I shared a tweet recently that asked, “Do you think our obsession with personal branding accounts for our inability to understand that people can be many things at once?”
For years I’ve struggled to wrap my head around the idea that I can be a multifaceted human being. Most often this applies to my sense of style, which I only began to understand last summer, but it applies to many things in my life: the number of hobbies I indulge in, the weird interests I take up. It so often feels like I can’t be these things or like these things all at the same time because baking for a week straight means I’m not writing enough or writing in too many genres doesn’t let people know what to expect or indulging in TSwift makes me a fake goth.
I don’t think branding is solely to blame because I’ve felt this way since before I understood the concept, but it does contribute to the issue. “You have to have a blog niche.” You have to play to your audience, rather than your strengths or personal interests. Who you are has to be distinct. It not only echoes the teenage need to label everyone around you–goth, nerd, punk, slut, jock–which already ignores the beauty and depth of individuals at times and pits us against each other, but also can come off as more acceptable because it’s in the adult world, it’s for business, it’s necessary.
A lot of us are feeling disenchanted with the blogging landscape, and I think this is a big reason why. People get so focused on niches and branding and being one thing to their audience but I believe that for the majority of us it’s unrealistic, it’s unfair, and it’s inauthentic. We’re all more than just what we can offer to others. We’re real people with real feelings and a vast range of interests, thoughts, and dreams. Why should we ignore any of those for the sake of popularity, SEO, or personal branding? At worst I think we should learn to allow these things to work together, and at best I think they shouldn’t be a concern at all. Don’t let the endless blog how-tos that ultimately all say the same thing get you down.
If focusing on brand works for you, go for it. I’m not at all saying you’re not allowed to worry about it, but don’t let it get so deep that you drag yourself down and find yourself drowning in the “rules” of being a successful blogger.
This is my declaration that I’m going to be who I am, and sometimes that might not have an obvious benefit to my readers (a product, a how-to, whatever), but I’m okay with that because we’re not just our brands.
We shouldn’t forget that.