I’m recovering from some virus I picked up last weekend.
In the meantime, Iet me introduce you to Amy. She inspired me to share my thoughts on giving ourselves permission to show up as we are some weeks ago in my live video.
I’ve asked her what her experience was like going through the process of ‘giving her permission’ aka personal brand strategy session with me.
Here’s what she shared.
Alert! It’s way LONGER than my usual post.
Like a mom who just can’t let you go out of the house with your hair like THAT, Songy gently broke the news to me when I first partnered with her on her content strategy. She said my professional pictures were not doing me any good.
She said (in the most loving way possible) that my photos looked stuffy.
Wait, aren’t ALL professional photos stuffy? Isn’t there a reason that the words “head shot” will make a cold chill run down your spine? Isn’t stuffy a synonym for professional? Amirite? Stuffy, fake, cold… that is the checklist for a professional photo. It’s what differentiates it from Playboy, no?
Calling my photos stuffy may sound like harsh criticism, but honestly, it was a relief to hear that. It was a RELIEF! I mean, I never really thought about it, but she was right; it wasn’t me in those photos.
And we never really think about it, do we? As busy professionals, we never think about our brand image. We just assume it’s going to “be there” when we’re in the frame. Thinking about it – putting some time and effort into your brand image – is what makes the most sincere and authentic version of you come through in the photos.
Songy’s insight was something I hadn’t heard before. I probed for more. In the most caring and supportive way, this ultimate truth teller gave me a metaphor: my pictures were like a pair of Louboutins, when in reality, I am a like funky little sneaker. I am not prim and proper. I am not stuffy and aloof. I am relaxed, fun and energetic.
She said I needed to show that side in the pictures.
Wait, can I really do that? And why was I trying to look so professional and polished in the pictures, anyway?
Why? Because no one told us there was another way.
Songy says she sees it all the time; women like us are worried about looking professional enough, polished enough. We try hard to show that we fit in.
The irony is that in trying hard to look our best, we end up looking like everyone else.
We don’t stand out.
For me, it couldn’t be truer.
When I left the workforce 10 years ago, websites cost at least $10,000 and you could only get them through a web designer. Things have drastically changed. The gig economy, technology templates, personal branding, “authentic” personalities, and the demand for transparency has reworked the professional landscape. It’s different now. You have to know the new rules. In terms of personal image branding, here’s what I learned:
I can’t show up exactly as I am, but I don’t have to pretend to be anything, either.
(Showing up exactly as I am means I am in my powder blue zip-up Patagonia “technical fleece” that serves as a modern-day housecoat. It hides my worn-out tee shirts and sweaty workout clothes. What do you want from me? I’m writing all day. It’s not like anyone sees me.) While my fleece doesn’t make the cut, I do not have to “suit up” for my pictures – in fact, I shouldn’t do that because it projects the wrong image. It makes me look too serious. Inflexible. Stuffy.
The good news is that can show up in my favourite pair of jeans and a trusted button-down, and my sneakers. This says so much, visually. It says I am comfortable with who I am. And you can see my confidence in the pictures. I am wearing confidence.
Songy saw who I really was and gave me the permission to be that person in the photos. It was liberating. She gave me permission to break free from my past self and update. She helped me stand out from the crowd. She helped me choose the right setting and clothes so I could “own” who I am in order to make a real connection with the viewer. No pretending. I like that.
Actually, I love that.
We live in a time where we don’t have to put on airs. We are professional, empowered and strong women. We can be that in our pictures. I am that in my pictures. And I am so glad the rules have changed.
Interested in gaining this kind of clarity? Head on over to Your Personal Branding Insights Workbook page and get yourself a copy.