There is only one you. Share with others the best version of yourself. The one that covers the richness of your skills, capabilities and experience. Show the authentic one you.
One of the common mistakes in modern marketing is the suggestion that a brand is somehow independent of the product. We hear people talk about creating and promoting brands with little connection to the experience that the actual product delivers. In fact people can go as far to talk about building a brand without even selling a product as if marketing itself is the point. All successful marketers know that as the heart of a successful brand is a moment of truth about the experience of the product or service. If your brand isn’t honest you either have a short-lived relationship or need to continuously invest in marketing and efforts to maintain an illusion.
Sadly this flawed marketing approach can also creep into pressures we experience to be the best version of ourselves in work and our lives. One of the reasons people react so badly to “personal branding” is that they see it as maintaining this inauthentic facade. Too many people feel the pressure to be one person at work and a different person in the rest of their life. There are real costs to this effort.
Firstly, pretending is exhausting. I know because I tried for years to fit into the expectations of managers, peers and organisations as to the kind of employee and manager I should be. When you have a different life experience, different backgrounds and different thoughts this can be really challenging. I found it exhausting & ineffective to pretend. Mark Twain once said “if you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything”. It is also true that if you be yourself, you don’t have to remember the act anymore.
Authenticity is the alignment of what you say and do with who you are. Authenticity builds trust and is a key to effective human relationships. Pretending to be a another more ‘perfect’ version of yourself will undercut your authenticity and ultimately your effectiveness as an employee, a peer and a leader. At some point, the pretence will break down or crack just enough to cause others to doubt you. People build trusted relationships with whole people, not perfect airbrushed cardboard cutouts.
Pretending also diminishes why you were chosen for the job. Usually when people are pretending they leave out the uniqueness of their personal experience and capabilities in pursuit of some universal average expectation. Averages lie. Nobody really is like that. Average is rarely effective. Worse still, you were chosen for your role because of your breadth of capabilities and experience. Denying your whole talents is undermining that choice.
Often it is not easy to bring together the many parts of your life and share them with others. We aren’t a neatly packaged brand. We come with complexities, contradictions and surprises. Often we are more concerned about these things than others are. You will find life richer, easier and far more effective if you focus on bringing the whole one you to your work. In the heart of those complexities, contradictions and surprises you will find what defines you, what others can appreciate and what will make you effective in your work. You are the one you. Share that person with others.