In our book, Don’t Dread Monday, we highlight ten career myths and their corresponding truths. For the next few blog posts, we will be exploring these myths/truths more in depth as we continue to tackle how you can find true meaning and success in your career.
Myth #1: Manage your image; be your own brand.
In this age of social media, where image and branding can be an integral part of a career, it is often assumed that “managing your image” will lead to success. In this “be your own brand" approach, rather than spending your time and energy creating and shaping what matters most to you, you’re determining whether your actions and behaviors fit with how you want to be perceived. In this framework, you’re in a prison of your own construct, always worrying about what others are thinking and whether their perceptions are what you want them to be.
One real-life example of someone who broke free of society’s expectations of them is the television personality Walter Mercado. For those who don’t know him, he dazzled Latin American households for decades with his astrological predictions. With his fabulous capes, exaggerated hand gestures, and focus on positivity, he gave millions of people a hope for a better tomorrow. He lived by the principles of love, kindness, and confidence in oneself, spreading his message across Latin America and internationally.
Image Source: Getty / Harry Langdon
Living this authentically, however, was a conscious choice Mercado made. In the machismo, religious culture of Puerto Rico, Mercado stood outside the norm. His interests, his sexuality, and his clothing set him apart. In a defining moment of his childhood, his mother told him, “If you’re different, go on and be different; don’t worry about that. To be different is to live, to be ordinary is common.” With this mantra, Mercado was able to go on to great success. He became an icon by being unapologetically himself, and inspired countless others to do the same.
I want you to feel empowered to break from the idea that “managing your image” will bring you success. I continue to be amazed at how many people feel like they have to put on a mask and behave in ways they think others will approve of. For many, it takes a crisis or a time of deep introspection to decide to take off the mask, be themselves, and let the chips fall where they may. When they make this decision, they liberate themselves and find that people respond better to the real person behind the veneer.
With this liberation will come the ability to focus on your passions. You won’t have to worry about how others perceive you. This will bring you long-term happiness and success.
So what is the first and most important truth to follow?
Truth #1: Be yourself and do what you love.