Visual Identity

In these two posts, Joi Ito talks about how we change our identity to suit different contexts.

I personally find that these changes can also affect how I present myself visually – my personal appearance. This is likely to sound vain, but regardless, it’s something I have been thinking about a lot lately (with changes at work etc.).

I hold a very strong belief that it doesn’t matter how someone looks. If you can’t look beyond the shell and find out what makes the person tick, who they really are and what they have to offer, you’re doing yourself, not to mention the other person, a tremendous disservice.

However, what has become apparent to me is that not everyone believes the same – or should I say often they do on the surface, but they still rely heavily on first impressions. As a good friend and business associate said to me once – “yeh, people don’t really know how to take you when they meet you, but then you talk and they get passed it”. I don’t know that they always do, but when he said that it really stuck in my head.

I have a tendency to read into what other people are thinking (i.e. I come to some conclusion about what I think they’re thinking). And recently I have recognised how much my appearance affects me when I am meeting someone for the first time. When I look “business like” I feel incredibly uncomfortable in social and music circles. When I look like a student/musician (the visual identity I most identify with personally) I feel completely out of place in a business setting.

What is most interesting to me is the realisation that this apprehension has a dramatic impact on my self-confidence in these situations (which often carries over outside of these situations I might add). In such situations I really notice and hold on to every little thing that I perceive I did wrong. Needless to say this isn’t a particularly healthy practice.

Despite the protestations I am likely to get from my friends who read this, I am a naturally shy person when it comes to meeting new people, although over the years I have found methods that help alleviate the natural fear I have around new people. But I realise that I have created a huge internal barrier for myself by not taking the time to really get to a point where my visual identity can co-exist comfortably (not necessarily perfectly) in these different situations. Finding a balance between business-like and professional, and the other extreme of dreds (now gone) and inch-sole Doc Martins. Pretty much following on from the theme of integration really – integrating my different identities visually.

Hopefully by paying a little more attention to these things I can remove that internal barrier that has plagued me for years, and perhaps in the process open myself up for some more positive and constructive experiences.