The more accurate thing to say is that Personal Image is a part of Personal Branding and not the other way round. Personal Image has more to do with outer in-person appearance, more about perception in how you show up. Can be verbal and non-verbal but today I want to talk about non-verbal. It really is a very important part of your personal brand because the image you put out determines how you will be perceived and remembered.
Reason why patients in a hospital would rate a doctor in a white lab-coat with a stethoscope around his neck as more skilled and professional than a more qualified doctor wearing just a suit. Studies have shown patients give less information to nurses and give more detailed information to doctors, it is all based on perception. Perception is what birthed Uniforms for various sectors including security. Why do you think most police and military uniforms take darker and dull colours? The perceptions and emotions around dark colours include symbolism in Power, Dominance and Intimidation and ‘being in-charge’.
Your personal image will depend highly on who you are first of all, what you do and how you want to be perceived. These three items will help you carve out your personal image. At the most importance, your personal image, if anything should help distinguish you from everyone else around you. Make you easily identifiable and unique.
Who You Are
Who you really are, your authentic self is what makes you different from everyone else. What is your Personal Style? What are your personal preferences? What would you describe as an image of comfort for yourself? What is your best look?
These questions will help you understand what you like as a person and what makes you happy. When you are comfortable and happy, your best self is able to come out without a struggle and connecting with others is made easier. Once you have these details you are able to cover the rest of the steps I’ll describe later and come up with a balance that also takes into consideration your personality and to great detail.
What you do
Studies have been done for almost every field of work on how professionals in given fields may look to be perceived highly and as professionals. I already gave the example of doctors, lawyers have always been expected to be sharply dressed in suits, and investment bankers are mostly in sharp 3 piece suits and pinstripes, mechanics in overalls and chefs with white hats and many other examples you can think of. This is meant to give you that professional outlook also based on the best look for a highly esteemed person in your profession.
A friend of mine gave me a funny example of going to see a traditional African Healer and the person comes out in a suit carrying a laptop…you would obviously not take them seriously because there was initially in your mind an expectation of what his appearance should be, maybe sandals and some weird dressing and headgear with a horn in hand haha. In your profession remember, there is a way people expect you to look when they meet you or even see you on the street. If you look anything lower or otherwise from their expectation, your rating from them drastically drops. This is what happens a often times in meetings and interviews.
How you want to be perceived
I think this is really more important than the afore mentioned items because it shapes the others, it has more power because it guides where you want to go. If you want to be perceived as a laid back person so you can influence a particular people in a particular way, you will be prompted to act and dress differently than if you want to have a ‘power-look’.
Adolf Hitler wanted to be perceived as a strong-man and powerful, because this is what the German pubic wanted to see in their leader at the time; reason he chose the particular haircut and moustache that he wore and looked the very same every day. He always wore power suits to diplomatic meetings but in his rallies and other local visits he was always in Military Uniform, mostly his favorite. He had to give this perception because he had understood the expectations of the German Public.
Charlie Chaplin maintained a particular funny look, wore a moustache and a top-hat, oversize balloon-like trousers, a funny tailcoat, and oversize shoes that always readily set him apart. In all public appearances he dressed like this to stamp that identity in people’s heads as a ‘funny-man’.
Another interesting example is Boxing Promoter Don King, who wore a long hair that was only unique to him, his hair was white and he didn’t even dye it, he remained that way to keep that particular image that would make him different and very easily identifiable.
Your choice of outer personal image would be mostly dependent on the above mentioned items and others I might not have mentioned but remember it has to reflect your Authentic Self. Talking to an Image consultant will go a long way in assisting you come up with a unique look that will make a strong part of your Unique Personal Brand!