This topic is something you've read about eight thousand times before - except, this time, I wrote between the lines.
The Internet is teeming with articles about it, and it will come up at every conference, brunch or meet-up you will ever attend. It is this century’s version of your shadow. So, you may as well stop running from it, turn around and twerk with it. It is your Personal Brand.
Don’t stress. I, too, get the shakes when I hear “Personal Brand.” Because, most people have no clue how to build or maintain one without being forced to give a sh*t about what other people think about them. At worst, it makes us all feel like a politician and at best we feel like Beyonce. Either way, there’s a lot of lying, lace-fronting and see-through dressing involved.
I’m convinced it doesn’t have to be this way. You can have a “rep” without being maniacal about whether people think you have an amazing body, or whether your Instagram page is nice enough for you to get a job and a like (or 10). Here’s how:
Recognize that other people’s opinions will never belong to you.
We’ve all heard the phrase “what other people say about me is none of my business.” (And if you haven’t, you have now.) Whoever said that was certainly realer than my last weave, because perception is a super personal thing. No matter how much you try to mold or care about someone else’s perception, you can’t ever really take it away from them. Another person’s perception is rooted in things dating all the way back to the day they were born (i.e. how they were treated as a child; how they were raised and socialized to view women, black people, LGBTQ people, etc.; the language they were - or weren’t - taught; their familial and community culture... I could go on forever, baby!). So for you to live and die by someone else’s perception, you better be prepared to live and die with them from their Day One. And really, ain’t nobody got time for that. Let it go. Their perception is theirs and it will always be rooted in something you’ll never fully understand.
Now, rejoice in the fact that your personal brand is also personal.
Your personal brand should be a nuanced and gorgeous reflection of who you are today as a result of everything you’ve been before. It belongs to you. Instagram certainly doesn’t own it, nor does any current trend, or… opinion. A good personal brand is one that is reflective of what you’ve come to believe, what you are inspired by, and what you truly know right now. Example: Oprah clearly struggled with other people’s opinions of her brand early on, as we watched her and her weight desperately yo-yo for years. Today, though, her cover stories are not about her size. They are about her beliefs, what she is loving right now, and how comfortable she is in her skin today. It’s clear that her personal brand is finally “owned” (pun intended) by her.
Figure “you” out. Then, protect her.
Again, a personal brand is reflective of what you have come to believe, what you are inspired by and what you truly know right now. So, if you don’t know whether blonde hair, pencil skirts, veganism and Periscope are truly things you believe in, then put them down. Pick up the things you know about yourself. Perhaps, you know you have always been a brilliant illustrator, a dynamic speaker or that you can work a ‘fro like no other b*tch on the block. Those are your real things that make up your real brand that no opinion can take from you - because they’ve been there way longer than the opinions. Once you acknowledge those things and begin to own them, you better protect them like the Beyhive protects Beyonce’s public speaking skills. Let no opinion in. Whether that means not giving all of yourself up for public consumption, or memorizing an elevator pitch on why for you don’t care what people think about your beautifully narrow (or wide!) hips, the bottom line is: you have to protect you. It’s truly the only way to have a personal brand.