You are not a Brand, You are a Person.

Today, as soon as I woke up, I read a tweet that made me feel weird.

Now granted, this tweet was to promote a media event (this afternoon) about how to help kids navigate the digital world, and probably, how not to screw up their real reputations with digital dumbassery. And that’s an incredibly important conversation to have with parents and children, too. But coaching our children to navigate this new terrain by creating “personal brands?” That rubbed me wrong.

The idea of personal branding always makes me uncomfortable. All over the place I am being told to do it. Build your tribe, find your platform, build your influence. Be bigger. Stronger. All of it. It’s exhausting.

Half of my time is spent fighting (and the other half is spent accepting) this very concept. I don’t want to be a brand, but to be successful I feel like I have to be one anyway. I don’t want to be “left behind” in the “race” to nowhere, so I market and wink and try to be in the right places that make me look like I’m doing something right. It’s disingenuous. It’s fake. It’s marketing myself. It’s selling myself. It’s commercializing my identity. And now we’re telling our children to do it too?

I don’t have children. But I just came home from spending a week with three of the sweetest children I’ve met on the planet. And if I want to tell them anything, I’d want to tell them this.

You are not a brand, you are a person.

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After all this went through my head, I sat down to read Psalm 33 – 37, it was like over and over again, that same sentence was reinforced with God’s word. Here are some things I learned:

  1. Pursue peace not prosperity. When I wake up in the morning and think about what I can do to bring in money or status or stature—that is the kind of thinking that can spoil my joy for others when things go well for them. It’s that kind of thinking that breeds hostility, not peace.  Seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34:14) because a future awaits those who seek peace (Psalm 37:37). That’s who I want to be. I’m not a brand. I’m a person who seeks peace.
  2. A brand is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its strength it cannot save (Psalm 33:17). If you’ve watched coverage of Hurricane Sandy, Sandy Hook, the Oklahoma tornadoes, or any other disaster that’s ravaged our country lately—you know that nothing is permanentIn the day of total disaster, what good will it be to have a large digital footprint? It’s LAUGHABLE to even write those words. And it’s sad that that is where my mind spends so much of its time. While our plans (and houses and lives) might end, the plans of the Lord stand firm forever (Psalm 33:11). I’m not a brand. I’m a person who fears the Lord.  
  3. If I flatter myself too much, I will not be able to detect or hate my own sin (Psalm 36:2). Spending too much time in the mirror actually makes it harder too see ourselves as we truly are. Spending too much time building our own kingdoms and brands and identities is a waste, if it hinders us from understanding our souls. I’m not a brand. I’m a person who wants to be truly known.

I don’t know why this hit me so hard this morning, or why I felt the need to share it, but I did. People. We are not brands. We are people. 

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Author: Claire

Hi I'm Claire. I am a freelance writer, Vizlsa lover, and avid runner who lives in Nashville, TN. Nice to meet you.

9 thoughts

  1. Just found this post! I absolutely agree. In fact, about a month and a half ago, I wrote a short op-ed piece over on Medium discussing just that. I think one of biggest reasons I hate “personal branding” is that it dehumanizes the person. Brands churn out the same thing, over and over. People are multi-faceted; especially children, who should be using that time to learn what they are interested in! I think you hit the nail on the head.

    1. Andy,
      I am really glad i left my email alerts on because your statement of ‘dehumanizing the person’ is helps explain some issues I have had with personal branding.
      I actually like the idea of personal branding, but only when done from a pure and internalized perspective. I think it helps to define who you are, what your core is and how you can go about adding value. In my mind though, this can never be done with money in mind.

      So in conclusion, I like personal branding as an internalized compass for fulfilling and living your version of the ‘Good Life’ with no attention paid to the outward indicators or measurements.

      I’m having a hard time defining how i feel on this. Does this make sense? Thoughts?

  2. Claire,
    Thank you for this, it certainly makes one think. I think it comes down to your interpretation of the word ‘Brand’ in this context.
    I have been blogging on this and considering it quite a bit lately. The advantages to ‘Personal Branding’ are a result of the process of self discovery and personal analysis. The analogy I love here comes from quantum physics. It is the ‘heisenberg principle’ on a grand scale. The process of analysis actually causes change.
    I believe that businesses brand from the point of self interest in generating income. I do not believe that this should be the goal of ‘Personal Branding’. I do not ‘Personal Brand’ to make more money. I do it to know how to be the best and most efficient ‘Me’ that I can be.
    I hate the idea of attempting to control my ‘reputation’. The variables involved in your perception of me as my ‘reputation’ are only partially in my control. Other things come into play that I have no control over. Maybe you had a really bad day, maybe you are hungry, maybe you just got the greatest news possible. All of these, at the point that you meet me, will effect your perception of my ‘reputation’.
    The point being that attempting to control ‘Reputation’ is a failed experiment. This is the crux, ‘Personal branding’, as I see it, is nothing more than an individual attempting to ask the question, “Who am I” and “Why do I make the decisions I make”. It is then the process of attempting to control for those answers in order to live what the Aristotelian’s referred to as “The Good Life”.

    Oh, and personal branding for children; that seems absolutely ridiculous. It reminds me of a news story I once read that interviewed people who ran a company to help daughters get accepted to the sorority of the parents choice. Let kids be kids. Life gets much too real, much too quickly.

    1. Very interesting thoughts and I completely agree with you that much of our “reputation” is out of our control. Thanks for weighing in!

      Sent from my iPhone

  3. So true, Claire. The idea of building my platform/tribe always, always overwhelms me and makes me feel like I’m five million steps behind. But really? I’m right where I need to be. Thanks for this – it totally encouraged me this morning.

  4. Good stuff! I think a lot of times our understanding (or misunderstanding) of a concept is shaped a lot by the words we choose to describe it. It seems to happen just as much in Christian circles as it does in our culture at large.

    1. very true. the wording can shape all of it. I just feel like I’ve been hearing so much about this concept lately… across ALL parts of our culture. I hope (like lots of other things) its a trend that will soon pass.

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