I've been asked numerous of times, "how do you stay true to yourself while growing your brand?" It may be hard, especially when you are starting out.
The money will always be there, tempting you and making you question whether you want to take that deal/collaboration/project, but you have to really think whether it is worth it. By that, I mean is it worth ruining your brand image, worth risking your beliefs or core values, worth turning your back on your followers? The answer should be no. It should always be no, but how do you keep true to yourself without feeling the struggle or pressure of society - or rent? Let's be real here, we often sell ourselves out because of lack of confidence and security.
Let me get down to the gritty truth, I haven't stayed true to myself and for awhile, I tried to fit in with everyone else. I was concerned about my image, how people were viewing me and this is something I have struggled with since I was a teen. I was also worried about paying my rent on time and my financial situation so I started taking gigs that I really didn't care for. I also went through phases of style, trying to be cool and fit into groups where I didn't belong. I spent a year trying to find myself, testing out things that I knew wasn't me but I figured, hey it'll get me the likes and views. I was desperate to grow my social media presence and completely failed to remember what I really gave a fuck about. It isn't the numbers I care for, it's the amount of influence and the fact that if I can inspire just one person in my lifetime then I am successful.
I was convinced that my numbers had to be large and that I had to have over 100K to be noticed (aka get paid more) but all along, I had a loyal audience that was listening and I was disappointing them by attempting to fit in. Brands also can tell when you're faking it so my image became diluted and confusing. Some how, I was brainwashed to think that I wasn't good enough and I allowed this thought to suffocate me. I realized that I wasn't being true to myself after a few collaborations and that I was going strictly after the money. I didn't feel good after getting paid for these at all. It's nice to feel safe and secure if I wanted that, I should've stayed at my 9-to-5.
Blogging is my career choice and something I truly love doing. Whatever your passion is, it should be hours of sleep you are losing and not yourself.
To end this post, I've rounded up a few of my friends to give their two cents on staying true to themselves and their brand. After all, staying true to yourself is in fact, up to you.
Shout out to my peeps in this industry who are real, true, and faithful to themselves!
"I stayed true to my brand by staying true to myself! In this industry, it's easy to get lost by admiring other people's style or brand, but trying to be someone else will always leave you dissatisfied and unhappy. I learned to really love who I am and what makes me unique. I focused on what makes ME happy."
- Pau Dictado, Blogger
"My main goal is to always remain true to who I am as an individual. My brand had a purpose before I heard anyone's opinion. I have to keep reminding that there are people who not only look up to me as a brand influencer but a life influencer as well. I truly believe those two intertwine with one another. When you're true to your brand, you never run out of content to build."
- Michelle Carigma, Influencer
"There are many times when brands feel they need to appeal to the masses, but if a brand knows what allows them to express themselves without obligation, they will learn that there will be minimal boundaries in creative direction.
For zeroUV, we live and die by our relationships. We embrace loyalty and true appreciation. It may seem tacky at times, but if you offer true appreciation towards every type of relationship you come across, your fans and clients will adore you for it."
- Brian, Global Brand Director of ZeroUV
"Being a woman of faith, and having a family that taught me never to doubt myself created a strength that I can now truly appreciate. Early on I needed to maintain a solid boundary line for what's too far versus expression. Sexuality is so many things, but cheap is not one. Mystery and seduction are what draw the eye, so why lay it all out there.
When I re-entered the modeling world, my mom sat me down and dissected each potential scenario that would come my way. I have never felt comfortable being hyper sexualized, so having my mother potentially view those photos was never worth the number of followers or likes I could obtain. I wanted to be different. I wanted to set a new standard. So when photographers wanted to collaborate, or my agents wanted to send me out, I wanted to make it very clear that a new bar would be set. That strength in imagery was far more persuasive and engaging than my ass in a thong. I've turned down numerous shoots, and work to keep this line clear. My DMs are not flooded with men or women sending vulgar or crude messages. I'd like to say it's because of the work I've put out and the guidance I've been graciously given, and choose to follow each day. Integrity and solid moral ground is way sexier than any picture of my body can give you."
- Phoenix Ha, Model
"My "brand" is me. Nothing more. Nothing less. Then again, I don't do this for any other reason than to create with likeminded people, so it's easy for me to stay true to myself because I don't have a certain "image" to keep up with. I'm not out here trying to please anyone. I say I'm a hyper-creative and not a blogger/influencer/dapper/streetwear or any of those other limiting descriptive labels. My "style" and everything I post is a direct reflection of that."
- Francis Kenneth, Hyper-Creative.
"In this new-aged social media world where being a "blogger" has now become a type of typical and standard thing to do, I think it's important more so now than ever to be the individual you are and let that shine through your personality. Many times I have heard comments about how my quirky and different style and sense isn't that of the "typical" fashion blogger and thus would not appeal to the masses. Yet the longer I've been in this blogging world, I've come to realize that being me and wearing what I want to wear (and that I actually get excited to wear) is what makes me who I am as a blogger today."
- Elaine, Blogger
"In a nutshell, I think branding is all about consistency mixed with innovation. Keeping yourself relevant, maintaining your image, and reinventing yourself within those boundaries are all things I try to strive for. As long as there is upward momentum in where you are taking your brand. You should remember to stay creative and never become stagnant. That's how I brand myself."
- Jenn Wu, Photographer
"As a consumer I make a split second judgement on a person's level of authenticity in a post. I try not to overthink as I create content because my instincts are usually in line with how I really feel. Also, I make sure I'm not posting just to post. If I have nothing to say, it's ok."
- Meagan Kong,
Dancer and Fitness Influencer
"I run by a very high level of authenticity. Maybe sometimes too much so. And it's SO important - especially now. For me it's two reasons....
1. Why wouldn't I? Pretending to be someone else is ridiculous and a ton of work. It's much easier to speak from my heart and share the truths I live by.
2. We are in a huge age of transparency and no one wants to do business with a fake. People can smell BS (even through the internet) and know who is being real vs. who is just putting on a show.
Personally, I have zero desire to engage with anyone who is not authentic."
- Bri Seeley, founder of The Inspirational Woman Project and Transformational Coach
"Authenticity, for me, has always come from within. I hope I don’t sound too crazy for saying this — but I have very deep conversations with my inner voice. I listen to it with intent, because it’s a voice that drowns out the rest. Learning to believe and embrace that inner voice has led me to where I am now. This is more important than ever, as we continue to find ourselves and meaningful life experiences in a world full of distractions and distracting voices"
- Tommy Lei, Influencer
"Here are a few ways I stay true to myself and my brand ...
1. Collaborating with brands that fit my life styles/personal styles. Yes, its great to get paid to post. However, I always test out the product first before agreeing. For an example, I had a teeth whitening company that paid me to post but I wanted to test the product first. The product ruined my gums and gave me a bad reaction. I told the company I can not share this with my followers and lie and say "its an amazing product you all should try!"
2. Showing my true personality and sharing real life events thru my captions.
3. Respond to your fans/followers. I LOVE getting DM's by my followers and having a real conversation with them or answering any questions they have.
4. Make time for family/friends.
5. Don't OVER photoshop. a lot of times when I meet people in this industry they don't always look like what they do in photos. Recently, I posted a photo with out airbrushing my butt & happily showed off my stretch marks..
6. Lastly stay HUMBLE! "
- Autumn Marie, Blogger