• Barbara L. Ciccarelli, PhD

Who or What is Controlling Your Personal Brand?

The slippery slope of self-discipline in marketing yourself

The hands of inspiration

For many of you, it is the object of your self-discipline that defines who you are. That also means it determines what you are known to do and who you are known to be by friends, family and employers. You could say it has a big influence on your personal brand, that image that you project in your first impressions and in different forms of communication--social media, employment pitches, emails, texts, snail mail, etc. According to Caroline Castrillon in Forbes,

“Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is famously quoted as saying, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” The term “branding” used to be reserved for businesses, but with the advent of social sites and the gig economy, personal branding has become fundamental. A personal brand is the unique combination of skills and experiences that make you who you are. It is how you present yourself to the world.”

Castrillon showcases Oprah as the top personal brander. She writes, “Oprah has always stuck to her core competency: challenging millions of viewers to live the best lives possible by understanding their potential.” We all know Oprah so no doubt when Castrillon refers to “potential” she is not just talking about intellectual accomplishments or what is traditionally called “work.” Despite all the hype about emotional I.Q,, however, it is still true that many associate their identity with their accomplishments and while doing so perhaps neglect the messier emotional side of things, which, in the end, would perhaps create a different version of success.

So let’s take a look at self-discipline. What motivates it? Is it all about the process and the progress of a task. Or is it just “ticking the box.” Do we just love to be in the doing and learning mode, something that comes with every task whether getting the grocery list or finalizing a work or school portfolio. Is it the rewards of self-discipline that drive us or is it, rather, the seemingly endless need to try to get control of who we are and how we are defined?

According to Ralph Jabbour in Entrepreneur, “The common factor that every successful individual talks about in every interview and every post is their self-discipline.” So not having self-discipline basically deprives you of success? Solving the mystery surrounding self-discipline, therefore, has high stakes.

Are there penalties in your culture for not developing self-discipline? Are you perceived negatively if you purposely avoid discipline of any kind. I have a friend I’ve known for about 35 years, and while I practice self-discipline in my everyday life, she sees her loose and unburdened structure as a sign of her greater freedom—freedom from demands perhaps or just freedom from her own and others’ expectations. A female artist I know argues that an artist’s trait is not self-discipline but rather inspiration. When I mentioned to her that I once submitted a bunch of poetry to a contest and lost, then stopped writing poetry, her remark was, “then you are not a true poet.” An issue of inspiration, not self-discipline.

So you see, there are other ways of defining success, and the self for that matter, and what you do and what motivates you to do it may be different for everyone. The question, however, is how does your image of yourself compare to the personal brand you are projecting and are you happy with the way you are differentiating yourself from others whether with friends, family, colleagues, or job candidates.

Castrillon concludes that “Your honesty, transparency and authenticity are what will differentiate you in the long-run,” but this is a loaded statement. How can you be honest in your personal branding if you are not even honest with yourself, and many aren’t. Likewise are you transparent to yourself or just transparent to others and do the two images, self-image and personal branding image match or crossover.

Finally, there is authenticity. Yes, one way of looking at it is that the baby steps of self-discipline are always a good rule in life’s game of process to progress. Another way is, if we have inspiration, or passion I would say, and are true to ourselves in what we do or want to do, the negative connotation of “self-discipline” disappears, and we are left with a great deal more of happiness not to mention a thriving personal brand.

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