Every day each of us unconsciously decide who and what we bring into our lives; from products we buy to the individuals we chose to be our friends, or do business with. We make rapid gut decisions based on the visual clues we observe, which we then associate with known stereotypes and assume are a reflection of the inner qualities we believe them to reflect. Based on our decisions we either engage or ignore.
In theory we know that there is a great deal more to a person than what meets the eye, but like a website, unless we can quickly gain someone’s attention by providing a visual experience that is similar to what they are looking for, or at the very least find engaging, we will be quickly ignored and passed over. Through the power of the visual media and a fast moving often unsafe world this is how we have become conditioned and it’s not going to change anytime soon. If we can’t attract attention by having a pleasing appearance then we will not be granted any additional time so they can get to know us better.
Apart from the effect our appearance has on others, we too are affected. At least several times a day we see our reflection, and every time we do we are affected by what we see. If we are pleased we tend to walk taller, smile more often, act more confidently and be more friendly. When we dislike what we see we tend to shrink both into ourselves and away from others.
Is Your Appearance Really That Important?
So, the answer to the question, is appearance really that important? is an absolute YES. Appearance is the make or break factor that opens doors, minds and opportunities.
But is it all that matters? Absolutely not, there’s a lot more to cultivating a great image than our appearance BUT, appearance is a vital part in achieving whatever success you are seeking as it is the one thing that most often opens the door.
From the Playground to the Boardroom
Look in any workplace or examine any social group and you’ll find that some stand apart as the leaders. They are the ones the others look to as the main voice; when they speak they are listened to and when they act everyone generally follows.
But what is it that set them apart?
It’s certainly not just a pleasing or impressive appearance, we’ve all met well-dressed pains in the …..! It’s a combination of several areas of image all working congruently together.
The Circle of Success.
Some years ago I developed ‘The Circle of Success; as an image management concept that would assist my clients to understand and work on various aspects of their image that needed improvement. This concept works for any person, living any lifestyle, who wishes to gain success in any endeavor.
As you’ll see inner image is central and of most importance to you ability to manage the areas in the outer ring. The areas in the outer ring are all affected by each other and each needs to be reasonably managed to ensure a excellent long term image.
Inner Image: the heart of the matter
This is the sum and substance of who you are, it is the real ‘you’ that others can’t see and it is the bedrock on which every act of your life is played out. It comprises of qualities such as your: self esteem, confidence, honesty, ethics, integrity, motivation and ability. Which have been formed as a result of your gender, experiences, opportunities, cultural and social background, education, spiritual foundation, values, goals and personality. These elements combine to determine your outlook, attitudes, motivation and actions. They determine what and how you think, and how you’ll behave and react in every situation. They form your reality and govern what you want and expect out of life, and they set the limitations from which you live and behave.
The health and quality of inner image is central to a person’s ultimate success. Anyone can be groomed to walk into a room and make a smashing initial impression, but it is the substance behind the performance that will ultimately sustain the impression. Any component of inner image that is lacking or in need of attention i.e. poor self esteem, low confidence, a damaging attitude, or a debilitating experience has the power to diminish or override any positives in the other four image areas and should be attended to as your first step.
Action Point: Could there be an inner image area holding you back? If there is seek help to overcome it; it may be difficult at first to do, but once overcome it will improve your future.
Assumed Image: meeting expectations
This is what others know and/or expect of a person and it encompasses appearance, behavior and perceived ability. It’s knowing how to turn up to an event or meeting and as soon as those present see you they are put at ease. It’s important that we meet the assumed expectations of those we socialize or work with and once a person is known, their assumed image becomes their reputation.
Reputation often precedes a person, either smoothing the way or impeding their path with avalanches of misconceived ideas and prejudices. Reputation is one of the most valuable commodities a person owns and it needs to be carefully created, maintained and zealously protected. Think about those in your close circle of friends; there is likely to be one you know can’t be trusted to keep a secret, one who always turns up late, one who always has a better story than everyone else, one who is always there when you are in need and one you know can be always be relied on. They have gained their reputation over time and it can be very hard (though not impossible) to change. In short, your reputation has the power to open doors or keep them sealed.
Action Point: Take the time to think about your reputation. Could you be the one who’s always late or can’t be relied on? It only takes a moment to make the decision to change and if you keep to the change you will change how you are thought of.
Visual Image: you are what you wear
The saying goes, ‘Seeing is Believing’. Therefore this area is most powerful when meeting someone for the first time. Research has shown that visual presentation (dress, grooming, facial expressions and posture) accounts for more than half of the impression made on others. When a person dresses and acts in the manner expected of a successful person, it will usually be assumed that they possess the talent, personality and characteristics that accompany the image. If they present a poor first impression, they may find themselves struggling to reclaim lost ground.
When meeting any person or group for the first time it’s a smart move to dress in manner that will give you the greatest chance of being recognized as someone who possesses qualities that will fit-in and be an assets if included.
Action Point: Take a little time to think about how you visually present yourself. PretaStyler is the perfect program if you need some help discovering what clothes work best for your figure. To learn about what clothing, make-up or hair colors suit you best visit an image consultant.
Experienced Image: do unto others
This is the behavioral aspect of a person consisting of courtesy, respect, communication and people skills along with body language. If you can impress others with your interpersonal skills you’ll have a high chance of initiating positive and lasting relationships. It is always wise to strive to leave those you meet with a positive experience of you. This includes: turning up on time, having a friendly, respectful and inclusive personality, a willingness to participate for the good of the group as well as delivering on what you say you’ll do, and being flexible and open to the ideas of all.
Proven Image: congruent and consistent
This is the final image area and is comprised of the tangible results of all the other areas as proven over time. As an example, you may have hired someone to speak to your group because you heard that they were entertaining, informative and an excellent speaker (Assumed Image/Reputation), on the night they looked great (Visual image) and behaved fine but did not provide the expected experience (Experienced image). That in turn damaged their reputation as you spoke to others about your disappointment (Proven Image).
To have a strong image you need to consistently live up to the expectation of others and the promises you have made.
Action Point: Think about your total image – do you live up to what people expect from you or do you too often disappoint. Everyday is a new day and a new opportunity to start afresh. It may take some time for your image to change but if your consistent and persistent it will change. As the saying goes. ‘it won’t happen overnight, but it will happen‘.
I hope now you can answer the question, is appearance really that important? And can see how anyone can create an image that will impress yourself and those around you if you employ an image management strategy.