I’ve Got a Secret about Authenticity & Your Personal Brand

Everywhere I turn there is someone writing about the value of being “authentic” with your personal branding.  To be completely honest, the idea of being truly authentic in the context of personal branding is ridiculous. It is pie in the sky and something that not even for a minute can any of us truly execute on, nor would we want to. We all have aspects of ourselves, opinions, thoughts, etc. that are truly better left unspoken.

I started off my series on personal branding with my last post, and encouraged self reflection to really understand and answer the question of “who am I?” There is a ton of value in understanding this about yourself, knowing who you are, your authentic self. But, from here, it is about putting who you are in a context that is positive and real and ultimately valuable for you for advancement professionally and personally. Let’s face it, that means you are not going to put out everything about yourself. You are going to work on curating the personal brand that will communicate to the world the best impression of you. Yes, this should include differentiating aspects of you, but it shouldn’t include the things that don’t put you and who you are in a positive light.

To a large degree what I’m saying is controversial and I’m sure there are personal branding experts out there that will argue against my viewpoint. But it would be much better for individuals who are focusing on their personal brand to focus on being sincere, rather then being authentic.

If not our authentic selves, what should we be striving to reach? Decades ago, the literary critic Lionel Trilling gave us an answer that sounds very old-fashioned to our authentic ears: sincerity. Instead of searching for our inner selves and then making a concerted effort to express them, Trilling urged us to start with our outer selves. Pay attention to how we present ourselves to others, and then strive to be the people we claim to be. – Adam Grant

So where should we go from here in terms of steps in your personal branding journey? If you’ve answered for yourself fully the question of “who am I?” and hopefully jotted down some notes for your later reference, now I’d like you to step back and think about what  value you bring to relationships you have with others. These relationships should include both personal and professional.

Your personal brand is an asset that must be managed with the intention of helping others benefit from having a relationship with you and / or by being associated with your work and the industry you serve. – Glenn Llopis

It’s really important to start thinking in terms of what you offer others. Your personal brand isn’t all about you as some might think. It is actually all about how who you are benefits others and how you can communicate your unique value proposition. It is about building meaningful relationships in which you put your best self forward both online and in person.

So take some time and reflect and jot down your thoughts. Next we will start to define the elements that make up your brand. More on that as we continue our personal branding journey together.

I’d love to hear from you. What are your thoughts on being authentic with your personal brand? Do you think it is possible to be truly authentic? If so, is this really what is best for you personally and professionally?



2 thoughts on “I’ve Got a Secret about Authenticity & Your Personal Brand

  1. KellyAnn Schiavo says:

    This is so true Violet. I think in “showing” our personal brand we can only ever show the best bits. If I don’t show pictures of myself in no make-up, joggers and a t-shirt with food stains on (which is pretty much me every Sunday!) does that mean i’m not authentic? I couldn’t care less if it does – it means I’m human. It means i’d rather not show ‘quite’ all of everything and I think that’s fine – I’m good with it.
    Regarding a personal brand being about helping others, i see that on the flip side.
    Its about others seeing in you the skills, characteristics, emotional connection that they can relate which in turn builds a trust. They buy into you, you help them – but the the whole cycle starts with how you portray yourself through your branded image.
    Really interesting write up – I could chat all day! 🙂

    • violet says:

      Excellent points Kelly Ann. Thanks for taking the time to read and share your thoughts.

      I agree that we are showing our best bits. It’s not that doing so is wrong, but rather that this idea of an “authentic” personal brand is a fallacy. Everyone is using the wrong term. Being authentic would be showing every part of who we are. Not a curated version. Instead we are all putting our best foot forwards and in my mind as we should be. Maybe the word “sincere” makes more sense. Or, I’m definitely open to other suggestions.

      As far as the flip side of the relationship, I definitely agree. However, if all we do is broadcast, we are very unlikely to connect with others. So I think it is a delicate dance we all must do. We must learn to share who we are while at the same time interacting and adding value for others.

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