Your personal brand is what other people think of you. In some ways it’s outside your control, but you obviously have some influence over personal branding.
Personal branding is unavoidable. As others interact with you, they’ll automatically form mental associations that connect you with certain labels, often within the first few seconds. You can’t avoid being labeled, and other people can’t avoid labeling you. It happens automatically because our brains are wired to recognize patterns and form associations. The labels people attach to you become part of your personal brand.
If you type an email, you’re branding yourself. If you have a conversation with a friend or family member, you’re branding yourself. How you dress, what you eat, and how you talk all contribute to your brand. Think of your brand as the summation of all the associations about you that are stored in people’s minds.
Your External Brand
Your external brand is how you project yourself to the world. There is an element of choice here. You can decide what to say or write in order to convey a certain image. Your projected image will influence what others think of you and how they might choose to interact with you. You may stumble upon this image accidentally, or you can deliberately target a specific type of image. Ask your friends to define you with 3 words/adjectives – that’s your external brand.
I think the best external image to project is the one you believe best reflects who you really are. Being yourself simply means being honest.
Paying attention to your external image needn’t become an ego trip. Really it’s just the opposite. Becoming aware of how others see you helps you identify blind spots within yourself. Then you can work on those blind spots to help you become more internally congruent. For example, our bearded salesperson may realize he (hopefully not she) was sabotaging his results because he didn’t really want to work in sales anyway.
In my next post, we shall discuss about External Brand in more detail.
Your internal brand
In addition to your external brand, which is how most people think about personal branding, you also have an internal brand. This is what you think of yourself.
What 3 adjectives would you use to describe yourself? Take a moment to think about that, and jot them down. Is this a brand you feel good about? Does it really resonate with you? Is this the same image you project to the world? If you could change those adjectives, what would you change them to?
More about Internal Branding in coming posts.
Internal meets External
Now ask yourself if your internal personal brand matches the external brand you project to others. You don’t necessarily know what others think of you, but you should at least know if there are any parts of yourself you don’t fully accept which you try to hide from others. If you find some areas you’ve been hiding, consider that your lack of self-acceptance may be blinding you from seeing these aspects as the assets they really are.
For example, if you see yourself as introverted, you could see that in a negative light (shy, antisocial) or in a positive light (intelligent, deep). If you sometimes describe yourself in negative terms, see if those terms also have a positive side. Consider focusing on the positive aspects instead.
It’s expected that your internal brand and your external brand won’t completely coincide, and that’s OK, but incongruousness can create interesting interactions that help you grow in unexpected ways.
Once you’ve gotten yourself assigned a few adjectives in someone else’s mind, it can be very difficult to change that. So just make the best of the adjectives you’ve been assigned. When you learn how others see you, you can “play back at them” by acknowledging their expectations. Instead of trying to fight your own branding, roll with it and turn it into a strength. This actually helps you reconnect your external brand with your internal one.
Personal branding has a lot to teach us about personal growth. It’s a rich place to explore. I encourage you to try the earlier exercise with your friends, family, and coworkers. Ask everyone to describe you with 3 adjectives. You’ll learn a great deal from it.