Image is about more than just the clothes we wear. Over half the impression we give other people comes from our overall visual appearance which includes body language, posture, facial expression and yes, what we're wearing and how we're wearing it. All of these things tell other people a lot about who we are.

It is a basic human quality to want to be around people who are similar to us. Our closest friends are usually people who are in similar circumstances to our own and have similar interests and backgrounds.

We have probably all had the experience of meeting someone for the first time and knowing almost instantly that we don't like them. Why was that? Chances are there was something in their body language, the way they communicated or the way they dressed. All these things give us little clues that tell us whether we like them, trust them, want to be friends with them or do business with them. Knowing how to use these clues to your advantage is called image management.

Image management is the art of creating an image that will help you achieve your goals. This means an image that gives a great first impression and a great lasting impression. There are a number of steps involved and a qualified image consultant will be able to help you.

The first thing is to establish where you are right now in terms of your shape, colouring, personality and personal style. Try to look at yourself objectively and think about the image you are portraying to other people. How do you think other people view you at work? Socially?

Next you want to work out exactly what you want and what characteristics are required to meet those goals. If you want a promotion, think about the personal qualities and image of a successful person in your workplace. If you want to start a new relationship, think about the type of person you would like to attract.

Lastly, think about what changes you could make to your style of dress, people skills or grooming in order to achieve those goals.

Throughout this process you need to feel confident and comfortable with the changes you are making. The idea is to enhance your best qualities and work on any areas that are holding you back.

One area that is often overlooked but is crucial to making a great first impression is body language. Being aware of your own body language allows you to have more control over the impression you are giving other people. It can also give you a valuable insight into other people's behaviour.

We've all heard that when someone is crossing their arms it signifies closure or distance. However, it is important not to look at body language clues in isolation. For example, the person crossing their arms may be cold, they may be sensitive about their stomach and want to hide it, or they may feel threatened and subconsciously trying to protect themselves.

Using positive body language and other non-verbal communication cues can make you appear more friendly, confident and successful. Here are some examples:

Eye contact - Maintaining good eye contact shows the other person that you are interested and involved in what they are saying. Be careful not to stare, as this will make them feel uncomfortable. You want to hold eye contact around 60% of the time.

Posture - Poor posture can indicate poor self-esteem. To check your posture, stand with your arms hanging naturally down by your sides. Look at whether the palms of your hands are facing inwards (correct) or backwards (incorrect). If your palms face backwards this means your shoulders are rolling forward and you may appear hunched.

Smile - A warm sincere smile creates the best first impression. Try to smile with your whole face and out through the eyes. A smile that doesn't reach your eyes will appear insincere.

As you can see, image is about more than just clothes. Making a great first impression involves being totally aware of yourself, your surroundings and who you are with. By improving your image you will increase your confidence and self-esteem, and be well on your way to achieving your goals.

Author's Bio: 

Susan Lockhart is a qualified Image Consultant in Brisbane, Australia and owner of Synergy Image Consulting. Learn how to make the most of your appearance and dress for success, no matter what size, age or shape you are. Get professional advice on colour, dressing for your body shape, bridal wear, grooming and more. Consultations for men and women. Online resources include free ebooks and image articles.