Self-expression in business is often a catalyst for deep connections, but it’s never an easy feat. When you share yourself with your audience and clients, not in a narcissistic but a giving way, you create lasting trust and a human bond.

This is why personal branding achieves certain business goals so well, and social spaces like LinkedIn have welcomed creativity, transparency, and vulnerability. We are slowly realizing that connection and humanity are good for our businesses.

At the same time, if its benefits are so evident, why is it still so hard to do?

Being yourself and giving freedom to your ideas remains excruciatingly difficult for a lot of consultants and business founders. Whether it’s sharing their backstory, using certain marketing techniques, or branding their offers, a lot of my clients steer away from self-expression.

Two factors make this so hard. First, our tribal instincts are still telling us that it’s dangerous to be seen. And second, the branding industry favors consistency, not idiosyncrasies.

The moment we let our idiosyncrasies be seen, we will have to reveal that we aren’t consistent at all. In fact, it will become clear how erroneous, risky, and conflicted we truly are.

There is a serious contradiction between the dictated rule of authenticity for your brand and the way human identity naturally is. Because while there is a common thread that holds our identities all the way from childhood through adulthood, we remain multi-layered and evolving.

Throughout the history of time, society has wrestled with the question of identity, tackling it from every potential point of view: philosophical, theological, literary, sociological, political, anthropological, historical and commercial.

There might not be one satisfactory answer to what identify is, but we know that much: there is no one single self, but many layers to who we are. As Whitman exclaimed:

“Do I contradict myself?

Very well then I contradict myself,

(I am large, I contain multitudes.)”

It has also become evident that the more we’re inclined to accept our own intersections, the more flexible we’re about accepting other peoples.

Post-war French philosophers like Sartre and Beauvoir popularized the idea of “authenticity”, which comes with the assumption that we all have one “true self”.

And ever since our individualistic society has been trying to reconcile these two conflicting thoughts, on one hand, we want to break away from scripts and labels. On the other hand, we strive to fit into one single, supposedly unique identity, which is technically a label.

In business, the paradox looks like this: in order to create connection; we need to be vulnerable, imperfect, and transparent, but at the same time we ought to project consistency, reliability, and expertise. 

Caught between this ambiguity, many business owners are paralyzed by indecision, and indecision is the enemy of a flourishing business.

So let’s abolish this cognitive dissonance by saying this:
you can be both an expert and a human in your business.
You can run your brand through a reductive lens and still have a rich identity. Why? Because you can hold two opposing ideas in your mind. This, according to Scott Fitzgerald is “the test of a first-rate intelligence”.

As long as you fulfill your promise to your clients, and you don’t lie or cause harm, polarities in your business are a sign that you’re human. However, claiming that you believe in something but then contradict it with your actions is not a case of holding two opposing ideas. This is simply a duplicity.

So if you are wondering how far can you go with being yourself in your brand, and you’re paralyzed by not doing anything to express yourself, my advice is to start small.

Here are a few tips on how to move forward with a more human, more expressive brand.

Depending on your personality and level of extroversion, you might not find all of them appealing. However, consider implementing at least one as a start:

  • Pick a niche that is close to your mindset
    This will make it easier for you to share your ideas and it will make your brand more expressive.
  • Know yourself really well
    Figure out who you are and who you are not, but not for consistency reasons. Know this so that you can embrace all intersections of your identity and be accepting of different truths than your own.
  • Don’t take your identity too seriously
    There is nothing worse than a brand or a company taking itself too seriously. You can take your work seriously, but not yourself.
  • Lead with a big brave idea
    Find that one idea that makes you who you are right now. Put it at the forefront of your business for a few years. This idea doesn’t have to be the totality of you, but should be catchy, memorable and sharable (read more about ideas in my article The Brave Way To Brand Your Business).
  • Its job is to magnetize your niche, but also to give a more complex view of you; its job is to add a creative bend to your brand, stretch the brain, promote self-reflection,
    and to show the transition from one way of thinking to another.
  • Go beyond declaring your big idea. Demonstrate it!
    If you have the option of not saying it, but showing it, do the second. For example, don’t say on your website that you are approachable, DO something approachable.
  • Use literary inventions like self-irony and humor
    Even on your homepage, brand materials and tagline.Do the unthinkable, be who you are with your brand, and you will have a deeper connection with your clients and a wider reach with your audience. If you need help amplify the human side of your business, book a call with me here.


Partner & Troublemaker, Bigfish Smallpond Design
Brave Brander and Salad Smarty

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