May the outward and the inward man be at one.
Socrates (classical Greek philosopher)
Appearance is big business nowadays. Images of public figures show how appearances are used to produce certain effects (e.g. politicians appearing in casual clothes on some occasions and in a business suit in others). This ability to create an impression is achieved through various means (clothes, make-up, posture, demeanour) and, of course, it is relevant not only for celebrities but for all of us. In this area we will focus on some basic facets that affect appearance: congruence, appeal and flexibility.
Why appearance matters
Appearance has a multiple purpose: to attract or protect; to help us situate ourselves within a certain role; to communicate mood, character, profession, position or status. So even if you don’t care about your appearance, it will still greatly affect the impression you leave. This influences the assessment and attitude of others towards you, which can, in turn, affect your interactions and self- esteem. So, let us see what really matters in this respect.
Congruent appearance corresponds with the person, while an incongruent one does not. In other words, incongruent appearance is the result of an attempt to appear differently to who we are. This can have various motives: to trick others, to hide or protect, to preserve privacy, to compensate for a sense of personal inadequacy or inferiority, or to impress others. The aspects of appearance that are strongly emphasised may even indicate the opposite. For example, an over-jovial appearance may hide depression, or boisterous behaviour low self-esteem. There are a number of disadvantages to incongruent appearance: