Yes, it matters how the world sees you.
Last year I attended a retreat with my mastermind at the time and was introduced to Sally Hogshead’s work on branding yourself. Hogshead, you’ll remember, wrote the bestseller YOU last year and rocked the stages all over the personal and business development arena with her groundbreaking concept about how the world see’s you.
The reason her book and her speeches made such waves was because, let’s face it, we all get in the habit of navel gazing and trying to figure out how we do things differently from the next gal (or guy).
Just think of all the personality tests or leadership skills tests you’ve taken in your life through professional venues, or business or school associations, or even because you interviewed for a job that required one.
In the last couple of years, I’ve taken
The main difference in Hogshead’s self assessment is that it shows you how others perceive you, not how you perceive yourself. Her book goes on to show you how to “werk it.”
Inventing yourself, then, is not changing who you intrinsically are, but deciding how much of who you are — and which parts — to reveal on your blog and in your social sites. You have to start navigating the world of vulnerability to balance an interesting blog with one that over shares or one that is too dry.
Lately, I’ve been taking on some new clients and observing how they intend to claim a space in their marketing and speak to their niche. I have also had the chance to read and discover how others view me and/or my work, writing, status, etc. Which is weird.
I read with interest as people tell me stuff about myself that is new to me, different, something I’ve never considered, inaccurate, not quite on target but cool nonetheless, funny, spot on (am I that transparent?) and/or totally untrue.
You want the truth? I’m kind of delighted about that. The day has finally come that people who don’t know me tell me what they think about me. I always thought that meant I would know “I’ve arrived.” So yeah, I’ve been waiting for this day.
What I didn’t anticipate was my reaction. I thought I’d care more.
I thought I’d read every word and wonder and worry about my so-called reputation. In fact, I haven’t, at least not yet. I think it may be because I’ve walked though fire in my personal life this past year, and my version, my words, what I think and say on the platform I built here is really what matters most to me at the end of the day. Yes, I want an audience, but not if it means I have to mince my ideas to shreds. Been there, done that.
…As long as you’re OK with who you are.
Also, It’s a compassion thing. I genuinely care enough about their opinion to “allow” them to have it, even if they’re critical of me. It just doesn’t affect me all that much. I must be growing up. Everyone is just doing the best they can and inventing themselves with each new day. Everyone is on his or her own path.
Or maybe they just have indigestion and they don’t feel good.
True! I was exposed to that possibility in an advice column about interpreting strangers’ facial expressions, and now it’s my go-to response, just like my reaction to a rude driver. I pretend the bad driver has a cat in labor in their back seat, or his toe just got amputated, or a scorpion just crawled up her pant leg, I don’t know; something extreme that warrants ridiculous, erratic driving.
Cutting people slack feels pretty good, by the way. It’s a nice habit if you can swing it.
The reason you put yourself out there in the first place is because you care. You want to make a connection, even if it makes you a little uncomfortable, so you throw caution to the wind and make bold, declarative sentences. (That’s just good writing, by the way.) At some point, maybe in your 20s. maybe in your late 40s, you stop writing, “I think” and “IMHO” at least on your own blog pages. And if you’re lucky, someone responds. They email you or post on your Facebook page and tell you what they really think about you, in addition to what you posted.
If you can’t stand that, just don’t read the stuff. Block them on Facebook, let them have the last word, enjoy the banter as if you are not involved.
Or you can put up separate pages for separate facets to your online presence. I see this often.
I’m thinking of a new client, and maybe you can relate to this, as I do. She has professional and personal sides to her content, so she keeps them somewhat separate online. Some rely on her professional opinion and point of view without a clue about the significance with which her personal life leans in. Others know the full person, in living color and with all the dings and dents and laughter and stories. They don’t respect the professional any less, they just know more.
Then there are some of my clients who are ballsy and breezy and couldn’t care one whit less if someone doesn’t like or agree with them. Their philosophy? “Get off my list.” You get everything or you get nada.
So which one are you? Do you keep things separate or do you go all in? Maybe as you wade into the online world with your new business or some new hat you’re wearing, you’ll decide to park your opinion column on a separate area of your website, or possibly start a different Facebook page. That’s cool. But maybe you’ll pull no punches and just live out loud, blogging about whatever strikes your fancy – and assuming that you’ve got stuff people want, need and/or are entertained by.
Do You Just Say Anything That Pops Into Your Head?
Probably not the best idea, although…
I’m at a bit of a crossroads on that myself. I’ve been starting to post some things bout essential oils because they are beginning to play a big part in my life and how I clean, calm, soothe, and care for myself, my environment, and my family. (By the way, the family’s not quite on board yet. I think they’re worried I’m turning into a hippie or a witch, but it’s okay; they’ll come around.) Y’all already know how I love to work out. I’m an open book on that subject. Will I confuse people if I mention my new fascination with essential oils? Maybe, but I could potentially do some sincere and significant GOOD, too.
So how does that fit in with marketing, particularly content marketing and copywriting? Well, I always think, as I’m inventing myself online, what part of this could help or interest my audience? Am I turning them off, or am I inspiring someone to try something new? And if a bunch of people say something positive, but one person is a little shocked, can I consider that a gift? I’ve been on the lookout for it, after all, so Yes!
So yeah, keep that door open. Allow your clients and customers to see you, and invite their responses.(No one says you have to publish their responses and comments on your sites and pages, however!) Yep, that’s the real YOU. The one that fascinates and/or repels your readers. Dive into your unique crevasse. The revelation or idea that rocks your world is often the one that rocks your readers’ and followers’ world. Don’t invent yourself to match what someone else is doing.
Inventing a Better Internet Experience
Recently I was writing some ghost blog posts for a client and I deviated from our interview. I thought I’d mix things up and pull ideas from else where – stuff I’d read – and I embellished her ideas and her voice just a little. Sure enough, she called me on it. She wrote, “These are good. I don’t even really disagree with them, per se. They just don’t sound like me.”
If it’s copy for email or a sales page, or anything else with a call to action, I usually push back. Conversions are my job and I like to sell stuff for customers if that’s what they pay me to do.
But a blog post, no. Her feedback was welcome and accurate so I went back to revise that first draft. Her “invention” of herself is so close to the real “her,” she spotted the difference immediately. Love that.
My takeaway from that incident was clear. My tip for you is “Just you be you.” Hire people who support your voice, who follow where you go, and don’t be afraid of your audience’s responses to your content. Tinker and tweak till your heart’s happy and you will make many other people happy right along with you.
Inventing yourself can and should be exhilarating and fulfilling. Splash in that wave when you feel it overcome you and trust that the Internet is as big and vast as an ocean. Your readers, even the ones who disagree and would have you invent yourself differently to suit them; they’ll be all right. They might even find their own voice and do their own invention work! And the Internet will be better for it.
Bird in flight pic: Flickr Creative Commons: Demi-Brooke (lots of great wedding photos here, by the way!)