For better or for worse, lockdown seems to have played a hand in influencing our personal brands. Some of us may have used the big pause to revisit and reflect on our inner brands, which includes our values, passion, purpose, strengths and vision. But what about our outer brands, or how we convey ourselves to the outside world? This involves things like personal style, communication style, personal impact and personal presence. Why should we care? Because outer branding affects how others interact with us, how we interact with others, the opportunities that come our way, and how we feel about ourselves.
Months of lockdown comfort eating, sporadic exercise, and not needing to give a toss about wardrobe seem to have had a derailing effect on outer branding. Facebook abounds with memes talking about Covid weight gain, extolling workout leggings or the humble PJ as all-day workwear. Even when we have a virtual meeting, we’ve embraced the fact that we only have to half dress for a Zoom meeting. Not to mention the lack of face-to-face socialization that may have caused things like our communication style and social graces to go a bit rusty.
On the more extreme end, perhaps a more “feral” side has been revealed, one in which you find yourself scrambling with how to dress, speak or function as a socialised adult in our post-lockdown world. While many of us might identify with that sentiment to an extent, losing control of your outer brand to the point of feeling like a hot mess (unless that’s what you’re going for) or a chimpanzee in a social experiment probably isn’t a good thing for anyone’s brand. If authenticity is always somewhere at the core of your brand, revitalizing it post-lockdown may take a little effort but probably won’t really feel very much like “work”.
Even if you haven’t hit the feral red zone yet, perhaps it’s still time to have a good post-lockdown stare in the mirror. For example, what did we discover during lockdown about our outer brands, and what parts of #lockdownlazy can we incorporate into the post-lockdown outer brand to make it work for us?
I’ve interviewed Image Therapist, globally recognized thought leader and best-selling author Liana Chaouli about how to gain back control and revitalise our outer brands in this “new normal”.
What’s your advice on revisiting and revitalising your outer brand post lockdown?
We are in a new world; our old belief systems are up against and challenged by all the “Bigger Unknowns” which our lives are now presented with. As an Image Therapist, my decades of experiences, coupled with the successful empowerment of thousands of my clients, have taught me that our “outer brand”, or your second skin (i.e., what you wear) has a symbiotic relationship with our “Inner Authenticity” (i.e., your confidence, self-empowerment, self-esteem, etc.). Wherever you go, you show up fully in that moment! Most people use clothing more as armour, rather than a frame.
Today more than ever, I see this come to life as we are mostly connecting via Zoom, as that little green camera dot has become the authentic invitation to anyone connecting with us. Zoom is an invitation to up-level our brand. We are not just on camera, we are literally showing up on people’s laps, sitting with them in the privacy of their bedrooms rather than their boardrooms and they can see our hearts as we share our message/our brand. My offer for all of us the quote: “Be yourself, since everyone else is taken”.
Authenticity is your most valuable currency today. Dress as though you’re on stage… since you are on the stage of YOUR life sharing your brand, your voice, your life’s message and passion with the world, every time you get on camera. Practice the art and embodiment of dressing, no matter if you are home or “out hunting’ for new connections and clients.
This lockdown, the social distancing or any of this oddness which is appearing in your world, is not an open license to live and lose yourself in the mediocrity of “less than”.
We, as experts in our field, mentors, thought leaders, and business owners have a responsibility to light the way especially in times of uncertainty. The fact is, the “lockdown” is not a temporary part of life anymore, for us this is the “new normal”, how all our lives are now and we have the opportunity to position ourselves in a new, more engaged way and deeply authentic way.
How would you integrate your favourite lockdown casual into this?
In my world, “lockdown casual” is no different than Friday casual. My clients understand the importance of their powerful second skin, our clothes! Each item in our wardrobe is talking to our skin, our biggest human organ, all the time. And thus, it is talking to our conscious and subconscious mind, our psyche, our beingness. Certain pieces of clothing give us permission to act in certain ways. We play dress up, go to Halloween where we “become” someone way outside our comfort zone. As we pretend, we suddenly grant ourselves access to a different “inner being” or a certain “powerfulness”. These hidden parts, which we THINK we normally have no access to. And, we are determined that they are unreachable, often we know for sure that they do not even exist…until you put on a piece of clothing which unlocks the magic of YOU. Positively or in a less than uplifting way, we have all experienced this moment.
The same goes for when you dress “lockdown casual”. Your brain knows that you have pyjamas on the lower half of your body and this knowing shows up on the micro expressions on your face. That “information” is coming through the skin, to the brain and it communicates through the face as we speak and react. We subconsciously read those micro expressions and silently determine if we trust the person [on camera or real life] or not.
Dressing is an embodied action. The lack of rigor and rise of casualness that comes with being halfway dressed in pyjamas, translates into your body language. Every item of clothing on our body communicates through our conscious and subconscious experience. First to ourselves and then to others. Who we are BEing as we wear that piece of clothing, what are we communicating to the viewer?
Everything about us speaks loudly, how we value ourselves, the state of mind that we are in, how comfortable we are in our own skin, what we are willing to open up to or not, and how important other people’s opinions of us are. All this shows up when we do.
Every human being is a Masterpiece, thus, we all have our very own Essential Formula™. It’s a methodology, the process of Image Therapy™ to learn about our personal pathway so you can understand what looks great on YOU. A system that anyone can apply to their lives, no matter how young or old.
Every moment is a high-level celebration, you’re a building block to possibility. The way we create every moment shapes our future. When we are not paying honorable attention to it, it is like going to a wedding and not being dressed for the occasion.
It is always better for you to BE the measuring stick and show up looking beautifully. You become the invitation for others to step up their game and match it. When you are delivering content on camera standing in front of a beautiful background, with great lighting and rocking your power outfit, you become the measuring stick of up levelling.
First and foremost, you want to do it for yourself. This will support your message of empowerment as you share it on camera. This translates into your attitude towards others, as self-acceptance opens the emotional door to the connection and acceptance of others. Now, as we’re all on Zoom, versus in the boardroom or on stage, our image is being mirrored back to us at any given second while we are delivering a message, in a meeting, delivering a keynote, etc. We look at our own image, while we’re in a conversation with others, we see our face and our mood, our frowns or fabulous smiles. We never had this capability before; some find it a burden to look at their own image on screen. Now we are always looking at our face while delivering from stage or in a boardroom, at family gatherings or funerals, we see our own reflection.
Is there now a place for thought-out casual instead of “lockdown lazy” casual?
Casual does not mean pyjamas or your bathrobe or being half naked.
1. Casual means something you are comfortable in — a nice shirt or well-fitting top — anything that is comfortable on the bottom while you are sitting in a Zoom meeting.
2. Don’t wear prints (especially those PJ Prints), they are too distracting and visually dangerous on camera.
3. For the ladies, find a colour which compliments your hair, skin or eye colour and replicate this colour in a top. For the gentleman, make sure you wear a nicely pressed plain coloured shirt — no plaids, no stripes (the camera cannot handle those), and no T-shirts. If you really want to send a professional message and step it up a notch, wear cufflinks. Here’s why – it always sends a message of high quality, attention to detail, and elegance to the viewer. It especially lets women who are watching you know that you are paying attention to detail and that you honour beauty.
4. For the ladies, do not wear ANY necklaces, they are too distracting. Instead, wear beautiful earrings, which can be a bit bigger, to frame your face. If you wear your hair away from your face, the world actually gets to see your smile as an invitation. Covering your forehead or cheeks up with your hair is another way of hiding.
5. Make sure you have good lighting and you are sitting in a place where the light is hitting your face, if you are on Zoom or any other video conference. Also, pay attention to your background. Make sure you’re not sitting in front of cluttered kitchen counters, an unmade bed, children’s toys all over the floor, etc. as all of this can send a “messy message” to your audience and is distracting from what you are wanting to convey.
Finally, the position we are choosing to deliver our message in, whether sitting or standing, also translates loudly. Sitting connotes a casual way, standing is the more empowered way. When you are standing, wearing business shoes (vs sneakers, slippers or flip flops), you communicate with more confidence and power to your audience.
Any thoughts around creating a wardrobe that is effortless (creating “ready to wear” outfits, etc)?
In my process and in the conversations with clients, I teach that your closet is YOUR SANCTUARY. I suggest that they buy clothing when they don’t need them to create a wardrobe for all the different life situations, invitations and possibilities. Most of us need date night outfits, travel wear, high level black tie, swimwear, etc. I encourage them, and now you, to re-evaluate the domains of their life and create a wardrobe from:
- What’s comfortable on your body because that shows up on your face
2. What really makes you glow (rather than grey)
3. Use accessories sparingly, which also makes things a lot easier, less complicated
Simpler is better, the background on Zoom, your outfit, and anything that distracts from your face will have the viewer focus on the OTHER rather than you and your message.
Finally, how would you go about integrating your zoom style (i.e., the upper half on camera) with your overall style in “the real world”?
For me, there is no difference. The way you do anything is the way you do everything. So, if you have a practice of being sloppy in your dress or not caring about your appearance, you most probably have a practice of being sloppy in other areas of your life. This lack of rigor may translate into our business as well. The reason I want you to pay attention to your Masterpiece and your own body is the practice of self-honouring. Once you live it, it will show up as a beautiful supportive habit in your business, your relationships, your communication and in your up levelling of the world.
As people interact with one another, whether on Zoom or in other ways, please remember: we are always impacting those we meet. Always and in all ways. My question to YOU is:
- How would you like to impact others, positively or negatively? The way we show up is a choice.
- How would you show up if you knew nobody would ever forget you or your actions?
Liana Chaouli is the President and Founder of Image Therapists International Inc. and a globally recognized thought leader, S.T.Y.L.E. Sage™ educator and innovator. She is the best-selling author of “You Are A Masterpiece” and provides transformation through the empowerment of language, wardrobe and self-beliefs. She has spent over three decades consulting CEOs, celebrities, and political figures on matters of self‐image. As the developer of Image Therapy™, she works closely with her clients on their personal and professional presence using analysis, physical appearance, and education to adjust attitudes affecting self‐esteem and overall sense of worth.
Learn more about Image Therapy™ and receive their free video series that explains in depth the understanding of the Essential Formula™ and how you can create your own blueprint that makes you brilliant at www.BeTheOffer.com.