No, I'm not suggesting you go full Snowden. Though it may not get as much press, hacking can actually be a positive when used as a means to self-optimization. Why be a hacker? Often used in relation to computer programmers, hackers creatively overcome limitations by creating work-arounds and constantly pushing the boundaries of what's possible. In short, hacking is about excellence -- it's clever, intentional, and playful. So what better place to apply the hacker ethic than to your image?
One of the best things about hacking is its emphasis on being scrappy -- not fancy. As with most key elements of a successful image, the real differentiators are in the small details, not the debt-inducing handbags. Here are 5 affordable, easy, hoodie-free hacks everyone can use for an instant image-boost:
1. Put on a scarf: No matter the season, no matter the occasion, scarves are the fastest way to make whatever you're wearing into "an outfit." They add sophistication and panache, while also serving a practical purpose (don't discount scarves in the summer -- air conditioning can be brutal in offices and restaurants!).
2. Shine your shoes: For only $5 (or free, if you find working over your footwear therapeutic), you can literally add a dollop of polish to your facade. Shoe shines makes everything your wearing appear refreshed -- just via proximity. Plus, scuffed, dull looking shoes instantly detract from even the most pulled-together ensemble.
3. Apply a little gloss: A hint of shine or a touch of color on your lips brightens your appearance and lifts your entire image, regardless of how tired or unattractive you may feel at the moment. it's cheap, quick, and easy to take with you wherever you go. Yes, this one is catered primarily toward the women -- though men do well with well-moisturized lips, too.
4. Wear a signature scent: We are multi-sensory creatures, and image perception doesn't begin and end with our eyes. Scent is our strongest sense, and it's most closely linked with memory -- which means creating a lasting impression is integrally tied to the way you smell. Don't overpower your audience, but find a subtle scent that works with your body chemistry and make that a key part of how you self-present everyday.
5. Smile: Sound too easy? Maybe, but that doesn't mean it isn't powerful. Next time you aren't feeling confident about your body or the day's outfit, practice a little "fake it til you make it" and slap on a big grin. I promise that's what everyone will react to and remember, far more than the stain on your blouse.
How do you hack your image? Tell me in the comments below!