Help, How Can I Create A Personal Brand If I Haven’t Made Peace With My Past?

When I begin working with a client on their Personal Brand, our first order of business is developing their Origin Brand Story (OBS). The OBS is based on their past experiences, upbringing, etc. To quote one of my earlier articles, your "OBS is the foundation upon which your Personal Brand comes to life."

During an episode of my weekly podcast, Breakfast With The Brand, I was asked by an emerging leader how they could benefit from Personal Branding when they haven't made peace with their Origin Brand Story.

I found this question phenomenal! As “A Kid From Harlem who God Has Chosen To Show His Favor and Mercy Through.” I know many people can relate to having a past they don't feel comfortable sharing or aren't sure their professional peers will value their experiences.

My childhood experiences, growing up in Harlem, are a significant part of my origin story. With my experience as a Clinical Counselor and now an Executive Brand Coach, I help professionals turn their OBS into a profitable brand.

This article will share a few strategies you can use to make peace with your OBS without reliving your past trauma.

Let's start with defining what an Origin Brand Story is and how it differs from your Signature Story. Your OBS is firmly rooted in your life's experiences that made you who you are. For example, my OBS is what I used at the beginning of this article to introduce myself.

"A Kid From Harlem who God Has Chosen To Show His Favor and Mercy Through."

Out of the gate, I've given you insight into my life, and you probably started to paint a picture of my external and internal struggles.

Now, my Origin Story seamlessly transitions into a signature story. Your signature story is designed to give your audience insight into your transformation. That insight should start to build trust, as your ideal audience should see elements of themselves in you.

My transformation (aka Signature story) starts like this. "I made all the wrong decisions until I met my wife. My signature story involves falling in love and realizing that education and personal development were my two best avenues out of what was happening in Harlem. If you grew up in an inner-city during the 1980s, as I did, you'd understand why choosing to become a husband and pursuing higher education makes me different from my peers.

Seems pretty straightforward, right?

For many people, their origin story involves traumatic experiences that aren't easy to overcome, let alone share with the masses.

I shared an article about a gentleman who became a successful entrepreneur after serving 20 years in prison . It would be wise to assume that leaning into his Origin Brand Story wasn't easy. Being authentic leaves you vulnerable, and that's not a risk some of us are willing to take. Yet, instinctively we know that building a successful career in business, entertainment, or politics by pretending to be someone else or hiding from our past is a recipe for disaster.

I don't need to give you an example of individuals who reached the height of success only to have their world rocked by a secret or underdeveloped character.

The executive, entrepreneur, or CEO who works with an Executive Brand Coach to develop an authentic OBS takes control of the narrative, which puts them at an advantage to manage their brand and protect their legacy. Making peace with your story starts with:

Deciding What You Want Your Legacy To Be

Last week, I wrote about why I thought Will Smith didn't need more counseling or therapy but an Executive Coach. The article sparked an excellent conversation around Coaching and Therapy. I want to make the point that most leaders follow conventional wisdom when dealing with past trauma. However, most executives, entrepreneurs, and CEOs will agree that they are future-focused. Taking a retrospective approach, like counseling, to deal with a problem isn't always the best solution.

If you want to tap into the power of Personal Branding, you must first decide what you want your brand's legacy to achieve? If you're reading this my guess is that you want to build a business and legacy. But let's say that you're not comfortable telling the world that you grew up in an abusive environment.

In that case, I highly advise working with a trained coach who can help you understand the lessons, skills, and transformation you've had as a result of your story. The coach will help you lean into your power and focus on leveraging the lessons from your experience.

On that same note, your coach should also be able to refer you to a mental health professional when necessary. As a clinical counselor, I am licensed to diagnose mental disorders, but I never offer my coaching client's clinical. I believe that the two practices should be delivered to a client by two different professionals. Therefore, when I recognize that my client needs mental health services to make peace with their Origin Brand Story, I refer them to the best one I know.

The best way to make peace with a problematic Origin Brand Story is to work with the appropriate professional. One that can extract the lesson of your past experiences without retraumatizing you.

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