As I go further and further along in this blogging journey, I am constantly confronted by the notion of “branding.” “What’s your brand?” In blogging and business, the purpose of branding is pretty obvious; it’s about image and identity. It’s about “what does the brand stand for?”
Being the pseudo-intellectual and annoyingly over analytical nerd I am, I can’t help but take this idea a step further. “Branding” isn’t just another marketing term but really a universal concept. “What’s your brand?” is just another way of saying “who are you?” Deep, I know; but how do you even begin to answer a question like that?
A few weeks ago, I was forced to do just that. Last Wednesday, I was featured in Voyage Phoenix magazine as a “trail blazer,” a term that caused me to go “are you talking about me?” as I look around the room totally perplexed. While deeply confused about the privilege of being featured, it caused me to question who I was, what I stood for, and what I wanted to say. I figured that since I was given a platform to talk about something “real” and “important” then I better figure out what is “real” and “important” to me. And as I prepped for the interview, I thought intently about the questions being asked of me; I reflected the journey I have been on and who I am currently; I analyzed my beliefs; and pondered how do I authentically honor both the past and present versions of myself to create my “brand”.
It wasn’t as if I didn’t have an idea of who I was entirely; but as someone who has undergone a lot of major life changes in the last year, even I can see the night and day changes of “Ria 2016-2018” (or what I refer to the “Dark Ages”) versus “Ria 2019.” As a counselor, I know how trauma and experience can alter a person and their perceived identity, and I am not an exception to that rule.
But somehow in the midst of trying to figure my out my crap for this article, through the joy that is writing, I managed to form a guideline on cultivating one’s identity. This is what I came up with:
- Self-reflection and self-assessment are necessary processes of growing, forming, and evolving your identity. Human beings are not stagnant creatures; we are constantly growing, forming, and evolving who we are through the different phases of our life. It takes a lot of awareness to recognize these changes and constant self-evaluation of who we think we are, our values, and beliefs. It sounds exhausting I know but you can’t do this without pausing to self-reflect. When you do, the results will often shake your perspective on yourself; you will see all the small and drastic changes you’ve undergone in the past few weeks, months, and years. You’ll watch your identity transform time and time again forsaking what no longer serves you and integrating what you need to grow.
- Honor the good and bad choices in your journey and realize they contribute to forming your identity. Understand that we are a culmination of our good and bad choices. While our good decisions rewarded us with wonderful memories and reinforced future positive choices, it was the mistakes that perpetuated our growth. I am not a believer that we are our wrongdoings, and if we are, then I will be the one you find buried under her blanket fort. That being said, I think we have to recognize the poor choices we have made and recognize that it taught us what we don’t want to be … and sometimes, knowing what we don’t want to be plays a bigger part of forming who we are.
- Embrace authenticity. When you are trying to form your identity and declare who you are, it goes without saying that you need to be YOU. While this might seem obvious, there are more people struggling with being okay with who they are and embracing authenticity than there aren’t. In the world we live in, it’s pretty understandable. We are flooded with images of what we should look like, bullied to believe and think what the masses think, and are reinforced by the likes, follows, and comments on Instagram and Facebook. There are not a lot of avenues to embrace the weirdo you are meant to be without someone raising an eyebrow and mouthing “WTF.” But in order to cultivate your identity, you have to just be okay with your quirks and honoring what feels and is good for you. Choosing authenticity comes with the understanding that your “brand” is not for everyone and that’s okay.
- Believe in something bigger than yourself. Most people reading this if they aren’t Christian are rolling their eyes; but in this case, I am not talking about God, Jesus, the universe, or destiny (or at least not directly). When I say you have to believe in something bigger than yourself, I am talking about seeing yourself relative to the things that matter to you and the communities surrounding those causes. Yes; that can be an argument for faith but it’s also an argument to see yourself in the world as part of the world. In a world of self-promotion, it is easy to become egocentric and not being able see past your own nose. Choosing to believe in something bigger than yourself and the thoughts, behaviors, and actions resulting from that belief not only tells you who you are to yourself but those around you and the world at large. That, my friends, is how you get your voice and how you create you brand.
While I recognize this isn’t the most groundbreaking guide to branding, it helped my process my own inner voices; and in the end, I was able to convey who I was and honor my spirit in the article. More importantly, I came to understand my own special “brand” and what I stood for that much more in the process. And in reality, I couldn’t ask for much more than that.
So tell me, who are you? What’s your brand?