Recently I was speaking with a colleague’s mentee about her career future. She’s a bright 20 year old who is about to undertake an internship with an organisation. She spoke well, she was engaging and she was keen to learn. But she said something that totally took me by surprise – she doesn’t know who she is or how to present herself.
I thought this issue was reserved for later in life. My clients tend to come to me in a time of transition in their life. They are usually over 40, and generally women and battling with a feeling of being lost and disconnected from themselves.
But this girl is just starting out! She’s only starting to think about what she wants to do for work, where she wants her life to go, and already she has no idea of who she is. And why is that? It’s because of all the messages she receives constantly throughout the day telling her who she should be. It’s because she is a child of the social media age.
Young women and men entering the workforce now do not know a time without social media. They’ve had Facebook and Instagram accounts since the age of 12. They have been influenced by these channels so much so that it’s clouding their view of themselves.
After sharing about personal branding and how I moved into this space with my 13 years of business experience, she shared how the connection to self and the confidence in who you are was something that she was really missing.
“When I was a teenager, the way to get in with friends and the way to be connected was through music. I thought that if I liked the music of the people I wanted to be friends with, then they would like who I am. So I would post all about that music. Then I’d meet new people, and I’d do the same. When my memories and posts come up on Facebook now, my music is so eclectic and so not like me. I don’t know what music I even like. I’ve always just taken on what I think others want me to like.”
And she could see how this influence had flowed into other areas of her life.
She felt crippled when it came to sharing a post on social media now.
“All I want to do is share a nice photo I’ve taken. But when I got to post it, I thought so much about what the caption should be. Do I just put an emoji (which is so basic! – her words), do I write something deep and poetic, do I describe what it is. I don’t know! I don’t know what I want to say and what people will think when they see it.”
So how do you talk about yourself?
This is something common I see with my clients too. They’re so worried about what others might think of them, they end up trying to tailor their message to noone and everyone.
I so enjoyed the conversation with this gorgeous girl but I also felt so sad getting off the call. She’s about to walk into a world of roles and titles. Where jobs, companies and fellow employees try to shape her. And without a connection to herself and who she really is, she’s going to get even more lost and disconnected over time.
Now there is so much good and positive in social media. It can bring us together despite distance, it can help us to build on relationships and it can connect us with like minded people around the world. The downside is that with so many messages coming at us constantly, we can easily get lost in that and lose sight of ourselves. Comparison and imposter syndrome is rife due to being bombarded by other people’s content constantly. Tapping into who we are takes more work and more focus than ever. But it can be done.
Listen to yourself
My words of wisdom to her, and the only thing I felt that truly mattered in all of the advice I would impart from my career, be yourself. To be true to yourself. To not do a role or job because you think it’s what you “should” (a word that ought be banned) do.
I encouraged her wherever possible to tap into how she feels.
Does she feel good about herself?
Does she feel confident?
Does she feel light, or is it all heavy?
Learning how to listen to our body and to our intuition is the first step in reconnecting with who we really are. Our hearts often tell us more than our heads.
I’m so passionate about seeing people live as they truly are, to follow their own path and to really know themselves. Other people are always going to choose how they perceive and receive us, but we get to decide how we show up in the world and we get to control our story.
Regardless of age, this loss of connection with self is an issue. It’s something I’d like to see have a lot more focus from an early age. To encourage children, adolescents, and young adults to keep focused on who they are and to allow them the freedom to be that.
It’s not too late though! You can always take back control and start to reconnect with yourself. This is where having a focus on your personal brand begins. Knowing who you are, showing up as who you are and being your authentic self will help you to achieve the life you want.
I’d love to hear from you if this is something you feel is a challenge for you or if this story resonated in any way. Let’s chat!