Personal image is the process of developing a “mark” that is created around your personal name or your career. You use this “mark” to express and communicate your skills, personality, and values. The end goal is that the personal image that you develop will build your reputation and help you to grow your network in a way that interests others. They will then seek you out for your knowledge and expertise.
So, how does one go about creating a powerful, personal image?
Believe it or not, it starts from the inside with your confidence. If you already feel that you possess a healthy level of confidence, then you can move on to the next section. If you struggle in the area of confidence, which most of us do, there are ways to work to increase confidence. Confidence is like a muscle, you can train it for strength, flexibility, and endurance.
The interesting thing is that a woman can be confident in some areas of her life and not in others. For instance, a woman can be very confident in her chosen field of work but have a complete lack of confidence in appearance. She can feel very confident in the weight room but have much less confidence in the board room. How do we change that?
Start by recalling situations where everything went right or you felt great about something. Maybe you completely rocked a presentation or completely rocked a great suit. Think of that time in the past and put it into the present day. Use all five of your senses when using this anchoring technique. What do you remember seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, or tasting in that situation? What do you remember feeling in that situation?
Remembering a past success will bring future success and work to build a consistent level of personal confidence.
My friend Laura Camacho with the Mixonian Institute says, “You are your most important visual aid. People take approximately two full seconds before they make a judgement about you.”
Take a minute and stand outside of yourself. In other words, attempt to view yourself as others view you. What does your body language say? What do your facial expressions and eyes say? What does your physical appearance say?
Do your posture and facial expressions scream that you are a self-assured, confident woman? Or, do you come across as being timid and unsure of yourself? Do you dress and physically present yourself in a way that is consistent with your brand or do you look like you just rolled out of bed and put no effort into putting your best foot forward? If you are unsure, then ask a loved one or trusted advisor about your physical presentation. It is vitally important to understand how you present yourself physically as people will form the baseline of their impressions about you simply by the way you look.
When others hear you speak, do they hear what you are saying? Are you delivering your message in a clear and concise way that demonstrates your expertise and authority or do people tend to tune you out or not find you credible?
When speaking with individuals, it’s important to avoid conditional words or qualifiers such as “thinking”, “maybe”, or “could”. Women tend to use these types of conditional words in order to soften our message or to keep us from coming across as too abrasive but in reality, we just come across insecure. Be unapologetic in the presentation of your ideas. Don’t make excuses or water your message down, just make your point.
Be sure to simplify your language. Using big words or industry jargon just makes people tune you out. Speak in clear, simple language that easily communicates your message.
If you are concerned about you verbally present your professional image, find opportunities to share your areas of expertise by speaking at a conference, luncheon, or even a staff meeting. Since most of us are deathly afraid of public speaking, start with something small like a departmental meeting and work your way up to larger gatherings. After your presentation ask for feedback. Not only will it give you a few concrete things to work on from a verbal presentation style standpoint, it will also allow you to see if the audience finds you credible, confident, and professional.
Even if you do not consider yourself a writer, you cannot avoid having to present yourself with the written word. Between email, blog posts, newsletters, and articles, professionals spend a tremendous amount of time writing.
Spend some time reading your emails before you send them to ensure the tone and the content are consistent with your professional brand and image. Is it clear and concise? What about the formality of the language? Will the person reading your email find you credible, confident, and professional? Again, if you are unsure, ask someone.
Building your personal image includes each of these components – confidence, physical presentation, verbal presentation, and written presentation. All of the components are important and none can be ignored. Your personal image is a powerful way to dictate how others see you. When built with intention and care, it can catapult you to the next level. When handled carelessly, it can cause damage that can take years to reverse or repair. It’s your image, take control.