I was recently asked by one of my clients, “How do I share my vulnerability as part of my personal brand, without looking weak to others?”
This is an interesting question, and it can be hard to know how much to share when telling stories about the more vulnerable areas of your life.
When defining your personal brand, you have to first understand yourself, your values, and what you stand for. Self-reflection is a useful tool for acknowledging who we really are, warts and all. It also helps us to build boundaries around this and our expectation of others.
This process can be very liberating and confidence-building, but can also expose parts of yourself that you might not be so proud of.
The idea of sharing stories about yourself that are not shining examples of success can be very scary, as the fear of criticism or prejudice is built into our social genetics.
“What will people think of me?”
“Why admit that I’m struggling with this?”
“Will people avoid working with me?”
These are all things I have thought to myself when considering how I share the trials I face with my audience. But there lies the truth of the situation – everyone struggles. From the people just getting started, all the way to the Influencers, CEOs and beyond.
No one only has good days.
If Honesty, Authenticity or Transparency are part of your brand values, then acknowledging your vulnerability and understanding how to share it with others in a meaningful and constructive way will help – not hinder – your personal brand.
Sharing moments of vulnerability also reminds our followers – and ourselves – that we’re human. We’re flawed. We may be trying every day to create something better for ourselves and others, but it doesn’t always work out. But we are stronger for persevering, and for sharing the lessons we’re learning along the way.
Committing to creating a strong personal brand can be scary on its own! If you are strong enough to be able to promote yourself through personal branding, you might also find you are confident enough to show some vulnerability.
The benefits are many, and sharing some of the vulnerability you experience in your own life will help other people who are experiencing similar situations. By sharing a story of a problem or personal trial you’ve struggled with in the past – or are working through right now – you’re also offering your readers a candid, real window into your life. This creates a real, emotive and psychological connection with others.
The other question I get asked about vulnerability is, “How much should I share?”
This comes down to two things; your story, and how aligned your personal brand is to the real you.
Firstly, your story. You own the narrative of your life. Just like everyone, you’ve enjoyed peaks and endured the pitfalls. And also like everyone, you have probably come to know come of these highs and lows as the defining moments of your life, but nothing defines you unless you choose it to.
Let’s be clear. Sharing vulnerability is not about seeking sympathy, complaining about others or using your platform as a way to vent negative emotion. These kinds of behaviours will only ever weaken your personal brand and turn people off. You always have a responsibility for the energy you put into the lives of others through your content.
Instead, a good place to start is to ask yourself, “Could this benefit someone else?”
For example, if you’re struggling with an aspect of your personal life such as health or a relationship, explaining the situation and offering updates can allow people to follow the story as it progresses. It can also help people dealing with the same or a similar situation to know that they are not alone. You can also share the resources you discover, as they help you along the way.
Another example might be a particular threat to your business that you’ve identified and are struggling with. Chances are, the threat might affect others like you, and knowing about it will help others avoid it themselves. If you have a solution you can share – that’s even better! But sometimes just acknowledging the problem publically shows your followers that you’re as honest and transparent as you claim to be.
In both cases, these should never become the main theme of your personal brand content. But interludes, asides, candid moments and occasional updates are more than reasonable to share to the people who feel a connection to your journey.
I personally struggle with anxiety and share occasional posts about situations or events that have affected me deeply, as well as tactics I’ve found that have helped. I share this because I know that there are many people just like me running their own business, that might also benefit from knowing they are not alone, and by using the tools I’ve found helpful.
It’s certainly not all I talk about and doesn’t define me! But I acknowledge and accept it as part of my current journey, and feel a responsibility to share my thoughts on it when I feel they might be of help to someone else.
Working with vulnerability in your personal brand can feel like a balancing act. You have lots of different parts of yourself – some public and some necessarily private. We’re all learning, all the time, and opening up the more vulnerable parts of us to others is perhaps the scariest thing of all. Just remember that you should never feel pressured into sharing more information than you are comfortable with.
As I said earlier, no one only has good days. Ultimately it’s your choice whether you share your bad days with others, or if you decide to privately overcome your personal struggles, at least until a time when you feel you’ve figured it out and can share the solutions you’ve discovered with others.