During my last job, a few coworkers and I participated in a charity fashion show. At the staff meeting the Monday after the show, one of the board members remarked how my coworkers and I did such a good job. Then he looked at me and said, “Zina, you looked so good I didn’t even recognize you.”

Immediately realizing his faux pas, he tried to backtrack.

I wasn’t hurt or upset, but I clearly needed to try something new. During the fashion show, the makeup artist had put me on a bright pink lipstick, a shade I’d never buy for myself. I also wore a pink minidress, and despite feeling self-conscious, I realized that I was done being timid with my fashion choices. I was going to be bold.

Once I Finally Tried It

For years I’ve admired girls who wore bright lipstick. One of my coworkers wore red lipstick daily, and I’d see my friends regularly wear it at parties. “That works for them,” I thought. “It’s just not for me.”

I’d tried red lipstick before. One time I asked a MAC associate to let me sample a shade. I wasn’t a big fan. A half hour later, my friend said I should go look in the mirror. I’d been absentmindedly rubbing my lips and that crimson hue was all over my face.

I decided to brush off that incident and headed to the drugstore to pick up a shade of NYX lip cream. My coworkers immediately loved it and after a few days, I got used to my new bright accessory.

At the next board meeting, I reapplied my lipstick before heading upstairs. I delivered a killer presentation and my boss joked that my lipstick was a talisman bringin me good luck.

What I Learned

Red lipstick is more than luck. Studies have shown that what we wear affects how we feel about ourselves. If we wear unflattering sweatpants, we won’t feel the same as if we wore a dress that hugs our curves. So if you feel sluggish, wearing heels and a pencil skirt can change your mood.

When you wear something like red lipstick, you show confidence in yourself. If you project confidence in your appearance, it will come out in your abilities. Red lipstick won’t make me an astrophysicist, but it will help me deliver a presentation on something I already know.

During my adventures with red lipstick, I’ve realized that people admire bravery most of all. We want to see people be their authentic selves. When I see a girl rocking a crop top, I give her props. I’m proud of anyone not afraid to try something new and different.

Not only are people not judging you in their heads, they’re most likely wishing they had your courage.

How I Dress Now

Wearing red lipstick has taught me that I can pull off a lot of things I once doubted. In the last few months, I’ve bought floral-patterned jeans, a pair of bright mustard tights and an olive green shirt I was sure would wash me out.

I even bought watermelon-colored lipstick a few weeks ago, despite my fear of wearing a bright pink color. I constantly try outfits I would’ve avoided just a year ago, and my comfort zone has expanded to include a host of wardrobe options I’d never considered before.

I continue to wear red lipstick during big meetings and important events. Now that I’m self-employed, I still dress up even if I’m just going to the coffee shop around the corner. Putting on “real clothes” after a few hours of lounging in sweats tells my brain it’s time to work.

I’ve learned that it’s not the clothes you wear, it’s how those clothes make you feel. Right now, I feel bold.

Originally published at medium.com