You Are NOT a Brand.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Please stop with the personal branding already.

There is a language conflation happening between people and corporations that is playing out in deeply disturbing ways.

While the concept of personal branding has been around for a long time (1997 when Tom Peters coined the term according to most), the rise of social media has taken the hype to new levels. So many young people I meet think the cultivation of their personal brand is a top priority. Particularly those who are trying to make a living on social media. These young influencers are “obsessed” with how they look, whether the environment they are in is “Instagrammable” and how many likes/views they get each post.

Wouldn’t it be great if instead of worrying about their personal brand they worried about their integrity? The quality of their work? Or perhaps if they had been kind that day?

Stop worrying about your personal brand and focus on being a human being.

The flip side of this madness is the insidious language corruption that occurred with the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision in which the Court determined that business firms have rights to religious freedom under federal law. Isn’t being religious a person thing? The next year, Mitt Romney declared that “corporations are people,” and the genie was out of the bottle. The amount of media coverage that quote got gave it a life of its own, as if it really meant something. This move to endow corporations with rights that were designed for people started back in the 1800s. To better understand the history of how one company, with help from the Supreme Court, flipped the intention of the Fourteenth Amendment from minorities to corporations and thus started this train of “rights” for corporations, read this.

So now we have people who think they are brands and corporations acquiring rights as if they are people.

This is supremely messed up.

Unless you can be identified around the world by your first name, and you make millions of dollars, and lots of people rely on you for their livelihood, you are not a brand. Rihanna, Beyonce, Justin, Miley, et al. have a team of people actually managing their brand. It is styled, edited, Photoshopped, protected and monetized each day. But when they started they weren’t brands. They were just people with talent (OK, that’s subjective) trying to get their art out there and make a living. Eventually they became big enough that their name was tied to and became a brand.

You are not that. Unless you are (in which case wow, why are you reading this?). You are simply a person whose work, grit, and smarts will earn others trust and that is the stuff that will determine your success.

With all that is wrong in the world today, one of the most important things people can do is be human. It’s essential not only for you, but for the planet. Life goes fast and the time you spend cultivating your so-called brand is not going to make you happier, more fulfilled, or more valuable. What will do that is focusing on being a good human being, doing your work well, acting with integrity and truly loving the people in your life who deserve to be loved.

How about instead of a personal branding list we make a being a better human being list?

· Help someone who is having a hard day

· Share a laugh

· Give someone strength

· Help someone grow

· Give a hug

· Plant something

· Cook something

· Listen

· Think

· Take care of yourself

If you conduct your life — personally and professionally — with integrity and humanity you won’t have to worry about your personal brand. Your reputation will be stellar and as a human that’s what a personal brand really stands for.