Branding in the Third Person


Personal branding can be tricky. It’s difficult to see yourself objectively. It can be hard to judge yourself fairly without overestimating or underestimating your talent or ability. You’ve probably seen self-proclaimed ‘gurus’ who seem laughable, while more impressive people fail to give themselves any credit.

Formulating who you are is hard because it’s like the investigator trying to investigate himself. Biases and personal agendas cloud good judgment.

Try this when discerning your personal brand: Think in the third person.

View yourself from the outside, not the inside. See what others observe when they look at you. As you recall life events that affected the course of your life, replay them like scenes in a movie and yourself as a character. You may see something totally new you never noticed before.

I have an encounter I replay in my head occasionally. I’m embarrassed every time I think about the immature things I said to other people that day. By viewing the situation in third person, I see how that was an atypical day for me and I’ve grown since then. By recalling the scene in first person, I relive the feelings and perceptions I had that day – making me believe I still act that way.

This New York Times article describes how people see themselves differently when they view past events in the third person. Researchers see this as an important step in self discovery.

Seeing oneself as acting in a movie or a play is not merely fantasy or indulgence; it is fundamental to how people work out who it is they are, and may become.

“The idea that whoever appeared onstage would play not me but a character was central to imagining how to make the narrative: I would need to see myself from outside,” the writer Joan Didion has said of “The Year of Magical Thinking,” her autobiographical play about mourning the death of her husband and her daughter. “I would need to locate the dissonance between the person I thought I was and the person other people saw.”

This might be considered superficial or shallow. It’s not. Your internal perspective will still influence your external view of yourself. Seeing yourself in the third person will give you a more complete picture of who you are… and help you create a more complete personal brand.

Dustin Staiger is a business and marketing coach in Houston, TX. He addresses team and individual effectiveness, marketing, communications and creativity for smaller, entrepreneurial organizations as well as large enterprises.

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2 thoughts on “Branding in the Third Person

  1. Dustin, this is great advice for individuals and businesses that want to gain objective insight into their brand.

    What do others see when they see you? Always a good question to ask.

    Keep creating,

  2. Thanks Mike. Another good question to ask would be “How can I know what others see in me?” Causing us to look outside of ourselves to qualify (or disqualify) our perceptions.