If there is one thing I love about personal branding, it’s the inner growth that automatically happens by successfully undertaking the journey. Personal branding, if done correctly, by its very nature becomes a catalyst to personal growth – even unexpected healing. Being an instrument and witness to that transformative breakthrough is why I do what I do.
Being unique in a crowded world is critical to success yet few have the courage to stand in the spotlight of their own glorious difference until such time the oft judgmental and fickle populous decides to accept and reward them for it. Yes, personal branding can be hard – personally. It’s rarely painless so let’s start at the beginning with the elephant in the room.
I seldom have the luxury of discussing personal branding without acknowledging its first and greatest obstacle. It’s the uninvited guest that accompanies every coaching session on the topic. Volumes have been written about it since the beginning of time. It’s the world’s most powerful motivator and distractor. It has always been the chain binding the feet of humanity. It’s the poison that kills every dream and it’s the hurdle to every success. It’s fear.
Let’s face it, few of us are blessed with an overabundance of self-assurance such that the critical words and negative opinions of others, whether real or imagined, have no effect on us. We spent our earliest years trying to meet the expectations of our parents, family, and friends. By the time we entered high school our every thought and action were about fitting in. Peer pressure and acceptance is the force few have the true grit to rebel against during those early years. Argue if you will, but even the rebels had their own groups, and to fit in you had to do as the rebels did. Whatever the uniting principles of your little band, you were bound by the code of its members at the time. You dressed similarly. Behaved similarly. You had your own inside jokes and way of speaking. Your goals were often similar. The stories told, the music you shared and likely the socioeconomic make-up of the group didn’t vary greatly. Yes, we all had our own drum to beat but we kept the same rhythm as the rest of the group or faced rejection. Welcome to SamesVille!
The punishment for being different in SamesVille could be harsh. Everyone was hardwired to avoid being too different and react automatically to those that tried to vary from the norm. Repercussions ranged from being the butt of a joke to outright bullying until the behavior was corrected. Few dared to risk ostracization. Each school or community had their cautionary tales that became the stuff of our rejection nightmares.
Thinking back on my own teens, I shudder to imagine those years had the social media gods come into existence at that time. Consider the pressure on our kids today, when your entire reputation literally hangs in the balance of the next Tweet, photo or video. The risk of being unique is daunting and the challenge of being accepted even more difficult. The outcast risk becoming the next teen suicide statistic. Our well-meaning and necessary efforts to build and maintain an orderly society, educate and keep our children safe, has innocently and inadvertently developed into a nearly perfect, invisible, self-perpetuating prison that our educated and civilized adult-selves spend a lifetime trying to either cope with or break out of.
Most adults operate on the same guiding principles they accepted back in school – avoiding the radar of differentiation, working and living within the same limits set by the invisible fences that shocked them into their restrictive boxes. I’m not going to insult you by trying to convince you those same fences don’t exist for adults today. They’re still there and they are still electrified by public opinions since we as a people can’t seem to evolve beyond them. With that said, however, much has indeed changed! Most importantly, I hope that change is you!
I’m not going to delve into a debate on sociology or the psychological dynamics of peer pressure among children and adults. At this point, you’ve likely been both rewarded and occasionally beat down by those transitional realities and responsibilities. Fortuitously, if you’ve read this far, you’ve had enough with that restrictive existence or are at least making the effort to break free. If you need it, I give you permission! You’re on an undertaking of personal branding excellence. The first step is the discovery of self, uncovering those oft-hidden differences and knowing it’s not only “okay” but expected that you celebrate those quirks and qualities that make you different; thus those insecurities and fear by-products of our childhood experiences must be overcome and discarded.
Easier said than done, it is time to shake off those past doubts and realize you are now emotionally equipped to deal with the monsters in the closet assuming the ghosts of that past are still haunting you. Pointing fingers hold no bullets. Rejection isn’t the big scary as you now possess the armor to deflect the sticks and stones you once feared. Take a bruise and know you aren’t going to break. The new world has boundless plunders for the enlightened, the brave and the different. Sure, it takes courage and a temporary, discomforting stretch but it’s in that work the besting of those fears unlock the potential for incredible personal growth. It is also what is required to stand in the spotlight of public scrutiny and proudly display your personal brand for all the world to see. You’ll find the positive side-effects far outweigh the negative. It’s an empowering exercise that strengthens your inner resilience, builds the confidence to expand your audience and stand proudly basking in your own authenticity. Truly, I’m excited for you!
Wrapping this up, I’m openly acknowledging for you that fear is likely to creep in during the process of developing and marketing your personal brand. It’s a natural reaction when exposing parts of yourself when experience has taught you to cover or hide. However, I point out that most of those anxieties are unfounded. You will find a world of supporters that you never dreamed existed!
I will also acknowledge that there are haters, doubters, and naysayers that will try to undermine your progress. Some of them will come from unexpected sources that will surprise and confound you. That is the world we live in, unfortunately. Their motives are to tear you down and keep you in the pits of despair of which they deem themselves king or queen. Pity them but don’t enable them. I call the haters “lobsters”. You know the story of the lobsters in the tank. Those on the bottom, not wanting to be left behind, pull down the ones at the top. Shake off the lobsters and keep climbing. The world outside the tank is the one worth living in. I’ll revisit my earlier words, “stand in the spotlight of your own glorious difference” for in that light is the becoming of the personal brand of you. I know it will be magnificent.