You are not a brand. You may be the face of your brand, and it may even bear your name, but the fact of the matter is that you yourself are not a brand. You are a multi-faceted human being and, in the words of Walt Whitman, you "contain multitudes."
You can build a brand that reflects your values and is infused with your personality and worldview, without allowing it to dictate how you behave, limit what you say, or define how you look at every second of every day. Being authentic doesn’t mean laying all your cards face up on the table. It also doesn’t require you throw “pearls to swine” and allow anyone and everyone access to every part of your life. Plus, if you want to scale or build a brand that will exist long after you’re gone, it will need to represent something bigger than yourself.
You can create multiple brands – completely separate from one another – with different target markets, different business strategies, different visual identities, different product categories, and set up specific branding for each of them that may not reflect your personality at all. There are zillions of companies like this that are very successful.
Others don’t get to define you, you get to define yourself. People may label you or assign motives, but at the end of the day, your actions and thoughts are your responsibility. This is why you are not a brand, no matter how popular or mainstream the term “personal branding” continues to be.
Brands can be shaped by us, but are ultimately defined by others. We, as humans, can be shaped by others, but ultimately we are defined by ourselves.
The original version of this post was published January 2014