Branding Yourself: Be Authentically You

As a mental health professional, a question I often hear is, “Is that normal?” With that question usually regarding a behavior, life experiences, or something they’ve noticed about themselves.

I’ve always felt that the term ‘normal’ is really vague and is open to various interpretations. It’s often a standard by which we criticize ourselves with comparisons and ‘should’ statements. Such as, “I should be further along in my career than this,” or, “I should be married by now.” 

Being Authentic, “On-Brand”

In contrast, ‘on-brand’ is a term that I instantly loved the first time I heard it. It seems to describe all of those potential variances that occur from person to person. Differences that make each person unique, without attaching a negative connotation to those differences. 

I first heard this term at a mentorship training. One of the topics as part of this workshop included fundraising and growing presence in one’s network (relevant to most of us in attendance, being involved in the non-profit world and healthcare).

Afterward I talked to one of the speakers, I told him that I wasn’t sure how to build a ‘brand’ because I wasn’t selling anything. In fact, I would prefer if healthcare were just given, rather than being driven by some funding source.

Smiling about what I had told him, he replied, “That’s what you’re selling then, you’re selling people generosity. That’s part of your brand. Whether or not you are exchanging goods for monetary gain or exchanging an idea for improvements in the world, you have to brand it or people won’t invest in it. That includes you. You wouldn’t invest in someone else unless you felt connected to what they were putting out there.” 

A lightbulb went off in my head, because he was right.

Make no mistake, I’m not encouraging people to see themselves as a commercial good. But rather, I want to remind women that it’s worth it to invest in ourselves. And a big part of that is recognizing our own unique contributions to the world. With a focus on being ‘on brand,’ rather than focusing on whether our paths in life are ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal.’

When we shift the focus and stop criticizing ourselves for what we are lacking, we are more able to recognize our unique gifts.

No one would expect a company that produces frozen meals to have something competitive prepared for New York Fashion Week. So, why do we spend so much time and effort trying to become something we’re not when we could be focusing our energy on honoring the beautifully unique people we are? 

Imagine if Monet would have been stuffed into a corporate board room, or if Anna Wintour forced herself to become a Veterinarian. They would have been miserable and the world would have missed out on what they could have contributed if they would have embraced their ‘brand.’

What I’m proposing is instead of seeing perceived flaws as something you need to change, see all aspects of yourself as pieces of an absolutely incredible mosaic. A piece of art which cannot be rendered complete unless every single piece is present.

You’re completely in control of how that looks and what you present to the world, so why not present the most true version of yourself? 

You are one of a kind and the world needs you and your gifts.

And in a world that demands so much from us, it is all the more important for mothers to have a life that feels authentic and fulfilling, regardless of what others think of our choices.

Something I’ve come to realize is that mothers will be subject to criticism no matter what path we take. If we stay at home, we’re wasting our potential. Or, if we go gluten-free, we’re being too granola.

If we are never going to be safe from scrutiny, then I think we might as well be living in a way that feels true to who we are.

Be Authentically Yourself

There are few things that feel worse than the disappointment that comes from working hard to please others and still receiving criticism. While not always a conscious thought, you know in those situations that you’ve let yourself down by not being authentic to who you truly are.

What people are able to tell immediately from a woman who is living unapologetically ‘on brand’ is exactly who she is. For some people, that won’t be what they’re into. However, your brand could catch the eye of people you probably would have never interacted with. You could form new, close relationships simply by being your authentic self.

Who you are will be exactly what they’ve been looking for. They will see a woman who is sure of herself, sure of what she wants, and strong enough to pursue her true self every day. As the brilliant Dr. Pinkola Estes said, “To be strong does not mean to sprout muscles and flex. It means meeting one’s own numinosity without fleeing, actively living with the wild nature in one’s own way. It means to be able to learn, to be able to stand what we know. It means to stand and live.”

What I leave you with, Mama, is this — the only person you can really be is yourself.

And there might be another mom, young woman, or girl wondering who she can ever be herself with. Then she sees you. Living in a way so on brand for who you are that she immediately knows she can do the same. She knows that she doesn’t have to shrink herself to fit the expectations of others. She doesn’t have to hold in those big belly laughs to be more demure. And she won’t cultivate herself into something that she’s not, because what she’s made of is priceless.

For more on being your authentic self, read How I Stopped Saying, “I’m Sorry” and Felt Better For It.
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Whitney is a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, mother of twins and Indigenous woman. She has lived in the FM metro for the last 15 years but is originally from the Pine Ridge Reservation in SD. Whitney is active in community efforts that promote advocacy for equity, social justice, destigmatization of mental health/substance use and establishing an inclusive community. Whitney enjoys gardening, reading, spending time outdoors and creating visual art in her spare time.


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