Building a Personal Brand on Antidepressants

I am unable to describe exactly what is the matter with me. Now and then there are horrible fits of anxiety…or otherwise a feeling of emptiness and fatigue in the head…”

I didn’t think I’d relate so much with a 19th Century white man. That worries me.

Because if I end up like him, I’ll have to kill myself to build a multi-million-dollar brand.

Capitalism is the deadliest scam on Earth.

This is how capitalism works. You come up with an idea you must think is great. Then you have to convince enough people to give you money for this idea.

If no one ever gives you even a penny for your thoughts, you lose the game. It’s literally in the name…you need capital to win.

I paid someone last week for their ideas, a consultation on whether or not the content I produce online offers something of value.

Surprisingly to me, her answer was yes.

“But I need more than that,” she continued. “I need to know why I should buy these ideas from YOU. What about YOU makes me care enough to listen?”

I’ll unpack that feedback in a second.

But first, if you’re wondering, that quote at the beginning of this post was from Vincent van Gogh. He’s probably the best example of someone pouring everything about them into the content (art) they create.

No one understood or cared anything about that until a decade after he died by suicide.

Content creation is an ancient hustle and a challenge even for those in their right mind. Now, if you’re someone like me (or Van Gogh), how do you do it well while you’re depressed?

Better question: how do you hustle to create content when your depression comes from having so many ideas no one cares enough to pay you for?

If you asked 100 Gen Z’ers (the newest generation of qualified workers) what they want to be when they grow up, 30 of them would say “YouTuber”, according to a 2020 Harvard Business Review article. The American Psychological Association also says that Gen Z is the most depressed generation (in America, at least).

Poverty is usually behind all of this.

About 20% of the global Gen Z population lives in extreme poverty, while 2% of influencers barely making $38 a day tell them to “hustle harder” or “be more consistent” if they want to build a personal brand that gets them out of that financial hole.

As a solopreneur, I struggle a lot with separating the part of me that’s for commodity and the other part that’s just…me. This is an ethical, moral, and emotional thing for me to think about.

Ethically, I have to think about if I value giving up all of me. Right now, I create content that many people agree gives sound, logical advice on how to make smart investments or build a socially conscious business in Africa. But my analytics say that my audience cares more about content where I (accidentally) share more intimate details — where I live, where I’m traveling to, what I’m going through, etc. As an introverted empath who wants to help and share with people, I have to think about whether it’s financially worthwhile. Or if there’s even a price tag to put on that much vulnerability.

Morally, I have to think about the standards we’re setting for people like me. Do we risk putting people in a dangerous state of mind by forcing them to bare it all on social media? If I make the worst decision of my life and record a video diary, what do I gain if I upload it for only 100 YouTube views? And if it does go viral, is it moral to make someone relive that psychological trauma and only pay them 2 cents in AdSense per 50,000 views?

Emotionally, for right now, this is all I can commit to. I can point out the social implications of trying to be a boss babe and ask us to become socialpreneurs instead, people who hustle from an activist point of view. I can pledge to do no harm to myself or future clients by maintaining this capitalistic way of measuring the value of a person or their ideas.

But also, I’m gotta keep thinking about ways to get you to click on more of my videos and share more of my blogs. Or I might live hungry but grow rich only after I die.

You know, like Van Gogh.

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Seun Shokunbi explores stories of women as power brokers in the political and entrepreneurial arenas of Africa & the African diaspora. These are personal essays that show the journey to combining hustler mentality with social activism.

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Seun Shokunbi

Seun Shokunbi

Seun Shokunbi is a past contributor to Face2Face Africa, and a speaker for TEDx. Learn more at www.itsseunshokunbi.com/bio.

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