According to the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, the whole purpose of our lives was to – by the exercise of our senses – recover through learning the knowledge we once had before our birth. Paraphrasing St Ignatius of Loyola, the towering figure of XX century psychology Carl Gustav Jung updated Plato’s vision when he claimed that ‘man’s consciousness was created to the end that it may recognize its descent from a higher unity, execute its commands intelligently and responsibly… and thereby afford the psyche as a whole the optimum degree of life and development’. In our own day, American thinker Ken Wilber has spoken of the need ‘to cultivate body, mind and spirit in self, culture and nature’.
They all point to an underlying reality: our lives are indeed an amazing journey of self-discovery toward wholeness. And personal branding (I want to add) is a piece in the puzzle of that at times seemingly titanic effort. We could go even a step further and claim than personal branding, when taken to its ultimate consequences, can be profoundly cathartic and therapeutic: as long of course as the process is guided by radical honesty, an openness to the at times quiet and at others deafening voice of the Self and the unwavering commitment to being true to the best within ourselves at all times. And if this should the case at all it is because in so doing we become active agents and speed up the process of individuation, a process that for Jung constituted the ultimate goal not only of psychology but of human existence as a whole.
From its inception, personal branding has concerned itself with practicalities: how to define and achieve our career objectives or drive our own communication and PR in the new digital economy (to cite only two examples amongst many) have been at the forefront of the personal branding effort. And without doubt countless people have benefited and are benefiting from it to this day. Yet beyond that the process of personal branding invites us to plunge the depths of our being in order to create a credible, value-driven and goal-oriented online and offline persona that truly reflects our own uniqueness as human beings.
And this seemingly daunting task is not for the faint-hearted or the conformists: only those brave souls ready to take a long and hard look into themselves, muster up their courage, galvanize their skills and talents and put them to the best possible use without letting their egos distract them from their course will reach personal branding excellence. And while for some lucky ones this will happen almost naturally and with little effort on their part, for the rest of us it will be anything but easy to negotiate the dangerous waters of our own psyches and the imperfect world in which we live. Because it is only when these two elements – our own inner selves and the external world in which live – come wonderfully together welcoming and even applauding our brand that we shall know we have reached the goal.
Until then, we must continue taking steps along that long and at times winding path that leads to that personal brand that will yield the recognition we so much crave from those around us as well as the approval from that little voice within us. Together with the encouragement, support and friendship of those walking with us, they remain our surest guiding lights along the way.