It is being managed whether or not you are managing it.
This is because it is being created everyday by others. As they are constantly observing your behavior and forming ideas about your competence, character, and commitment,
They judge you before they meet you. They judge you after meeting you, and they judge you every time after. Every communication. Every interaction. They are judging you.
And sometimes you might think its OK to pleasantly surprise people with who you are when you get there. But the probability that their pretenses of who you are, will already be set and affect their view of your actions is very high and can negatively affect you.
For example, if someone has the idea that you are dishonest, and you show that you are honest time and time again. They will rationalize that you are being honest to be dishonest and it’s a trick. And no matter what you do, you will be incapable to change that opinion. It is just the way things are.
Therefore, you must always show that you are technically competent, socially skilled, strong of character/integrity, and committed to your work, your team, and your company. As research shows people favorably regard the traits of trustworthiness, caring, humility, and capability more than all others.
Threats to your Image
And to maintain that image, you must use image management as the any action can be misinterpreted by anyone and everyone when taken out of context.
But before we take the path to understand the techniques and process of image management, you must understand the identity threats that can cause incongruence of who you are, and how you are perceived.
They are predicaments, devaluation, and illegitimacy.
Predicaments are events that go poorly and end up becoming public knowledge. Essentially, you failed to accomplish one thing or another and it ends up reflecting badly on your image.
An example is when you were put in charge of a situation and you did everything you could, but still failed. And although everything is out of your control, the perception exists that it failed because there is something wrong with you and you caused it. Albeit unfair. It is the way it is.
Devaluation is when you are dis-valued not for your competency or ability but for who you are. This could be because your boss doesn't think highly of your personality type, social identity group, or background.
An example is stereotypes of different cultures where no matter what you do, you are dis-valued because of who you are.
Illegitimacy is the last one. This is where you are successful and have all the licenses and experiences.
They don’t believe you are legitimate because you don’t fit their expectations of someone in that role.
This can range from “you lack presence”, “You’re not confident”, or “You don’t have the right look”.
How to Manage your Image
Now that you understand the threats to your image you now understand the importance of Image Management.
By promoting and highlighting the aspects of your personality that people value and minimizing and suppressing those that they do not.
This entails understanding how people view you through what they say, how they say it, and the body language they use.
- Monitoring others' perceptions of you
- Monitoring your own behavior
- Strategically speaking to meet their expectations
- And proving your worth and legitimacy time and time again
Therefore the first step you need to take hold of your own identity is to have an aggressive approach to managing your image:
To start you should ask yourself a few questions:
- What are traits and values you want others to associate with you?
- Which social identities do you want to emphasize to others and which ones should you minimize?
· Are you capable of changing your image?
The most important thing you can do today is start controlling your image.
Without control, people may have a million different views of who you are, all created by the imaginations of anyone you meet. This can cause incongruence that can cause you to appear two-faced or unauthentic.
Find all the ways and processes to cement your image to portray yourself as a professional through what you do and especially how you present it.