Define Yourself Before Others Do it for You — and They Already Are

Personal branding used to be an elusive concept. 

I thought it was something meant for only companies or influencers… not an average (and lost) individual like myself. 

What I did not know was that — even as an average individual who did not define a personal brand for myself, I already had one. 

The saying that “Your brand isn’t what you say it is, it is what others say about you” is so true.

The fact that each of us already has a personal brand can be a good or a bad thing. Our brand as defined by others can be accurate, but it can also be completely erroneous in portraying the person we are or want to become. 

So how do we leverage this understanding to define a powerful and accurate brand for ourselves? 

1. Know that you have a brand — a unique, and valuable one

As mentioned earlier, I used to see myself as ‘average.’ I would tell myself, “I don’t need to build a personal brand. I am not special enough to have one… I’m young. I’m not an expert in a particular field. I don’t know what I can give to others that are not already out there.”  

Hold up.

First of all, everybody has a brand. Second, everybody has something valuable (i.e. a valuable personal brand) to offer. Many of us compare ourselves with others, feel ‘average’ because there are so many ‘successful’ people out there. Ironically, those who seem to be ‘successful’ are likely comparing themselves with some other individuals who seem ‘even more successful.’ This phenomenon is exacerbated by the pervasive influence that social media has on our generation. 

The truth is, you do NOT have to be at a certain ‘level’ or ‘status’ to have a valuable personal brand. Even if you are not the top expert in a certain field, you offer something different, something unique. That special brand of yours is shaped by every single aspect of yourself; your passion, personality, values, experiences, etc. Nobody shares the same life as you. And that means nobody can share the same personal brand as you. You can stand out with your personal brand, as long as you recognize and hone in on it. 

2. Shift away from the ‘what’

Too often we define ourselves by what we do. 

In high school, I was seen as the top scorer in mathematics. Going into college, I was recognized as an aspiring content creator/fashion stylist. In the later years of college, I was seen as the designer as I loved playing around with Photoshop.

I am none of that now. 

My interests changed. My goals shifted. 

But I am still the same person.

So why did my personal brand change? 

It was because I was so focused on talking about the things I did. I did not realize that there was more to myself than my superficial interests and goals. I overlooked the underlying forces driving those interests — my personality, values, beliefs, motivation, etc. I was focusing on my ‘what’ and not my ‘why.’ And unfortunately, our ‘what’ will change way more often than our ‘why’ throughout our lives. My recommendation? Read Simon Sinek’s Finding Your Why if you haven’t already; understand your ‘why’ and think about how you can communicate it so that your ‘what’ (we can delve deeper into this in the future) does not override your personal brand. 

3. Don’t think too much into it 

With all that being said, I do not want you to be too caught up with finding THE perfect personal brand for yourself. 

Many of us, myself included, can get caught up with wanting to perfect our personal brand so that it can be 100% accurate and consistent for the rest of our lives. Having such a mindset can be paralyzing. What I am coming to see is that personal branding is a process of trial and error. It should be fun, and it shouldn’t feel like a chore. 

Granted, personal branding is not easy. You have to truly know yourself (your what, how, and why)… and then make sure those aspects are communicated such that the personal brand that you’ve defined for yourself aligns with what others say about you. 

As cliche as it sounds, personal branding is not easy, but it is worth it. You will never have a powerful and accurate personal brand unless you try. 

So just do it. Be yourself. Be intentional. Have fun! 

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