I am often challenged when I tell people about what I do. ‘Isn’t personal branding a way of making us all look the same?’ or ‘Isn’t it shallow thinking about how we look?’ They are just some of the many questions I receive from the uneducated. I say uneducated, not to offend, but merely to point out that is not what I do at all and if you stick with me, I shall share my thoughts on what authenticity really is and how I help clients to become authentic leaders.
My belief is that we are all unique. Why would we want to try to be like someone else? You are certainly the best placed to be you after all, nobody can do a better job. What I assist people to do is to find out who they really are and how they might want to represent themselves to the outside world in an authentic way that feels right for them. We all have a personal brand whether we like it or not, so much better for it to be one we want to communicate, rather than one that happens by accident!
It is such a visual world that we do make decisions about people all the time. We have to, it’s part of our survival strategy. Although life has evolved since caveman days, our instincts for our ‘flight or fight’ response is still there. So although, in the Western World, we don’t necessarily need to make decisions on whether someone is a threat to us or not, (not often anyway!) we still use that same strategy to decide whether we are going to get on with someone or not. Are they like us? Do we like the same things? Will be be friends? Can we work well together?
If we didn’t do this our brain would most likely go into overdrive! Have you ever considered just how much information we come into contact with on a daily basis? Most of it of course happens unconsciously. As you sit reading this right now, your eyes are focusing, you are breathing, you are blinking, the blood is pumping round your body – now I don’t suppose you were consciously aware of that happening until I pointed it out, but it happens nonetheless and our brains have to tell it to happen. In fact, we come into contact with around 2,000,000 bits of information every second! The brain can only cope with between 5-9 bits of information consciously at any one time (unless you are Einstein)! Therefore, our brains are constantly deleting, distorting and generalising information to help us to make sense of it.
This is the reason we make an incredibly quick analysis of people when we meet them, it is so that we can pop them into the filing cabinet of our mind and know how to deal with them. So what does that mean for authenticity? Well, for me, it’s about being true to yourself, it’s about being real, it’s sometimes about being vulnerable and honest, which in the world of business may seem a little strange, but actually, when we show our human side, we make much better connections with people. It’s exhausting trying to be someone else and not something you can keep up full time. Once people realise that you are not being genuine it can really damage your personal brand.
So if you were being authentic today, what would that be like for you? What would it look like? What would it sound like? What would it feel like? Do you feel that you can be authentic, or do you think you should be like someone else? In this world of ‘fakery’ it’s a tough call, but one definitely worth considering.
I’d love to receive your feedback, please drop me a comment in the box below, or on Facebook, Twitter, Linked in, or anywhere else you care to be reading this!
Wishing you a great day,
Lyn Bromley MFIPI, ACMA – Managing Director, First Impressions
Lyn Bromley is Managing Director of First Impressions Training Ltd and a Master of The Federation of Image Professionals International. (FIPI) She is also Membership Director of FIPI and a leader of Achiever’s Academy for Women.
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