If you had to describe yourself to a stranger, would you know what to say?
Jessica Zweig, founder and CEO of personal branding agency SimplyBe., explains that clever personal branding isn’t as easy as it looks. It’s about knowing and valuing yourself, and then broadcasting that to the world.
“It’s really an act of empowerment. Knowing your brand is knowing your value, it’s knowing your worth,” she says. “It’s so much more than just knowing how to tell a great story. It’s understanding what makes you you—why you’re awesome, why you’re brilliant.… Because there’s only one you, and what a beautiful thing.”
As well as working with clients like Pinterest, Google and Salesforce, Jessica has put her insights into self-worth and personal branding in her book, Be. – A No-Bullsh*t Guide to Increasing Your Self Worth and Net Worth by Simply Being Yourself. She also hosts The SimplyBe. Podcast.
In this episode of SUCCESS Stories, Jessica talks to SUCCESS’s Madison Pieper about how building a personal brand can benefit everyone (not just influencers), the importance of self-worth, and the surprising benefits of impostor syndrome.
Personal branding is for everyone.
The phrase “personal brand” often brings to mind influencers and other people who need to proactively market their work. However, Jessica argues that everyone can benefit from presenting their talents to the world, both online and in person.
You’re probably already doing this to some extent, even if you don’t realize it. Personal branding can be as simple as being punctual, being polite and choosing clothes that express the way you want to be seen.
“It’s crafting and naming clearly and articulately what your reputation is,” Jessica says. “What do you want people to know you for? What’s your value prop? And how do you express that consistently and constantly?”
Companies are starting to see personal branding as a key skill for salaried employees, not just independent contractors. Employees who build a clear personal brand that showcases their skills, personality and interests stand out. And being able to easily identify their achievements and talents also gives them a higher sense of self-worth that motivates them to strive for bigger goals.
“Obviously you have to do your job well and perform, but it’s the people that are willing to be seen, to have their voices heard, to be out in the spotlight even if it is internal, that really win those opportunities,” Jessica says.
People value self-worth in others.
Recognizing your own value will make you feel more confident. When you know that you’re capable and worthy of respect, those butterflies you feel before asking for a raise or taking on a challenging work project feel a little less overwhelming. Which means you’re more likely to push yourself to achieve more.
Other people will take note, too. People who can sincerely advocate for themselves make others feel confident. Who would you rather trust with an important task: the person who tells you they can do it, or the person who doesn’t seem sure? You need to value and trust yourself before you expect other people to.
At the same time, everyone has to start somewhere. Self-worth doesn’t magically develop after you’ve already achieved what you wanted. It’s usually the opposite: Knowing that you’re capable of great things and worthy of respect gives you the confidence you need to go for your goals.
That means there will be lots of time when you’re facing a new challenge, trying to convince yourself and others you can handle it. Everyone has to do this at some point—it’s the only way to grow.
Even if that self-doubt is there, don’t let it show. “Most of us are faking it until we make it. We turn it on and go for it anyway,” Jessica says. Act out the confidence you feel in other situations, and before you know it, you’ll have done what you said you would and thought you couldn’t.
Impostor syndrome can be situational—and even helpful.
Most people can relate to impostor syndrome: worrying that you’re not as capable as everyone around you. Experiencing moments when you doubt your own abilities is normal, even when you’ve methodically built up your sense of self-worth. But you may notice that it’s most intense in certain situations.
For example, Jessica says that she feels confident as the boss of her business and when she’s speaking at events where people have paid specifically to hear her. But she often gets a wave of impostor syndrome before events where she’s been hired to speak to a crowd of people who have never heard of her.
“I’m constantly in different environments where I’m navigating this sense of worth and sense of belief in myself, and it’s a pendulum that swings depending on the people who are in that space,” she says.
Experiencing doubt when faced with challenging interactions doesn’t mean that your self-worth is crumbling. It’s how you draw on those reserves to meet the moment that determines your belief in yourself.
When Jessica has to face a difficult audience, she knows she has to prove herself within the first two minutes. She has certain practices she uses to help her shift the energy in the room to be more positive.
By the way, impostor syndrome has some benefits. If you always think you know more than everyone else, you’ll miss opportunities to learn.
“Just because Forbes called me an expert doesn’t mean I’m a superhuman and I don’t have questions,” Jessica says. “I don’t have all the answers. I’ve been doing this long enough to know some things, but I’m also a constant student.”
True self-worth means speaking up when your expertise is called upon, and being OK with not being that expert all the time.