I love to watch a show called What Not To Wear on the TLS Cable Channel.  If the producers weren’t really careful, it could end up being very mean…but instead, the two stars, Stacy and Clinton, plus their makeup and hair stylists, offer a little help to women who don’t know quite how to present themselves to the world in a positive, attractive way.   These women are nominated by their friends and family and when selected, Stacy and Clinton surprise them with an offer to go to New York for a 5,000 shopping spree and if they accept, the package includes sending their current wardrobe to the GoodWill Bin, and some tough love regarding their style choices.  In almost every case, the help turns out to be a heart warming,  positive life change.

In a word, Stacy and Clinton offer advice on:  1) how to select the right clothes for your body type,  2) getting the best hairstyle for the shape of your face, and 3) learning how to wear make up that compliments the skin tone and eye color.  Perhaps these things are considered fluff, but as humans, we do respond to these subtle details.   We like to see people who have it all together and who look happy and confident in their appearance.  It’s usually a reflection of what’s going on inside.

These candidates are generally women who have low esteem; the result of some sort of trauma that’s caused them to hide and sometimes downright disappear behind a bland exterior.   You know the type; stringy hair, no makeup, ill fitting, shapeless clothing, poor posture, no eye contact.  Generally it’s someone who is unable, emotionally, to make the effort to present themselves in the best light.

At some point early in the experience as Stacy and Clinton are evaluating the woman’s appearance, they invariably step into an emotional  minefield as they dig for the reasons behind the candidate’s lack of interest in themselves.  Tears ensue as we learn of traumatic childhoods, abusive husbands, failed relationships – dozens of reasons that have broken the person, beaten them down beyond recognition.  This is handled with kindness and empathy and a nice dash of humor to keep things positive.

Then begins the lovely, joyous rebuilding of the persons’ self image through clothing, make up and hairstyle and a bit of hand holding and cheer leading.  It’s often these things that the candidates haven’t experienced.  You know, we all need a little cheer and some positive reinforcement once in a while!  I invariably cry as I watch their broken spirits begin to heal when they see their new image emerging right in front of their own eyes.

It’s true that what’s on the inside is reflected on the outside.   If you haven’t been there, you can’t imagine how painfully difficult it is for these women to look in the mirror and say, “I matter.  I deserve this.  I’m attractive.”  

Bravo for a sweet little show that is simply doing something nice.   For these women, it is truly life altering.