Prisoner of your personal brand?

For as long as I can remember, I have firmly believed in the following dictum from the Bhagavad Gita.

karmanyE vAdhikAraste  mA phalEshu kadAchana |

mA karmaphalahEturbhUr mA tE sangOtsvakarmaNi ||

Although I have not completely understood the multiple nuances hidden inside this shloka, my belief has been firm. Even today, I find newer and newer interpretations of it as I gain more life experiences.

For the sake of simplicity, my executive summary of the shloka above has been:

  • Focus on sincere and good work, the results will take care of themselves

I also added my own corollary:

  • Focus on sincere and good work – visibility and recognition is secondary/visibility and recognition will eventually follow

Fuelled by this belief system, I have perceived personal branding as:

  • a projection of something that is absent
  • more focus on the packaging than the core content

Both of these perceptions indicated deceit of some kind, which went strongly against my grain. Therefore, I have resisted learning about personal branding for as long as possible. This perception has been strengthened by my own experiences in the domain of branding in general – high-quality packaging compared to sub-par quality products, high-impact promotional videos for pathetic-quality products and so on.

Over the last year or so, I have been exposed to the need of personal branding in my business environment and have been compelled to learn something about it. Although I have not learnt as much as I should have, or put anything in action for myself, I have pondered about it a great deal.

Below are my learnings and musings on the subject, based purely on some personal interactions, introspection, and reflection. These relate to personal branding in-person, creating a personal brand online is an aspect that I have not explored.

  1. Personal branding is about authenticity:

One of my long held myths – personal branding indicates deceit – got busted when I came across this interview of my dear friend Pavan, a few months ago. He mentions (time stamp 41:30 to 43:16) that personal branding is about legitimacy and authenticity of substance. It is about an authentic experience that people consistently get when they interact with someone over a long period of time. Therefore, if that experience is fake or made-up, it doesn’t last long. On further reading, this fact asserted itself more and more in my mind.

First takeaway – it is not entirely about building a brand, it is about building oneself.

  1. Personal branding is about how others perceive you:

There are three aspects to anyone’s personality –

  • Who they really are
  • Who they understand themselves to be
  • Who others perceive them to be

When all three of these align perfectly, it is personal branding at its best. However, it is possible that there are various aspects to a personality and one or two of them present themselves dominantly. Those dominant qualities become part of the personal brand – knowingly or unknowingly. If these dominant qualities are undesirable and/or incomplete representation of the person’s authenticity, then some deliberation is needed to make these recede to the background and consciously nurture the recessive qualities to come to the forefront. There is no deceit in this, only refinement – which is an inevitable part of building oneself.

Second takeaway – While focus should be on building oneself, some conscious refining and nurturing is needed to ensure a true (as true as possible) representation of oneself externally.

  1. One can become a prisoner of their own personal brand:

This has been the most dominant thought in my mind on this topic for the last couple of weeks and hence the title of the article. People change over the course of their lives, there is mutation in personalities and that is a perfectly natural phenomenon. What then of those who create strong personal brands for themselves? When their personalities change, do they rebrand themselves or are they compelled to preserve the brand they have already created? How healthy is it if one gets compelled to preserve a brand and hence resists change? Also if they change within and still strive to preserve their existing brand, doesn’t it defeat the purpose of authenticity?

I feel that in such a situation, a strong personal brand might hinder personal development. It takes a lot of courage and fortitude to tread the path of change, accept the change and then build that change into a personal brand.

Third takeaway – The only person who can come closest to knowing you is yourself. Focus on that and that alone, in times of transformation.

In conclusion, my two cents:

Everyone we come across, no matter how close they are to us, are privy to only a small slice of our personalities and our lives. The only thing that matters to us as individuals is whether we are truly on the path of a developmental continuum. Are we true to ourselves, are we learning continuously, and is that learning making us a better person today than we were yesterday?


The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of the organisation(s) she is associated with.

-Dr. Soumyashree S., Co-Founder, President-Research & Development  BRAINSTARS

Image courtesy:




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