first impressions in 100 ms
what’s with the white table?
With the recent closure of our space in Washington, DC, I have been doing some serious introspection as to how to take Own Your Wonder forward in a way that serves our clients in a meaningful way and fulfill our mission. I recently had a social distance coffee with one of my favorite photographers, Eden, who worked with many of our clients for their headshots. When I told her about what I’ve been trying to figure out, she reminded me, “you know, Own Your Wonder has never been about just makeup…” So then, what is OYW about and how do we shape it in this brave new world?
Well, this is why I’m starting a newsletter. To explore and challenge ideas relating to women in the workplace (and home) and showing up for ourselves. So, welcome - pull up a chair and join me!
Why is this called the WhiteTable? For those of you who have been to our DC space may recall that the centerpiece of the room used to be a white table, where I used to sit and chat with customers while they got their makeup done. This used to be my favorite part of running Own Your Wonder - getting to know each and every customer. In fact, a few customers who have run into me in the neighborhood would say, “hey, I recognize you - you’re that lady sitting at the white table chatting away!” So, in the spirit of continuing that dialogue through this newsletter, I have called this the WhiteTable.
According to a study conducted by Princeton University, people make judgments about the person they first meet - attractiveness, likeability, trustworthiness, competence, and aggressiveness - after a 100 millisecond exposure to his or her face. That’s crazy, right? Even though I find this incredulous, I also recognize the importance of first impressions and visual presence, not just in a social setting but also in a professional, work environment.
These days, first impression is a strange concept, especially if you spend a significant amount of time on video calls. There is no handshake and close eye-contact to validate (or modify) that 100 millisecond judgement, nor is there any live background to put us in a greater context. Across the screen, one millisecond seems to last the entire meeting, where we are judging the speaker and ourselves as part of an extended first impression. In fact, do you ever find yourself maniacally switching back and forth between looking at the speaker and checking yourself out (and criticizing every single blemish you see) during a video call?
Our self-image is a starting point on how we think about the first impression people have of us. I recently saw on LinkedIn a very popular post with two pictures side by side: one was a polished (and glam) headshot and the other one was of the same woman in casual clothing with her hair tied in a ponytail, looking tired but with a beaming smile. The author of the post wrote that she switched her profile picture from the glossy photo to the other one because the latter reflected her true self these days (to which I completely relate). Thousands of people applauded her for being “real” and for going against the mainstream beauty standard.
This got me thinking about the idea of authenticity and whether we need to commit to just one idea of self-image. Do we really? I think many people would agree that their self-image is represented on a spectrum rather than just one moment-in-time photo. For me, when I’m in the WFH mode, it feels liberating not to wear any makeup and seeing my naked face, though I would be lying if I told you that I fully embrace my natural look with all my dark spots and rapidly diminishing eye brows. On the other hand, when I motivate myself to get back to my morning ritual of 5 minute makeup routine, even if it’s just a tinted moisturizer and brow pencil, I feel like I have a sense of control over my day. And, it is so rare that I feel this sense of control these days. Makeup can be a tool to represent this dynamic idea we have of ourselves without buying into the idea that women should look “natural” without seeming like we put in the effort (more on this later!).
what’s your wonder?
In each newsletter, I will ask one of our community members what their super power is and how they take care of themselves. I’ll kick it off this week.
What’s your Wonder?
I am a relentless and naive optimist!
How do you self-care (or wish you did)?
Thanks to one of our fantastic makeup artists, William, I recently learned that a tiny bit of concealer and powder foundation can go a long way in coverage (especially for those video calls) and takes less than 2 minutes to apply.
These days, I’m trying really hard to switch my phone off at least 10 minutes before I go to bed and do some stretching and breathing exercise instead.
In an ideal world, I would do 10 minutes of daily meditation with my favorite app, but I somehow can’t seem to find those precious 10 minutes!
Thanks for reading and feel free to pass it along to your friends and family!