Imagine being a child and having to present a drawing in front of your peers. You pour your heart into a family portrait filled with various sized stick figures, a beautifully shaped 3-D boxed house, and a tree. As you hold it up proudly, you hear the oohs and ahhs of how great it is. Then what comes next? Someone says the tree should be green, not the shade of brown you used. And the house should be beige instead of pink. And the sun should be yellow, not purple.
Quickly, the feeling of pride turns into disappointment. Why would anyone be so mean about something so personal?
Well, the same can be said when you present your personal brand. When you put yourself out there, you are vulnerable to criticism or “opinions.” It can sometimes come as a surprise when you’re attacked for being who you are, whether it’s how you dress, write, process information, or express your ideas.
Aren’t we supposed to embrace what makes us unique? Dare I even say, “special”? Apparently, that’s not always the case.
Some people will just not understand your personal brand. In fact, you will find the most resistance comes from people who are more traditional and don’t even know what personal branding is—or think it is all fluff. They are used to things being a certain way; that’s the way things are and how everything (and everyone) should be.
Your critics will not understand your desire to build your professional network on LinkedIn, why you always dress up for work when everyone else is casual or the overall confidence you exude. They don’t get that you prefer to tackle life with a positive attitude. And heaven forbid if you’re too spunky or speak your mind—insert loud gasp here.
But that’s okay.
Even the super confident can be thrown off when their personal brand is attacked. I, too, am guilty of it. Recently one of my articles was featured on LinkedIn. I got the “oooh and aaahs,” feeling proud like the child presenting her portrait. But was also hit with criticism of my writing style and even the picture I chose (who wouldn’t like a cute baby with a surprised look on his face?!?)
I couldn’t help but to wonder why my brand was being assaulted. But with the help of people who know my personal brand very well, I was centered. I was reminded of this important point: Criticism is not always an attack on YOU, it’s an attack on what you represent that is different. (And maybe that difference makes someone feel intimidated or uncomfortable.)
Here’s the thing: People gravitate to people similar to them. Some people think if someone, or something you do, is different then it’s wrong. And that’s the furthest thing from the truth.
The truth is that sometimes people just won’t get you. But the important part of building your personal brand is that it’s you. You should always aim to be the best version of yourself—whether people get it or not.
When your personal brand is being challenged, use it as an opportunity to evaluate where the criticism is coming from. There could be some validity, even if it wasn’t expressed eloquently.
After all, “this is bullpuckey,” would not be considered constructive feedback.
Here’s an example:
Constructive: Your presentation was informative, although some areas could have been covered more quickly. It was a good reminder of some things we take for granted.
Negative: Your presentation was okay if I was in kindergarten. I already knew half the things you talked about. I didn’t learn anything new from you.
As you’re reading these examples right now, it may be easy to see the difference between constructive criticism and just being negative. But when you’re in the moment, and perhaps being hard on yourself too, it’s not as easy to differentiate.
Regardless, always give yourself credit for showing up no matter how your efforts are received. If you want a pink house in your portrait, so be it. Embrace the positive feedback and weed out the negative. If you remain true to your personal brand, you will attract people who respect and appreciate you exactly the way you are.