General Question

keobooks's avatar

Does mindful grooming really matter that much?

Asked by keobooks (12293 points ) November 8th, 2011

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve had untreated ADHD most of my life and even after getting treated, I’ve had a rough time finding drugs that work well. I’ve finally found a good combination of treatments working for me and I’m starting to recover from a lifetime of being inattentive of details.

I’ve suffered almost my entire life from having people seem to instantly dislike me for no reason I could figure out. I was talking to a councilor about this and for the first time, I got a straight answer.

She noticed that my shirt was on inside out and commented that I always have one or two things “off” about the way I dressed.

I knew what she was talking about. I almost always end up out the door with something on inside out or backwards. I’ve almost always mismatched socks because I couldn’t find a pair. My husband frequently comments that I wear colors that don’t go together or patterns that clash. He’s right, because I’ve heard it before.

I don’t wear dirty stuff, but I have worn stuff that probably should have been ironed. Part of ADHD for me is about clumsiness, so I used to spill things on myself on a daily basis. This is thankfully going away.

It’s so strange because I NEVER notice when people make dressing blunders. I assumed that if I didn’t notice, nobody else did. I had no idea that people may be treating me like I’m dirty and trashy because of the way I dress.

Do people really notice this stuff? Is it really possibly a reason that I’ve been shunned since about 4th grade onwards?

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35 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Yes, I have the opposite problem in that I am hyper-vigilant. Have you seen the commercial where the man is being interviewed for a job and he has a stain on his shirt? The interviewer can’t stop staring at the stain and does not even hear what the man is saying.

People do notice.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Mom, is that you?

Yes, really it matters because most people do notice when stuff’s awry. I can’t imagine anyone would treat you badly because of a little of kilter stuff though but maybe they do because my sister dresses like this (on purpose) as is teased horribly by people who have no idea she is actively going for that look.

flo's avatar

@keobooks It is unfortunate but people do notice things like that.
@marinelife Lynn Redgrave related clips in that link. There is a picture of someone wearing shoes with holes etc. but I don’t see an interview.

Coloma's avatar

I think that getting EXCITED about looking your best is a good thing.
Yes, people DO notice, and usually, when I notice someone looking unkempt and sloppy I do, sadly, tend to make a snap jugement. Usually assuming they are depressed or of low self esteem.

You don’t have to dress to the nines, but you should at least try to care about your physical presentation.

Maybe enlist a trusted friend to help you choose some outfits that you can put together.

keobooks's avatar

Thanks for these answers. It’s not the ONLY minus I need to work on, but it was the first thing I thought I’d tackle. It may be fixable with a checklist for me to go through when I get dressed.

There are some other things not so easy to fix – like there are basic social skills that I’ve never really mastered since I was likely not aware enough to pick up on them. I sometimes get over-excited or talk too much or I don’t notice when other people have long gotten bored. She also said that ADHD people tend to constantly forget to do things they promised to do, and seem to always make excuses for not doing things so it makes it seem like we don’t care.

I was so freaking embarrassed because I’ve never mentioned those things, but it was like she was reading several of my old bosses’ minds!

This dressing goal seems like the most objective and easiest goal for self improvement that I can just pick up and either do it or not do it.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@keobooks: Are you good with a routine if you fixate on it? I know several ADHD people and a few of them make themselves lists, typed up and printed out kind they can modify as time goes on.

JLeslie's avatar

Yes, people notice. I hesitate to say that people in the medical community many times assess it as part of an illness, psychological illness. I hesitate because I would not want you to get so paranoid about how people evaluate these things that you put extreme pressure on yourself to conform. I know someone who has become this way about appearance and keeping her house neat, she is so concerned about how she will be judged if one thing is out of place she is neurotic about it in my opinion, and I think she causes herself harm. She is a nervous wreck about so much now, not just how she dresses and maintains her apartment, but many things. Extremes are always bad.

Maybe just try to give yourself more time to get dressed, even plan your outfit for tomorrow the night before, and check yourself in a full length mirror before you walk out the door. Stick with either your top, or bottom, or both being a solid, so things are easier to coordinate. I wore all one color, monochromatic, a lot when I worked. Suits, skirt and blouse, basically like a uniform, and I worked in fashion. Funny we in fashion were often in all black trying to convince people of the new “looks” they should be spending their money on.

I commend you on taking the information about your appearance and trying to adjust it. Really shows great initiative. I have someone very close to me who should work on this, they understand it matters to most people, but he jates that people judge others regarding something sp superficial, and so he still does not concentrate on it enough, especially now that he is retired. When he worked his work clothes were typical male required work clothes so it was easy enough to conform. It is much harder for women in my opinion, especially now that many offices are business casual.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I suggest you buy a cheap mirror and attached it near the door. You can look at yourself just before you walk out of the house.and ask yourself these 3 questions:
Is everything clean and stain free?
Are clothes right side out?
Are all buttons buttoned?
This quick check will take 30 seconds. It’s well worth the time..

Congratulations! You are on your way!

JLeslie's avatar

But, give yourself more than 30 seconds in case you need to change or reverse something.

bkcunningham's avatar

I also commend you @keobooks. One day at a time. But to be honest, I rarely notice someone’s appearance. My husband is astounded when I’ve talked to someone and relate something they have said to him and he makes a comment about their appearance and I have a blank look on my face.

Just because I don’t notice doesn’t mean others don’t. I know they do. I went to the pool this afternoon just to sit and chat. I wasn’t going to swim. When I got there, I noticed the front of my T-shirt was dirty. I worked this morning cleaning and forgot to change. I have been all over town and talking to neighbors in a dirty T-shirt. Oh, well.

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JilltheTooth's avatar

Here is the video that I think @marinelife referred to. I am like you, @keobooks , in that I don’t see and often don’t notice. My mother (who is mostly blind, BTW) finds it necessary to tell me that I embarrass her by looking like “an ignorant vagrant”. If I concentrate for specific events I can dress properly, but day to day I never look quite right.

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LuckyGuy's avatar

Mindful grooming can also be a postivie distraction. If someone is very well dressed and made up I tend to notice that too. For me, a good looking woman woman displaying cleavage.will break my concentration just as much as a talking stain on an shirt worn inside out.
Balance is key. Fortunately, the spectrum is very wide and the just-right target is easy to hit.

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keobooks's avatar

I think finding this out has been a revelation. I don’t feel like noticing sloppy grooming is shallow. Or if it is, it’s just as valid as the things I do notice in others. It was just something that I never noticed before.

It’s actually a relief. I thought for years that I was just putting out “bad vibes” or that people were detecting some sort of inner ugliness that I couldn’t possibly fathom or fix. Now it’s like.. that’s not so bad. It’s going to take a while to work on for me, but at least it will be possible.

@Neizvestnaya keeping a routine is really tough for me. Even if I fixate, it can only be for short periods of time. If something goes off kilter, the system collapses. I am assuming as I learn more coping skills that I will improve. I am also going to just work on one or two things at a time so I don’t feel overwhelmed by having to constantly work on things.

@JLeslie I don’t I will EVER go to that extreme. I am just getting to understand that brushing my hair with an actual brush instead of my fingers really does matter. It feels more like a relief than an extra burden. All I have to do is stop losing my brush.

JLeslie's avatar

@keobooks the person I spoke of who has gone to the other extreme is in the health care profession herself, so she hears the remarks that group makes about patients. She has her own insecurities and hate about growing up in a messy house, so her situations is a perfect storm.

It’s actually a relief. I thought for years that I was just putting out “bad vibes” or that people were detecting some sort of inner ugliness that I couldn’t possibly fathom or fix. Now it’s like.. that’s not so bad. It’s going to take a while to work on for me, but at least it will be possible.

This is a reminder to me about something I have only learned in the last few years. Many times when people don’t tell the truth to someone, because they fear it will hurt their feelings, we are actually doing the opposite. Witholding the information many times causes more pain and suffering. The therapist being direct with you about this has actually made you feel better. Thanks for sharing this, it was a great questions. Let us know how it goes. I think your attitude is great.

marinelife's avatar

@flo I apologize. Here is the correct link.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] This is our Question of the Day!

augustlan says: It does matter, but you can do this, girl! My husband is very much like you, @keobooks, and would never notice his shirt was on inside out unless I told him. I help him out by making sure that his shirts are right-side out before they ever get in the drawer. Can you enlist your husband’s help in making sure you look ‘presentable’?

tedibear's avatar

Here’s a random thought… how about a “uniform”? For example, buy yourself some simply styled khaki, black, grey and blue pants. (Or skirts if you prefer.) Then, get tops that will go with those colors, which should be almost anything with those bottoms choices. Somewhere on the inside hem or tag of each shirt, use a laundry marker to mark which pants they match. “G” for grey, “BL” for blue and whatnot. Enlist the help of your husband or a friend if you’re not sure about the colors. (And for those days that you’re home, I’ll bet the baby won’t care if you’re in jeans!)

And I agree with @JLeslie, you have a wonderful attitude about this!

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I like what @tedibear suggests, kind of Geranimals but for adults.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@keobooks I don’t know what other think about this but right now, I feel like giving you a congratulatory hug! It seems like a light was just turned on at your house.
So many good ideas were presented – and you get it! I love your willingness to consider them!

Please, oh please, let us know how it works for you.

keobooks's avatar

I do have one question. I trust you guys more than me. I get kind of depressed when I think of wearing nothing but khakis and solid colors forever. I LOVE bright colors and even though they may look clashy, I like the way that some patterns look. I like stripes and florals. I like big wild colorful messes. They make me happy just to look at them.

But I can see that because I don’t properly brush my hair, iron, make sure things are on properly, that it may look accidental rather than deliberate. It may add to the disheveled look.

So if I get really good at being careful and making sure everything else is in place, would people forgive my colors? I can agree that looking tidy is important, but I’d feel like a plucked peacock if I had to wear a uniform of blah.

I think @tedibear has an awesome idea. Don’t get me wrong. I think it will help. But I would like to be able to put together some of my “crazy” outfits.

I dress my daughter in outfits that are “wrong” but people really like them. I mix pajamas with day clothes. I put on winter and summer layers. I mismatch her socks but they still match her outfit. She wears 3 different kinds of stripes. People really like it and say she always looks like a little artist. I love looking at pictures of her and she’s a little wild rainbow.

So if I was careful about the basic stuff, do you think people would forgive my eccentric color ideas?

JilltheTooth's avatar

@keobooks : Because I’m a hard fit, in the summer I make my own pants from a very simple pattern. I use the most wild and outrageous and goofy cotton prints I can find, and I wear them with little knit solid color tops. It brands me as “quirky” but everybody loves them, if they’re wrinkled nobody can see (I know I own an iron…somewhere…) and the knits don’t wrinkle. The only problem is that I often wear what I eat, and my rack catches everything and my shoes are thus protected. Since spills tend to happen in the middle of my chest, a pair of shades artfully hooked into the neck covers a lot of blunders. Wear your wild things, just get a trusted friend to help you with the combos.

JLeslie's avatar

One solution is what I suggested above, wear a solid pant/skirt and a patterned top. Mixing patterns is really tricky. You can be bright and colorful. The trick is to wear a solid that is in the pattern. So if blue is in the pattern wear a solid blue pant. You can also usually wear black or khaki with almost any pattern.

I think being bright near your face might satisfy your desire for bright and patterns enough? What do you think?

keobooks's avatar

It may be enough. I think I’m not quite ready to judge. I will be more conservative until I get everything else more under control.

Right now though, I feel sad about making any sort of compromise about color. But that could just be a stubborn thing. I know people love it in my daughter, but that could be because she’s a toddler.

JLeslie's avatar

@keobooks I understand the need for color. I don’t have that at all regarding clothes, but I do have a need for it at work. I hate working in a building that has grey walls. When my husband started at hisn ew job, the first times I went to the office I said, “ugh why don’t they make the halls more colorful?” His reply, “they just renovated a few months ago.” Beige and grey, blah. Meanwhile my house is very beige. Makes no sense maybe?

augustlan's avatar

@keobooks You can definitely still wear patterns and colors. Just have someone help you make ‘outfits’ out of your clothes, so you know what goes together. I’d hate to see all of your personality fade from your wardrobe!

tedibear's avatar

@keobooks – I thought of that later, sorry! You can get patterned/floral/striped tops to go with solid bottoms. You could get a fuschia (sp?) and lime green floral top and still wear it with a black skirt. And don’t forget that if you’re going to wear a skirt, there are all kinds of fun patterned tights out there. And shoes… fun shoes can help you feel more colorful too. I think you’re a lot of fun and I’d hate for that to not shine through.

augustlan's avatar

Oh, yeah… shoes, purses, and jewelry are great ways to introduce off-beat colors, too.

zensky's avatar

@marinelife Link is to a blog. I didn’t see the commercial.

BBawlight's avatar

I’ve never been too good with style before. I just like to throw on something comfortable and go to school. I’ve never cared if my clothes match or not, but somehow I can always pull off a disheveled look. I wear the weirdest things, but always look good in them. I’m not a fan of colors but I love to layer striped long sleeves and a t-shirt. I always get it right. I’m not myself until about 11:30 A.M. I forget to use the bathroom and eat breakfast when I wake up. You can’t say I’m not clean, though. I don’t really notice this stuff because I don’t really care half the time anyway. As long as I’m clean, I’m fine and so are other people.

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