When I was a young woman studying in Italy I remember a merchant selling me—of all things—a red silk turban. “Ma Signorina, ti fa’ bellissima”, he gasped, hands clutched together as if a holy apparition had driven him to prayer. I had never worn a turban before—or any other hat for that matter, other than the woolen cap that kept the New England frost from biting my ears in the winter. But with a reaction such as his, I thought he might have been on to something important.
“How many lire did you say this costs?” Whatever it was, if it had really made me that beautiful , I was in, and here is my wallet.
“No need for a bag, just cut the tags, I will wear it out of the store.” With straightened spine, shoulders back, and a graceful proud sway, I strode out into the main via of the town I was living in and much to my surprise, I saw more heads turn than had ever happened to me before. My day began to suddenly get lucky. A local artist began frantically sketching me and then gave me the gift of his labor. A young Italian gentleman with eyes like the midday sky in June asked me if I’d like to meet him later on for a dance. A fruit vendor thought I looked as beautiful as the ripe apricots he was selling and insist I take a few, gratis, on him. It was as if I had put a genie’s lamp on my head. I began looking people in the eye and greeting them with a smile. I got the courage to go up to one of my professors and ask that he go over the parts of the lesson I hadn’t quite understood. Friends were vying for my company, offering me concert tickets or promising the gelato later on would be on them. What was going on?
Certainly when I found a mirror that night and looked at myself in the sky-high red turban, I couldn’t help but be mortified at how ludicrous I looked. Could everyone else have been putting me on, egging me along, making a joke out of me? Could they have possible seen me as more attractive with that monstrosity on my head? Or was I the one interacting with the world differently?
As it turns out, economists at the University of Verona actually studied the phenomenon of beauty and productivity. Research shows that students rate attractive professors as more effective, and more attractive students also seem to get better grades. Was it discrimination, or something else? We all know about the self-fulfilling prophecy—the fact that what people expect of others usually becomes a reality. A body of research also shows that more attractive individuals are seen as having a myriad of good qualities, and this “halo effect” drives how others treat them.
Researchers Cipriani and Zago, however, make a strong case for the effect of self-confidence on productivity. When a person feels more attractive, they behave more confidently, and people react to them differently. Because I believed that the red turban gave me elegance, beauty, stateliness—all of the qualities the merchant promised me it did, I carried that belief around with me all day, and the result was nothing short of amazing.
I often stress the importance of looking your best in my workshops and presentations. It is not about trying to impress others as much as it is about feeling good about the way you look to yourself. Why? Because doing so will make you confident, more productive, and each day now has the potential for a victory! Now go take off that turban (and I will, too)
Raeleen D’Agostino Mautner, Ph.D.
•2013 ACIM (American Italian Committee on Migration) HUMANITARIAN AWARD. OCT 27TH NOON AT ANTHONY’S OCEAN VIEW. For Invitations: RAELEENMAUTNER@GMAIL.COM
•National OSIA (Order of the Sons and Daughters of Italy in America) Summer 2013 Book Club Selection for LEMONS INTO LIMONCELLO: FROM LOSS TO PERSONAL RENAISSANCE WITH THE ZEST OF ITALY (HCI BOOKS)
•”Living la Dolce Vita:Bring the Passion, Laughter, and Serenity of Italy into Your Daily Life” (Sourcebooks)
•”Lemons into Limoncello: From Loss to Personal Renaissance with the Zest of Italy” (HCI Books)
http://raeleenmautner.com (linked to The New Haven Register Blog)
“The ITALIAN Art of Living Well” on WNHU 88.7FM or live stream http://www.wnhu.net, Mondays at 7AM
The Italian Tribune
MEETUP GROUP ORGANIZER for ITALIAN LANGUAGE AND CULTURE LOVERS: