Updated: Aug 9, 2021
A lot of the younger people I've met have a hard time wanting to be "professional." It's not that these people don't know how to look good. Nor that they're incompetent or lazy. It's just that they have an issue with faking it. And frankly, so do I.
What they don't understand is that being professional isn't about misleading people, it's actually about being safe for them. To feel safe, patrons need to be able to trust you.
If I show up with greasy hair and stumble in 20 minutes late for an appointment, it sure looks like I'm irresponsible and don't care about taking care of myself—even if those things aren't true at all. This element of professionalism is really about the impression I'm giving off, not what is actually true about me.
Is it unfair for clients to judge me by my lateness or physical appearance? No and yes. They can't accurately assess that a person who is late just once is chronically irresponsible, and yet, with very little information on who I am as a person, why wouldn't they make this assumption—just to be on the safe side? And when it comes to trusting a professional with your deepest, darkest, scariest, most vulnerable parts of yourself, isn't it wise for a client to be skeptical and careful?
In this case, greasy hair and lateness would just be distractions from the truth—that I actually do take really good care of myself and it's very important to me to be responsible. If the best work I can do is with clients who can trust me, then it's my job to show up looking like I care about myself and the work I'm about to do.