My Why

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Business Image Consultant

We often hear that “Why?” is the most important question to ask. Having worked as an Image Consultant for seven years now, I finally fully understand why it’s my life’s work. But before I get into the “why,” I want to express the “why not,” which is made up of all the preconceived notions of what I do.

I’m not a “fashionista” focusing on the latest trends, transforming my clients into fresh fashion victims. I‘m not a desperate housewife turning my shopping hobby into a business. I’m not a TV personality belittling my clients as their favourite clothes –and fragile confidence– get tossed in the garbage. And I’m not a sales associate pushing rags for commission.

None of these activities have any appeal to me, nor any relationship to my “why.”
 So why then?

After a quarter century, I’m able to pinpoint one particular day that had a profound effect on my entire life, and it had nothing to do with runway collections, high-end boutiques, or celebrity. It was the day the whole world around me changed in an instant, because I made one simple little change. It was the day people stopped treating me like I was special and deserving of their attention, and began ignoring me, looking down at me, and even mocking me.

I was 13 years old, and the hairdresser chopped off my long beautiful hair.

Down to the last inch.

I looked like a boy.

Once the most popular girl at school, dating the most popular guy, captain of sports teams, straight-A student… All of that meant nothing when the people around me couldn’t get past my new image.

My siblings were the worst. Teasing and taunting me to no end. Par for the course in many families, I know, so maybe I don’t deserve much sympathy there. But my parents did nothing. No consoling. No counseling. No contacting the salon for an explanation. No helping me dress more feminine to avoid being mistaken for a boy. No standing up for me when one of my classmates wrote me “hate mail” in the form of a poem, each little paragraph ending with… “cuz you cut your hair.”

You’d be surprised how many words rhyme with hair!

And so, at the tender age of 13, I learned firsthand that image is important.

You see… People look first, and then they listen. People pass judgement, perhaps unintentionally, but either way. A pretty little girl with long beautiful hair and a proud posture makes tons more friends and is admired by everyone around her. A deflated little girl with a boy’s haircut and slumped shoulders gets about as much attention as a pair of socks unwrapped on Christmas morning.

It’s unfair, I know. Believe me. But it’s human nature. We can’t help ourselves. We’re wired to go on first impressions.

Flowing locks or tomboy haircut, it’s the same person inside, still capable of high achievement in athletics, academics, relationships. So, was it just the haircut that changed everything? No. But it was the way in which the world perceived this girl differently that created a whole new reality for her. And changed the way in which she perceived herself. Expectations were different now. She wasn’t expected to hang with the popular girls, or date a popular guy, or reach the top of the class. Her image didn’t fit anymore.

My life’s work –my “why”– is based on that event like it was yesterday.

I want my clients to reach their highest potential by projecting on the outside the great person they are on the inside. It’s not about dressing to the nines every day, or never going out without make-up. It’s about having the wardrobe, communication skills, and style to present yourself well in every aspect of your life.

Don’t allow your appearance to give people the wrong impression.

Instead, make your image work for you. The real you. Deep inside.

Written by Janelle Long of Janelle Long Image Management.

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