In a time where the dominating narrative is that every entrepreneur needs to vulnerably reveal their authentic self on and offline to build and connect with an audience, I started to question whether it is possible to have a strong personal brand while being a person who values privacy. After years of experimentation, I am now able to report back that it is. Curating what elements of yourself you would like to put forward is an art. Once mastered, you can show up as your genuine self, connecting with your audience without feeling discomfort about how much you reveal. In this article, I will discuss the importance of protecting your privacy in your personal brand and my strategies for doing so.
Personal branding is the intentional effort to create and influence your public perception by positioning yourself as an authority in your industry, elevating your credibility, and differentiating yourself from competition.
Definition paraphrased from Wikipedia.
Privacy and Your Mental Health
Completely lacking a sense of restraint and protection over your privacy can be problematic in multiple areas of your life. For instance, oversharing on social media can be detrimental to your mental health. A study published in 2018, which surveyed a nationally representative sample of more than 1,700 adults ages 19 to 32, found that those who spent more time on social media and used it in a more emotionally intense way showed more symptoms of depression and anxiety compared with their peers who didn’t have as much problematic social media use. Those findings echo what’s been discovered in a large body of research on mental health and sharing online, which has found connections between certain types of social media use and lower rates of overall well-being, a negative impact on self-esteem, and higher stress levels. Oversharing can prevent us from developing healthier, more internally derived strategies to cope with our distress and manage our intense emotions.
When you have a personal brand, the tendency is to share the highlight reel of your life. Creating that highlight reel can have real-life implications on your finances. When we notice our peers and showcasing luxurious and heavily edited aspects of their lives and business to the public, the tendency is to try to match (or one up) that glamour-- even if doing so may entail living above your means. Avoid the pressure to build a life that entertains others by keeping aspects of your lifestyle private. Not every vacation, fancy dinner, or investment piece needs to be shown. Create a culture around your brand that values expertise over expensive living, and free yourself from the burden of keeping up with an image that you have set up for yourself.
The most tangible danger around over publicizing your life is the threat to your physical and cyber safety. Sharing your physical location at the moment that you are there should be done with caution. Revealing your daily schedule and whereabouts can be risky as well. Unfortunately, there are individuals in the world who have poor intentions and displaying all of the contents of your life may e opening up opportunities for them to act. There is no need for us to operate from a place of fear when we cultivate our brand, but healthy caution and discernment are helpful.
Embracing Intentional Visibility
All of this being said, labelling yourself a private person isn't a good reason not to show up at all online. To position yourself as an authority in your industry, your audience must know, like, and trust you. This relationship is nearly impossible to achieve without appearing in some form (whether in image, voice, or video) online. Let go of the belief that being visible is equivalent to losing your privacy. You can share your views, opinions, expertise without revealing anything private and intimate about yourself if you choose. If the reason you are refusing to post a photo of yourself, speak to the camera on stories or lives, or tell a story in writing that comes from real life is that you are "private" or an introvert, this is an excuse that will stunt your growth. These reasons have more to do with imposter syndrome and fear of negative feedback than privacy. Allow yourself to be who you are and be secure in your integrity. Those who resonate with you will help your business grow when they see you in it, and those who don't aren't your target.
The ideal balance between online visibility and privacy is different for each person. You may need to experiment to find yours-- but as you do, remember that not everyone has earned hearing your entire story. Be discerning about the areas you are vulnerable in and what information you keep to your closest circle. Authenticity is not equivalent to total transparency in everything you do when you are doing it.
Would you like to chat more about this topic? Send me a DM. I'd love to talk.