We all have an idea of ourselves that we’d like the rest of the world to see, whether it is perfectly authentic or not. The problem is that for a large number of people, this idea that we hold in our minds, is often where it stays. Getting this version of yourself out to the rest of the world is where the problem begins to manifest, and take on a life of its own.  The person we believe we are presenting to co-workers and potential business partners turns out to be someone else entirely, someone you didn’t think you were at all. You find yourself asking: “How did my employees get the idea that I had no hobbies or social interests?” or “Why would potential business associates go with my competitors when I clearly charge a lower fee and deliver on promises?” The answer is this: the person you know you are, is not the person that others see you as. In other words, your internal brand and your external brand are not congruent. This means just one thing: your personal branding needs some attention. 

It is human nature for us to assign labels to each other. This may not happen consciously, but the mental associations that are automatically formed when meeting new people and digesting information connect certain labels with each other, like joining the dots. People are going to form opinions of you, whether you want them to or not. These opinions can either be what they pick up in the media or from pictures others paint of you – or you can take an active role in shaping their minds about you by owning who you are and branding yourself the way you see fit.

Here are five steps to get you started on making, and owning your own personal brand:

1. Brand Yourself! – Before it is done for you.

Undoing preconceived ideas about you is much harder than creating fresh ideas in someone’s mind. Create a strong picture about yourself through social media, networking, and by word of mouth. Don’t be judged by popular opinion alone. There is plenty you can do to influence how people see you. Don’t overlook things like manners, tone of voice and enthusiasm levels, it’s not just the car you drive and the way you dress that makes a first impression.

2. Deal with any incongruence

If your internal and external brands do not merge, have a look at why this is the case. Is your personal branding poor because you reflect yourself poorly, or are you actually not the person you are portraying? You must address this as it could lead to potentially disastrous struggles in the future.

3. What makes you unique?

You must be able to identify what makes you stand out from the crowd, and be able to communicate that to the rest of the world. What skills do you have that make you extraordinary?

4. Put a spin on “negative” traits

If you have personality traits that you know potential clients or employees may see as negative, try looking at them in a positive light. How might somebody else view your reclusive tendencies? They could see you as an observer or a deep thinker. You won’t be able to make everyone happy, all of the time but you can certainly be true to yourself and your image.

5. Make it yours

Take what others have already said about you, be it positive or negative – a trait you can’t seem to shake, or a peculiar hobby you enjoy, and work with it. Accept who you are and who you have been. Turn quirks into attractive qualities that are endearing, and win people over with your openness. Own it!

This article will shortly appear at www.entrepreneur.com blog in a series I am writing as the Personal Branding Coach contributing author.  Please subscribe to follow and stay updated with relevant information on this topical subject.