If you type ‘personal branding’ into Google today, you will see thousands of search results pop up. From what will get you noticed, to how you can build your brand overnight, the internet seems to have all the answers to our current favourite buzzword. Quick fixes, though, will only get you so far. Truly building your personal brand is an ongoing commitment to yourself and your growth.

Being cognisant of your perception to others is crucial, especially in today’s highly visual, hyper-connected world, but more often than not, it is only successful if you believe what you’re trying to sell. A positive image of self can dramatically alter one’s approach to life and its possibilities and is the first step towards leading a happier, more successful, and more fulfilling life. Self-love is paramount, and as complex in nature as it may seem, with time, practice, and patience, it can be learned.

The next step is to be mindful of the image you project. When you meet people in your professional and personal circles, do they see you as the person you want them to see? It takes only seven seconds for people to form an opinion of a person they just met. Seven seconds. This may seem unfair. It’s impossible for a person to get a realistic understanding of who someone is, what their beliefs are, and what they stand to offer without so much as a proper conversation. Here’s the thing, though, we all do it.

We judge people and form opinions without so much as being conscious of the process, and we’re not really to blame. We’re all products of evolutionary adaptation and gauging a person’s character in such a minimal amount of time is a survival instinct that we developed many thousands of years ago to ensure we don’t end up in physical danger.

Funnily, even though our surroundings have changed over multiple times since, our instincts? Not so much.

80% of the messages you convey to those around you are visual in nature. The way you dress, the hygiene you maintain, the way in which you are groomed, your body language, and the etiquette you demonstrate, all add up to how a person may perceive you without so much as speaking to you. Your appearance and demeanor strongly influence the assumptions people are likely to make of your personality, values, financial success, authority, trustworthiness, intelligence, and suitability for a given task or position.

For instance, a person with a firm handshake would be perceived as confident, a person who makes eye contact during conversation is seen as trustworthy, and a sharply dressed individual is often understood to be capable or successful or wealthy or intelligent or a combination of any of those traits. Research shows that a positive initial assessment of someone often translates into making even more positive associations with the given individual.

Furthermore, the way in which you present yourself influences the way in which others behave with and respond to you. Giving out the right visual cues means people will be more receptive to hiring you, paying you a higher fee or salary, trusting you with information, complying with your requests, giving you access to decision makers, or purchasing your product. This means that your image is, quite literally, worth a million bucks.

So, it’s time you start investing in yourself and your growth in a conscious and constructive manner. Just getting through your days and weeks is not good enough. We all deserve to live a life worth celebrating and live it as our most happy and confident selves.

So, it is imperative that you learn how to be courageous in making the best version of yourself shine through; and use the tools already at your disposal to make a powerful impression that lingers on long after you’ve left the proverbial room.

This is a thrilling circle of positivity and discovery, because once you set out on this journey of developing a healthy relationship with yourself and feeling more in control of your equations with others, there is nowhere to go but up.

The authors are co-founders of NYOU Image Consulting