by Gillian Armour, AICI CIP

I work in a visually oriented business that requires me to pass judgment on people’s appearance. People actually pay me to judge how they look. We Image Consultants are probably the only professionals who can get away with critiquing others looks and making money at it (OK, pageant judges come to mind as well); however, the public perception is that we do it in a critical way and I want to dispel that myth.

As trained professionals we learn how to be supportive in our critiques. We hold an internal attitude of respect for our clients AND we practice constructive criticism and positive feedback (not the negative “pick-you-apart” that you see on reality shows). The professionals among us practice a sort of therapy. Our clients trust us to help them, they trust our advice; they come to us stuck in issues such as lack of self-esteem, body image challenges, and identity crises. Together we work with them to get them beyond these issues and toward greater esteem, confidence and power.

During the consulting process a powerful change occurs. Clients begin to see themselves as they truly are. They see that their unique body shape, skin-tone, height, weight, posture, mannerisms and quirky parts equal a person who is worthy of self-respect and self-love. This realization leads to change in an internal dialog that they’ve been having as long as they can remember which usually went something like this “Ugh, I am so fat, have big hips, big nose, my hair sucks, I am not tall enough, I need a boob job, I don’t know how to look good, nobody ever compliments me, I have a double chin, my hair is gray, my lips aren’t full enough”….and on and on. Men, too, have internalized this negative self-talk but their inner conversation is more like “My pecs are too small, I don’t have defined abs, I’m not tall enough, good looking enough, etc., etc.”

As you know, this negative self-talk fosters and supports many industries. For example, the cosmetic, health, surgery, diet, fashion and beauty companies thrive from women who have brainwashed themselves into thinking they are less than perfect. The truth, that each of us is beautiful, unique and perfect, stays buried as women buy into the messages these industries send our way day in, day out, year in, year out with their advertising and marketing.

With this in mind, we help the client throughout the consultation frame her self-image in a positive light and guide her toward self-acceptance. Almost immediately her internal dialog shifts simply to “I love myself.” With our help she starts the process of stopping the negative self-talk. Finally she can see her true self and not one measured by the impossible ideal that marketers have held her to.

When a man or a woman can see themselves for who they are, can accept all their perceived flaws as unique qualifiers of individual beauty and attraction, can change their perspective of self to a healthy one, then they can stop spending time, money and energy on the external fixes of surgery, diet fads and trendy fashion to “fix” themselves. Helping each client to recognize that they have a beauty inside waiting to be expressed on the outside is what successful “image” consultants do. We don’t criticize, we don’t judge negatively, and we don’t feed negative self-talk. We help reveal the natural beauty that is already there.

©2013 All Rights Reserved Gillian Armour