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Personal Branding: Show Your Inner World

New York City nightlife impresario Shien Lee once said about her persona, “Embodying fantasy is important because you have to show your inner world.” Some associate the term personal brand with slick marketing lingo that smacks of a lack of authenticity, while in actuality that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Creating a personal brand is an exercise in self-actualization. It means having a deliberate hand in how you choose to showcase your identity to the world, and presenting as true a version of your “self” as possible. The attributes you were born with merely comprise the canvas on which you can exact your artistry. Don’t feel that by changing your outside you are being untrue to your inside. The opposite may be true: for example, Marilyn Monroe was born a brunette, and Dita Von Teese was born a blonde, but each of them, in making deliberate choices about their appearance, was able to embody the fantasy that felt truest to who they were on the inside.

How do you go about creating your own personal brand? Here are a few good places to start:

1. Make a list of all the values that are important to you. Some might include passion, loyalty, honesty, grit, love, wonder, sensuality, innocence, nature, spirituality, persistence, dedication, connection — there are no wrong answers. Free associate. Write down as many as you like and then from your list choose your top three.

2. Picture what colors come to mind. For example, passion might conjure red. Innocence might look like ivory. Wonder might be a pale blue. Again, there are no wrong answers. Go with your gut feeling.

3. Look to your favorite pop culture icons (real or fictional) who embody the characteristics you value. Search for common themes among them, in behavior and appearance.

4. Create a scrapbook or mood board with photos and clippings that fit the themes you’re bringing together. Use everything from fashion inspiration and makeup tutorials to quotes and poetry.

5. Find signature touches that make you feel most like you, whether it’s a piece of jewelry, a perfume, a signature color, or a style of makeup.

6. Keep your personal brand in mind when you shop for new clothing. This will help you to purchase timeless pieces that will feel right to you through the years rather than succumb to trends that might feel like a waste once the season is over.

Above all, remember that a personal brand is a fun, exploratory creation, an art project of the self, and should be an undertaking you enjoy. Once you have an idea of what it means to be you in the context of the world at large, so many decisions that once may have felt overwhelming will be infused with clarity and direction.

Rumor has it that Lady Gaga, when she’s feeling worn out on tour and wanting to stay in bed all morning, gets up and looks in the mirror and says to herself, “Snap out of it. You’re Lady Gaga, and you’re better than that.” And then her day becomes simple, because she knows exactly where to go from there.

That’s the power of a personal brand. Sometimes it’s not even so much about how the rest of the world sees us, but how we see ourselves.