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We Are in Control of Our Image

Which home would you purchase?

Which guy would you date?

Which books would you buy?

I recently asked a group of college students these questions showing them the same photos. I had them shout out adjectives for the pictures they were viewing. For the home I heard: beautiful; wealthy; cared for; loving family; a place I want to live. For the broken-down home they said: old; no curb appeal; I wouldn’t go near it; scary; unstable.

For the well-dressed man, the descriptions were: successful; cares about himself; confident; knows where he is going in life. For the couch-potato man: unsuccessful; not motivated; a slob; poor; doesn’t care about anyone but himself.

For the two books, I am sure you can guess which one the students said they would purchase, and which one they would leave on the shelf.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover,” we were taught when growing up. Well, guess what? Every one of these college girls just did (and I bet you did, too!). Image matters!

First impressions are formed within 2 seconds, whether we speak with that person or not. We did not speak to the men in the pictures above, yet we already have opinions about the type of people they are. When a company wants to sell a product, they hire a marketing firm to create beautiful images that speak to their customers. They create images that make people say, “I can’t live without that!” We are no different. When we market ourselves and show we care about our outward “package,” we are telling others we take pride in who we are. Our image tells a story. The question is, what story is it telling?

A research study led by a Harvard professor revealed women in the work force who wore makeup were viewed as more competent, friendlier, AND made 10% more than women who did not wear makeup. This was not out-on-the-town glamour makeup, but just enough to show they cared about their appearance. In fact, too much makeup gave the impression the subject was not comfortable with herself, and no makeup made people think she was anti-social. This study had NOTHING to do with whether people thought the test subjects were physically attractive. I want to make that clear. The result of the study: people that appeared to groom themselves (take care of themselves) and show pride in their personal appearance were better received than those that did not.

If an employer sees a potential employee as someone that is well groomed, they will think, “If she takes pride in herself, then I know she will take pride in our company and represent us well.” Yet, the opposite is also true. If we do not show we take pride in the image we portray, a future employer may think, “If she does not take pride in who she is, then why can I trust that she will take pride in our company?”

Look at the below photos and ask yourself, “Where does my eye immediately go?”

Both women are physically beautiful, but in the first photo the eye is drawn to the triangle area of the woman’s face. Somewhere between the forehead and the neck is where the eye lands. In the second photo, where did your eyes go? For most, it would go straight to the cleavage!

As women, we want our appearance to say many things about us, but the most important thing to portray is strength in who we are as a person. How do we do this? Where is our center of power found? Answer: In the triangle of our face.

If we do anything to take a person’s eyes away from our face, we have lost power. When we arrive at an event not dressed appropriately, it does not make us look unique, it makes us look like we do not know what we are doing. And that, my friends, reduces our strength.

How we appear on the outside reflects who we are on the inside. I love the example Cynthia Grosso, owner of the Charleston School of Protocol, uses when she describes an iceberg in comparison to our image. She says the top of the iceberg that is visible makes up 15% of the entire formation. The other 85% of the ice is under the water and out of sight. It is not visible to our naked eye.

This holds true to our image, as well. How we portray ourselves on the outside is a direct reflection of who we are on the inside. Our beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors (the hidden part of the iceberg) WILL be reflected in our exterior image (the visible part of the iceberg), which includes our appearance and our manners. Though the other person forming a first impression about us may bring their biases into the decision, they are forming their first impression based on what WE are telling them to think. Though we may never speak, we are communicating very loudly to that person what we want their first impression to be.

“What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson. Your image is your resume in billboard fashion. Take pride in yourself. You are your own best advocate!

Together with you,

Lisa Lou


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