Over the past twenty years as an image consultant, people have often asked me what are the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to their personal iamge.  So, in the spirit of helping you and your friends start 2011 on the right foot, here’s a list of the 7 biggest mistakes people constantly make.  It’s really important to know what these mistakes are because , if you are making them yourself, I can consult with you and help show you a better way to see yourself and look authentically your best and mistake free.

1.  Cluelessness about how people perceive you. It’s true.  People do not know how they are perceived by others and have not had an opportunity for an honest self-assessment.  Not knowing how others see you today is a huge mistake if you carry a burden around from the past about how you have been perceived as a child, in another job, or in another phase of life.  How can you help yourself to grow without getting a closer look at the truth? Is the truth that scary?  I think being stuck in the muck is even more scary because you just can’t go anywhere from there.

2.  Clueless about personal style. People dress horribly because they do not know what personal style is, and they do not know what their personal style is.  You cannot copy a friend’s style and claim it as your own.  Do you have the same personality traits, physical characteristics, or goals?  I’d find this hard to believe.  Magazines are maybe a source of editorial inspiration, but do you think InStyle or Esquire can provide you with your own personal how-to, if they don’t know who you are at a deeper level.  When is the last time you walked into a store with thousands of dollars to spend on clothing and asked a perfect stranger to take your money from you and dress you?  If you’re doing that today, this is a huge mistake.

3.  Clueless about color. People don’t know what colors are most flattering to wear in clothing, accessories, and make terrible makeup choices and in coloring their hair.  Anyone still thinking of color in terms of seasons is thinking of color in a 1.0 world, when, in fact, color is so much more complex, both physiological and psychological.  Color may naturally appear on your body, but you also react viscerally to color when you wear it, or when it is in your environment.  It strongly affects your personal brand.  What happens when you send the wrong messages just by wearing the wrong colors?  This is thinking of color in a 3.0 world.  Are you still stuck in first gear?

4.  Clueless about closets. People have no clue what they own in their closets, because they are afraid to see the truth.  If you are afraid to take real stock of what you own, you can’t organize it properly and you can’t edit what you own.  I recently saw a before and after photo of a closet organized by someone else, and the only difference was that the before photo looked like a disaster area, and the after photo looked like all the person’s T-shirts were organized and folded into groups.  But for the life of me, everything was folded:  you couldn’t see the T-shirts, the sleeve lengths, the colors, the motifs, the prints.  Nothing.  You couldn’t see anything.  So even if your wardrobe consists entirely of T-shirts, there is a better method for organizing – for curating – your closet so you can see, appreciate, and know what you own.  I guarantee that T-shirt owner is not getting the full value of the T-shirts or of the organizing job.  With no full appreciation for what’s there, it’s impossible to have confidence in getting anything new.

5.  Clueless about shopping. If the idea of shopping an unorganized and cluttered closet freaks you out, going into a store may drive you insane.  With so many choices in a setting a thousand times larger than your closet, wardrobe shopping is harder than ever.  People are afraid of making buying mistakes, having buyer’s remorse, and wasting money.  If you learned about how you and others perceive you, as well as your personal style and colors, and had your closet organized, shopping in the future would become far easier.  You have to be willing to clean up the past, and organize the current, in order to create the look of your future.  If you can’t do that, you’re just going to remain stuck, and everyone will look at you and know you are visually trapped.

6.  Clueless about non-verbal language. It’s not likely you stare into a mirror while interacting with others.  Most people don’t offer critical and helpful feedback that would make your communications more effective.  You can’t just dress the part; you have to act it.

7.  Clueless about focus and dedication. People not fully dedicated to the long-term are interested in image development, but lose focus.  If you update your wardrobe, but not your communication skills, it will show.  If your wardrobe is not regularly maintained, it will show.  People do think, “Oh, there’s so-and-so wearing that again,” but are less likely to think that way when you are not known for the same 6 tops or shirts worn with coordinating bottoms.  Consistently staying current is crucial to a modern image, no matter what messages you want your brand and image to convey – unless you want to tell the world that you are outmoded, that you don’t value yourself, and that someone else younger and smarter can step in and take your place at any time.

Joseph Rosenfeld helps high-profile individuals revitalize, manage, and be secure in their personal visual brand. Visit JosephRosenfeld.com for details.