Written by Sasha Rowe with Young Entrepreneur Council for Forbes. Link to original article: https://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2020/02/26/the-priceless-roi-of-personal-branding/#2939675b5850
Personal branding is more than telling people who you are as a founder so they’ll believe in your company/brand. This digital world we live in builds us up, allowing us vast opportunities, unlimited (surface) connection and space to tell our story. But, more often than not, personal branding is used solely as an external form of communication — projecting a controlled (and incomplete) view of the individual. If executed properly, though, personal branding becomes a very powerful resource both on an external and internal level.
Take, for example, ambiguous images, or optical illusions — depending on your emotional state and season of life you’re currently in, you can visually interpret a single image in multiple ways. The same concept can be applied to old photos and memories. Have you ever looked back at a photo from your childhood or a past relationship and experienced a completely different perception of that particular memory? This perceptual phenomenon of subjective changes is called multistable perception. It’s the "hidden" or ambiguous aspect of your personal brand, the ability to go back and analyze past posts with multistable perception, that is the internal benefit so often overlooked.
The moment you lose sight of what drives your passion is the moment the valuation of your personal brand becomes far greater than numbers. This moment isn’t biased, and isn’t always isolated — it also has the potential to be very dangerous, especially without a resource to remind you where you started from and what you are capable of, as it can lead to depression — or worse. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs are more prone to extreme outcomes because sometimes, the amount of stress they experience becomes chronic, passion becomes obsessive, insomnia becomes normal, profound self-doubt and emotional dependence on work set in, avoidance and social withdrawal become too familiar — plus, physical deterioration can be anywhere from borderline treatable to permanently debilitating (e.g., stress-induced seizures, stroke or heart attack). I’ve not only been witness to it, but I’ve also experienced it.
Entrepreneurship, even though extremely fulfilling, comes at a price beyond monetary value, and that price isn’t talked about enough. The type of stress that comes with being in a leadership role is immense because not only are you dealing with everyday personal stress, you are also holding all of the stress of your team, trying to maintain the balance between empathy and productivity. It’s a lonely place but doesn’t have to be.
For the majority of 2019, I struggled but thought certainly I wasn’t the only one battling this. I became hyperaware of others with similar experiences, yet I didn’t know how to start talking about it for myself. I almost envied the ones who could talk about it. Living this dark reality personally, in addition to learning about its secret profusion, made it undeniably clear that personal branding can be quite literally life-saving. Just like any investment, though, personal branding is a proactive solution. The good news is, it’s not a risky investment, and ensuring such a priceless return is simple using just three benchmarks.
1. Do not anchor your identity in your startup.
Separate yourself from your startup in your personal branding efforts.
Anchoring your identity in your startup can lead to a loss in sense of self when you decide to pivot or grow into your next chapter. Changing direction is never easy, and if you’re already close to burnout, pivoting away from the one thing you have publicly identified yourself with/as will only intensify the feelings of loneliness and failure and other dangers of depression. Remaining true to yourself in your personal branding journey will make pivoting become beautiful and transformative.
2. Understand the strength of vulnerability.
The idea of public vulnerability is daunting, but honestly, it shows that you’re, in fact, human. Many entrepreneurs are very good at holding themselves to higher standards with little to no tolerance for anything less. In my experience, having my own "words of wisdom" repeated back to me during a low point of my entrepreneurial journey was the moment that made me not only truly appreciate the mantra "you are your own worst enemy" but also cognize the fact my Instagram feed doubled as a powerful resource for me to mentally capitalize on, as well.
When you start feeling overwhelmed or unsure of where to go next — you already have the answers. Go back to your feed, and start reading your own content. All the answers you are searching for are right there — in your own words. The more vulnerable you are now, the more answers you’re giving your future self.
3. Caption like a journal entry.
Captioning an image can be the hardest part of posting on social media. Don’t overthink it; just write what’s on your mind. If you’ve had a bad day and the overall tone of your caption is negative, reflect on the situation, and find the lesson. Share how you walked through the fire, not how it stopped you, and share it conversationally. Not only will your audience be able to connect with you, but you never know what others are going through, and the power of you sharing may just be the saving grace in someone else’s life.
Writing thoughts and feelings is just as powerful as speaking them. Being able to share what’s going on inside your head allows you space, energy and cerebral function to lead, create, sleep, laugh, process and so on. It’s also a digital storyline full of emotional breadcrumbs written for you, by you, so in the moment you forget, you know exactly where you came from and can pinpoint the moment you started losing sight of yourself, stopped talking and started shutting people out.
Keep in mind, it is just as important to share the wins as it is the lessons. Your audience loves connecting and learning from you, but they also love celebrating with you! It’s good to be proud of yourself, and it’s extremely healthy to stop and celebrate milestones — no matter how big or small.