I’m A Brand, Not A Person
One of the best parts of having a big following on social media is my ability to hide in plain sight. I’m mostly “unattainable” to those who follow me, which allows me to create distance between myself and my audience.
And if truth be told, I believe they want it that way. If my audience knew about the fact that I went to the same Poke Bowl place every week, or that I spent my time counting Car Brands with my son outside during Daddy Day Care, or 100 other boring things that make me more human, there would be a bit of a let down. As much as I preach that I’m just as boring as the next person, there’s a part of some of my followers that want to believe that this isn’t me. The messages I get from people reinforce this — they talk about how my words and content inspires them in some part of their lives, that I provide them permission to live in some sort of new way. Don’t get me wrong — this is why I do what I do.
But I also like not being a part of the equation for my readers. I want to keep people at a distance and I don’t really want to let them in. To let people into my life makes me feel emotionally naked, like they have some sort of power over me, and they’ll use this power to humiliate me at any moment. If anyone really had a glance of who I am beyond this “authentic charade” that I present, they’d take advantage of it and share it with the world. I can’t risk that happening, right?
I only realized the appeal of this “other focused world” after a new mentee called me out on it. We were chatting away, and she spent a good portion of our chat revealing very personal and vulnerable things to me after I told her that I was interested in getting to know her. As is typical of these chats I accepted her and what she was telling me non-judgmentally and empathetically. But something strange and unsettling happened right after this. She said “you don’t reveal anything about yourself. You pretend to, and others believe it, but I don’t. I don’t actually KNOW anything about you. And I want to know you.”
And she was right. And I was scared. And I wanted to run away. And I told her “you’re right. I don’t let people in. But I’m not ready for that. In due time.”
Despite having nearly 80,000 followers on LinkedIn, not much about me as a person has changed. I’ve always been an impenetrable force to some degree, revealing some things but keeping most things away from people with a lock and key. There’s a deep darkness to me that I don’t share with anyone, that only I know, and that only my therapist has access to. And that must stay the way it is. This mentee forced my hand on this after she revealed that she wanted to get to know me, and I was taken aback: no one has said that to me, and no one has meant it.
My whole view of life is that people only care about themselves, and if you deliver value to them they’ll like you. And so that’s what I do, while carefully keeping myself out of the equation. For someone to want to know me genuinely and non-judgmentally is quite frankly the most terrifying thing that one could say to me.
What does this all mean? As always I have to take the time to process this. I don’t know what the role of letting others in means, but I do know that it’s something I need to explore. Stay tuned.