“Who are you going to be for Halloween?”
My six-year-old niece pulled off her Stormtrooper mask and quickly slipped on a crocheted squid hat. “I’ll show you!” she squealed, an impish glint in her eye as she scampered off down the hallway.
Moments later she comes back with a Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) costume – essentially, a skeleton costume with a Latin flair.
In under a minute, she was three different “people.”
Ah, to be young again. To be anything you want to be in a matter of seconds.
It’s fun to pretend to be someone you’re not, isn’t it?
But for many of us – myself included – as we grew up and (most of us) grew out of donning a Halloween costume each October, we instead replaced it with something we wear almost daily…
We pretend to be someone else on a daily basis, either in our personal or business lives.
Whether to hide a flaw we’re ashamed of or to fit into some sort of superficial standard, we put on a front to make sure people don’t see the imperfections we have.
We tend to think that we need to be perceived as being successful at all times.
When people ask you how your business is going, do you automatically answer with “It’s going well”?
Even when you’re having some trouble balancing your checkbooks, or some of your best employees have just sent in their two weeks notice, or your products have been sitting on your shelves for over a month now.
“It’s going great!”
We put on a “face” to the public to put our best foot forward, projecting confidence and success.
We fear that if people knew what was really going on behind the scenes, we’d lose their support.
The truth is, people relate to other people, rather than a business corporation.
As much as you need to look “put together” and “professional,” it’s okay to be vulnerable and let people get a peek at who you are – the real you.
I’m not saying you have to broadcast your failures and let everyone know you’re having a slow season or that finances are tight.
Remember, being vulnerable is about sharing yourself, not your burdens. Use it in a way to build relationships.
In the business world, being vulnerable means showing the public the people that your business comprises of. It’s reminding them that behind the services and products you provide, there are real people – just like them – that make up the business.
It makes you relatable. And when your customers relate to you, they’re loyal to you.
Being vulnerable to your audience can mean highlighting an employee or business partner that has contributed to the success of your business, that continues to persevere and believe in the work you’re doing despite the struggles.
Or, host a networking event to give back to the community you’re a part of, to bring local businesses and startups together. But don’t just make it about you – this isn’t a promotional event. Make it about helping other businesses create meaningful connections, where people can learn from each other and realize that they don’t have to wear their mask because they’re in a room full of people that know exactly what they’re going through.
But being vulnerable doesn’t happen on its own. It starts with you.
It’s important to stay true to the mission and values of your business.
In our Intro to Branding and Marketing Webinar, we talked about how a brand can be described as a person.
In essence, it’s comprised of three main parts:
These components make up your brand.
Your business can suffer if you are constantly putting on a mask and not being authentic towards your customers and business partners. You start losing the core of your brand.
While you may be able to draw in some people with the mask, you won’t be bringing in the right people. The more you deviate away from the character of your brand to be something you’re not, the less people will know what your business stands for.
Let’s hope you’re not using a mask as a means of covering up anything…
Remember, no one likes to be tricked in the business world. Avoid multiple personality disorder at all costs.
Just as a business wears a “mask,” identify what mask you’re wearing.
What are you pretending to be that’s preventing you from growing as a person?
For me, I struggle with perfectionism. I have the desire to always look and feel “put together.” And unfortunately, it leads to a path of comparison.
What I create can’t just be good, it has to be great. But to what standards? With so many talented creators out there, I’m always pushing myself to be on par if not better than they are.
Even at home, when I’m baking a pie, it better look Instagram worthy. Only one pie (ahem, tart) has made it so far. Take a look for yourself.
The downfall to perfectionism is that people start to think nothing can go wrong with you because that’s the mask you’ve portrayed to the world. Therefore, you’re not as relatable to them because you haven’t faced similar struggles.
You’re not as “real.”
The reality is that I do struggle with things. Every. Single. Day. I’m definitely not good at everything.
I just try to hide my flaws behind my mask.
But when I let others in or am able to accept that things don’t always have to be perfect, when I laugh something off and can be silly, when I tell people that I have my flaws too, I can give my mask a break and let others see my true self.
One they can relate to.
One that is human.
After all, stronger bonds are formed when facing adversity rather than in the midst of perfection.
So, who are you going to be today?
A Halloween mask?