Self Presentation: Tips on How to Present Yourself in the Best Light

Megan Smith
 min read

Self presentation is always top-of-mind in a society that places a lot of value on our appearance.

Man Taking Picture Of His Reflection In Round Mirror Concept Of Self Presentation And Presenting Yourself In The Best LightHave you noticed how many places have mirrors?

Of course, this is especially true for clothing stores which also house the modern temple of the ego that we call the “fitting room.”

Self presentation: Introduction

Who has never seen a movie where the leading actress is often complexed by her body but is then dragged into a fitting room by her compassionate and benevolent friend?

Often, the heroine is depressed and exclaims:

“I’m so fat I’ll never fit into this cute outfit.”

Self presentation and having a good self-image can be complicated to show or explain to others, especially when they have low self-esteem.

This article will give you some tips on self presentation to help you better present yourself with self-confidence to the outside world.

How far should we go to be well-perceived by others?

Several questions come to mind first:

  • How much effort should we put into our image and social presentation?
  • When should we make an effort to avoid rejection or distrust in others?
  • What is a good balance between the very cautious approach of people with low self-esteem and the almost offensive approach of people with fragile high self-esteem?
  • How to present yourself without lying?
  • How can we make efforts that do not limit us and do not take us in the wrong direction, contrary to our identity?

Clearly, there are some rules governing social interactions, both explicit and implicit.

These rules can evolve according to the environment and the age we live in, but also our own age.

Everyone is free to choose not to submit to these societal rules, by adopting non-standard behaviors themselves or by tolerating them in others.

Nevertheless, these rules do exist, and knowing them and being aware of the degree of pressure they exert on us is an essential first step.

On the one hand, fortunately, there are many ways to not be a slave to these rules.

On the other hand, just following these rules can be freeing and give us peace of mind.

As such, we don’t have to worry about what others think of us for flaunting the rules, and we can focus on being ourselves. This is the paradox of normality.

Let’s take the example of clothing, where men were freer than women for a long time. Indeed, they didn’t have to worry about what they would wear because they always wore the same thing.

Another example is the case of schoolchildren. They, too, were not asked about their dress code since they all went to school in uniform.

Therefore, there was no comparison of dress between the children since they all had the same clothes.

Unfortunately, with social networks and self presentation becoming increasingly important in today’s society, it is not uncommon for children to feel stressed about their “look.”

All this is due to a sad “victory” of the beauty industry, clothing merchants, and the dictatorship of the self-image.

However, not only the physical appearance counts when presenting oneself, but the way one communicates is also part of it.

Are there specific rules of communication to follow?

From behaviors to clothing, obeying certain rules of social presentation (such as politeness) can become a constraint for some people and cause a fear of losing one’s authenticity or uniqueness.

However, it is unclear if the pursuit of differentiating ourselves is such a fulfilling goal to pursue in one’s life.

Namely, people who are “pseudo-spontaneous” or posing often have “sheep-like” reflexes, which are no better and no more fulfilling than freely accepted and forgotten limitations.

The importance of social skills in self presentation

What are social skills? Definition

Social science studies define social skills as the set of invisible skills useful for social acceptability and self presentation. So we find:

  • Basic or “non-verbal” behaviors include looking in the eyes, smiling, and standing at the proper distance, not too close or far.
  • More elaborate verbal behaviors such as listening without interrupting, asking questions and listening to the answer, etc.

Where do these social skills come from?

These skills usually come from our education, where we are taught to respect others and assert ourselves.

However, in our modern era, we have essentially given up on teaching politeness and etiquette in schools. Most of this learning is now done invisibly, through imitation of parental, family, and social models.

Hence, it is untrue that social skills cannot be learned through everyday life.

Social skills can be learned at any age and are a widely and successfully used strategy in psychotherapy and personal development.

There is an illusion that what is learned is not spontaneous. This is false because what is not spontaneous is simply that which is still being learned.

Let’s take the example of improvisations in music: once the basics are mastered, improvising becomes easier.

Therefore, what was learned at first can perfectly well become spontaneous at a later stage.

What do social skills consist of?

Social skills are about taking your place, but not all of the available place. Social skills have two sides: one expressive, the other receptive.

Expressive social skill

It is the social skill of self-assertion.

This consists of simply not always waiting for someone to give us room (low self-esteem) but without always wanting to take all the room (high self-esteem).

Trying to fit in with others does not always go smoothly. It is often disturbed by many psychological phenomena (such as self-esteem problems) and emotional phenomena (such as stress).

Receptive social skill

This is the active listening approach.

Listening is an active process during which we welcome the other person to engage in the conversation, ask for clarifications, get emotionally in tune with the other person, etc.

It is a subtle process that can be disrupted by different factors, such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Inhibition (by not participating in the conversation, you fall asleep)
  • Self-doubts (instead of listening, we try to look good)
  • Etc.

Listening to others is helpful for self-esteem since it:

Listening also helps with acceptance, reminding us that listening does not mean approving or validating everything the speaker says. Indeed, one can actively listen while disagreeing.

Therefore, we make an effort to listen instead of saying to ourselves:

“That’s not it at all, he’s totally wrong, what a shame to think like that.”

Social skills in psychotherapy

In therapy sessions, role-playing is often used to reflect with patients in a lively and emotional way, rather than remaining only in speech or reflection.

For example, suppose a patient complains they have difficulty relating to others or feels they cannot interest others or be listened to.

In that case, therapists might put them in a role-playing exercise instead of listening or reflecting on all the possible causes of the problem.

The therapist may suggest a role-playing exercise in which they tell the patient to imagine a person sitting next to them at a meal where the patient knows no one.

How would the patient make contact with the person? The lessons learned from these little scenarios are often very fruitful.

Namely, despite their artificial nature, these scenarios often activate emotions very close to those provoked by “real” situations.

In addition, these scenarios also reveal certain behaviors that are pretty similar to what usually happens.

What is striking about these role plays is that many people have difficulty giving personal information or opinions when questioned traditionally.

Not that they don’t have opinions or judgments or that they have nothing to say about them.

But when the therapist actively questions the patient through role-play, they can obtain helpful insights.

However, the patient often feels there is no point because what comes from him is necessarily dull and tasteless.

Remember that it is not only up to us to judge the relevance or interest of our words. Knowing that we are the worst possible censors of ourselves, it is better to leave it to others to see if our words are interesting or not.

5 tips to improve your social skills and self presentation

Here are five tips you can use to improve your social skills:

  1. Do not hesitate to ask questions when in conversation with someone.
  2. Don’t be afraid of silences, and get into the habit of letting a second or two pass before speaking again or restarting the conversation.
  3. Remember that this is an exchange, not a job interview or university entrance exam, so relax and de-stress!
  4. Engage and give a little of yourself to the relationship, such as telling a personal story, sharing your opinion, or expressing your feelings.
  5. And finally, really get into the exchange instead of watching each other’s reactions.

The benefits of a balanced and truthful self presentation

Should one always try to present oneself in the best possible light, whether psychologically or physically?

The answer to this question will depend on the intensity of the effort required.

However, we must be wary of these efforts that would kill spontaneity and not place too much value on coming across as spontaneous.

Also, spontaneity is not always desirable: some good behaviors can be spontaneous, but so can other behaviors like being evasive or lying.

Better than focusing on spontaneity would be to focus on the right balance and sincerity.

A modest self presentation, which is neither too positive nor too negative, will lead to:

  • the most favorable feelings and judgments of others,
  • the most sympathy, and
  • the greatest social acceptance.

Know that the benefits of sincerity are relational and also internal. In the long run, sincerity is necessary because of the exhausting cost of pretending.

When we are asked to make unusual efforts to present ourselves to others, it can have intellectual and emotional adverse effects.

A study was conducted where volunteers were asked to present themselves in an unusual way:

  • either in a flattering and very positive way with relatives,
  • or in a very humble and modest manner in front of strangers.

Both attitudes are the opposite of spontaneous trends.

Next, the volunteers were asked to perform a series of complex three-digit by two-digit multiplications. All volunteers showed great difficulty in performing the calculations.

Indeed, the stress of trying to control one’s self presentation impaired their ability to concentrate in the short term.

Other research has also shown that volunteers confronted with complex and demanding tasks will increase their narcissistic tendencies (not their self-esteem but their tendency to overvalue themselves).

All these studies conclude that modest self presentation should be the primary goal rather than trying to regulate our spontaneity.

In any case, the conscious and excessive desire to always show oneself in the best light and perfectly control how we are perceived represents a significant source of stress.

Exposure to others without undue effort may also be an effort.

However, this effort can be more fruitful in the long run because it allows us to achieve the ultimate goal: to be appreciated by others for who we truly are and not for who we seem to be.

Self presentation: Conclusion

In today’s society, it isn’t easy to know how to show your best side.

It is also complicated at times to accept one’s own body that may not fit into the “standards” of our world today.

However, it is essential to accept that everyone is different and that it does not necessarily take extraordinary efforts to get the attention of others.

Being appreciated by others is always nice.

But it is even better for your self-esteem if you are appreciated for who you are rather than for what you have achieved or how you (falsely) portray yourself.

Feeling understood and accepted for who we are, eases our defenses and tendencies to protect or elevate our self-esteem.

About Megan Smith

Megan has been fighting overweight and her plus size since her teenage years. After trying all types of remedies without success, she started doing her own research. Megan founded Plus Size Zeal to share her findings. She also developed various detailed buying guides for plus-size people in order to make their lives easier and more comfortable. Read More