How Important Is Image Today?

In today’s hectic, competitive world, image is something that you are probably concerned about. Be it your physical appearance or the content of what you say, you know that the person you project to the world matters.

We use to think that image is only important for movie stars and politicians. What does image have to do with the rest of us? It applies to anyone who uses social media from Facebook to a blog. How you present yourself may impact your ability to get a job or a visitor’s impression of our community.

What you say today, may come back to influence what people think long after you said it. People all over the world spend millions of dollars to look good. They undergo plastic surgery, visit the beauty parlor regularly and undergo herbal treatments to improve their physical appearance. Why so?

In all our perceptions, from vision to hearing, to the pictures we build of people’s character, our subconscious mind starts from whatever objective data is available to us, and helps to shape and construct the more complete picture we consciously perceive. In order to offer us this more complete picture, our unconscious employs clever tricks and educated guessing to fill in some blanks. In our perception of people, and their perceptions of us, the hidden, subliminal mind takes limited data, and creates a picture that seems clear and real, but is actually built largely on unconscious inferences that are made employing factors such as a person’s body language, voice, clothing, appearance, and social category. Humans are predisposed to judge others by their physical appearance, since visual information is the first kind of information we get about a person that we meet for the first time.

Experience has taught us that “appearances can be deceptive” and we are told not to “judge a book by its cover” and that “beauty is only skin deep.” The English language is full of such expressions and sayings that warn us that physical appearance is not an accurate indication of a person’s character. And yet, we cannot help making on-the-spot judgements about people based on their physical appearance.

Forbes richest recently released an article titled Handsome people are paid handsomely’ whereby a Yale University study from Daniel Hamermesh finds employers pay a beauty premium to attractive employees. The beautiful workers earn an average of roughly five percent more, while unattractive employees can miss out on up to almost nine percent. They also highlight how ‘attractive people are more employable in the USA than unattractive people’- a statement that attracted much criticism and controversy.

A popular article published in recently quoted that “putting more thought into your appearance is one of the easiest ways to improve your social and employment prospects, and the way people see you. It falls under the broader category of non-verbal communication. Unless you’re really likeable as a person, a lot of people will have a hard time looking past a sloppy exterior. And why not live up to your appearance’s full potential?” It seems that as uncomfortable as it may be, we are under the microscope every day. Our employees, our colleagues, and our customers judge us by how we look, how we dress, our table manners, our grooming, and sometimes even how we do our job, but is this really a fair assessment ourselves?

Helen Gavin
Helen Gavin

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