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Iceni Magazine | August 13, 2022

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How Important Is Your Image to You?

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How many of us feel the pressure to present the right image?

Even young people are acutely image conscious and brand aware. Try to persuade a young person to wear a cheaper make of supermarket own brand trainers; it would be regarded as the ultimate humiliation!

TV, magazines and social media treat sporting a particular make of clothes and accessories or using the latest technology as an essential part of having street cred. For young people this is especially important as it puts them on a par with others in their peer group, makes them feel they belong and maybe even elevates them to Elitist Level if they’re able to sustain each latest up-to-the-minute look.

Adults like to think they’re less judgmental than young people. They’re able to stand back and recognise that much of the pressure to look, act and conform to a particular style is media driven. Much of it is driven by the desire to make sales, to introduce new trends and products so that people buy more ‘stuff’ in order to be seen to be dynamic and up-to-date.

Many adults would hate to be perceived as superficial or unduly affected by another’s possessions, clothes or presentation of themselves, but image is often a significant factor in our relationships with others. We all make instant decisions, form instant impressions of people when we first meet.

And caring about our appearance, dressing well, looking after ourselves can be perceived as taking responsibility for ourselves as well as displaying good manners and consideration for the company we keep, whether it be for our partners, friends and family, employers, customers and clients. It demonstrates that we regard ourselves as important, we care enough to want to make a good impression and we’re prepared to invest time, money and effort into looking good when we’re committing to be with other people.

Wearing a smart suit, a pair of killer heels, a dash of lipstick, an expensive aftershave, having a beauty treatment or a new hairdo makes us feel much more confident, knowing that we’re looking good. When we feel we look the part we’re often able to raise our game and portray that positive persona. We stand taller and feel more in control.

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However, putting ourselves under massive pressure to earn the money to sustain the expensive wardrobe, designer handbags, expensive homes, cars, holidays and school fees can put an inordinate amount of strain on our quality of life, relationships, health and wellbeing. Stopping and reflecting on what’s important in life can sometimes result in spending less money and enjoying a camping trip rather than a 5 star luxury holiday, can prompt the decision to work fewer hours and come home earlier to be with our children in order to discuss what’s happening in their lives.

Image pressure can cause a significant amount of personal stress. The pressure to be a certain body shape or size, exceptionally slim or muscular and ripped can cause body anxiety in young and old, male and female as they strive to eat less or work out more. The incidence of eating disorders, once seen as the province of young females, is escalating in young men and older people as they feel the pressure to look good through media-defined eyes.

Maintaining a positive look as we start to age is important too as part of our ongoing image and desire to be accepted in certain spheres of life. Feeling the pressure to look young, hide the signs of ageing can at times compel some of us to consider the need for surgical and non-surgical procedures, sometimes at great cost financially, physically and psychologically. Many people dye their hair to disguise evidence of their advancing years or spend time agonising over ways to hide the signs of their hair loss.

And, yes, fitting in, being received in a positive way, regarded as someone who is successful, attractive and professional can give an important boost to our confidence as we go about our daily lives. Wearing the right clothes, looking fit and attractive is often a key aspect of the impression we give. Some people feel extra confident when wearing a smart company uniform; it portrays a specific image, a corporate brand identity with all its associated professionalism. A uniform can bring a certain dignity and gravitas to a situation where staff find they feel positive as part of the corporate team. Compulsory school uniform negates the need for schoolchildren to compete with each other over their daily clothing but the school uniform from a highly regarded school can be something that parents aspire to for the sake of their children; it conveys an elitist image.

But, that aside, let’s not ignore the role that managing stress, looking after ourselves can play in our lives and work to sustain a healthy, positive way of life. A nutritious diet, regular exercise routine and stress-free lifestyle are all recognised as effective ways of taking good care of ourselves and counteracting the effects of ageing and excess. When asked what they found most attractive about others many people commented that it was their natural, relaxed manner, their infectious sense of humour and their kind nature that was most appealing!

Maybe we should devote more time and energy to learning ways to relax, to focus on what’s really important in our lives and pay less heed to the pressures of advertising and the media when we decide what to wear, how to look and how to live our lives.

Susan Leigh, Counsellor and Hypnotherapist,

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