“I read your blog. You’re too obsessed with dress codes. People don’t care how people dress, they care about what they know and what they can do.”

This was in an email from a friend of mine who read my two-part series from last week called The Blueprint For Looking The Part. To be honest, the only part that disappointed me was that they left their comments in an email and not in the comment section of my blog. I responded and asked if they had a problem with my sharing our conversation as a blog post. Since they agreed, I’m sharing it today.

My response to this email is that they missed the point. I didn’t write about a dress code, I was writing about image.

It’s my firm belief that image is crucial to success. Being intelligent is great, having a high emotional quotient is important, but image is what breaks down the barriers so that others can see the great skills we have. 

As crucial as image is, there are two parts. Part one is the external image; the way others see us and that’s important. Part two is internal image; the way we see ourselves and that’s the entire ballgame.

The Value of External Image

There’s a thought that anyone concerned with their image is vain or self-centered but this is misguided. Of course, this can be taken too far but the value of our external image is that having a healthy one allows us to be taken seriously.

Young leaders today, especially, face three big challenges: Getting Noticed, Being Taken Seriously and selling their competence with humility.

This is why the packaging matters. Having the right image makes you much more likely to be taken seriously. Only when we’ve gotten attention and we’re taken seriously can we prove our worth. External image plants our competence in the minds of our target audience early so we don’t have to work so hard later and that is its true value.

The Value of Internal Image

The real value to me of looking the part isn’t how others see me but rather how I see myself. When I look as if I belong at the table, my confidence increases. I don’t think I ‘m alone in this. There is obviously more to being confident than the clothes we wear, but it’s a crucial firs step.

When we see ourselves as competent people who get things done, we begin to act like it and that’s where the true value lies. Feelings lead to actions and actions lead to results. Before we can sell ourselves to anyone else, we must first sell ourselves on us. Looking the part is where this starts as it helps cement our internal image, starting the feelings of success.

I’m not sure I convinced my friend of the important role image plays in our success, but I’m really happy that the debate took place. It allowed me to crystalize my thinking on the subject and if nothing else, I further convinced me which only improves my internal image and as I say, that’s the ballgame.


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