing neat clothes, knee-length or longer skirts/pants, demure tops. You will probably be perceived by most people as 'respectable'. Maybe some would think, "A decent girl that I'd like to get to know' and some would think "a boring girl that doesn't party." It all depends what group of people you're with at the time. But you are definitely categorized by how you dress.

So then say you dress in a very sexual manner, with see-through blouses and short-shorts. One group of people will think, "Wow, fun! An easy sex toy!" and another group will think, "Ick, slime, she's probably been with all sorts of guys."

The type of people you don't appeal to will tend to stay away. So you won't get their influence. The type of people you tend to appeal to will be drawn to you. So you'll be influenced by them. So the more you dress a certain way, the more you attract people who like the 'attitude' you're portraying, and the more you'll be denied the influence of the 'other side'. So you without even realizing it become more and more a certain way, because that attitude is being continually, subtly, reinforced in your brain. So now you no longer are choosing your own path through life - it's being forced on you by the people who thought you were like them, because of how you dressed.

In the end, YOU should choose for yourself what sort of person you want to be. Hopefully you want to be treated as an adult, you want to be enjoyed as a friend, have good friends, have people trust you and enjoy talking to you. Sometimes people think the ONLY way they can have those things is by dressing sexually. But really, sexual power is all about your *attitude*. Look back through old movies and see how incredibly sexy some women are. It's not about the clothes they wear. It's about how they act and speak and project their self image. They're sexy because they *feel* sexy and are confident.

Your clothes should accentuate your good features and play down your bad features. But they should also appeal to the group of people who you really feel will help you become the best person you can be. Because in the end, you only have one life, and it is YOU who has to live that life. If you end up being used as a sex toy or damaging your body with serious drugs, you're the one who lives with the damage you've done for the rest of your life. Nobody else does.

-- from Jenn
One of Your Friendly Advisors at

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