What do you want to be when you grow up? A daunting question we get asked often when we’re kids. Then we get asked things related to marriage, kids, money. But, what if the thing you thought you wanted to be when you grew up is not the thing that your adult self is meant to do? Oh, oh, hello fear.
I grew up as the artist of the family; we all knew I was going to pursue a creative career that would involve color in some way. Painting, designing and coming up with creative ideas was my thing. My life was set, I evolved from painter to designer to art director to brand strategist; four different careers all in the same realm as people would’ve predicted since I was a kid.
What people, or even I, couldn’t predict was the path that awaited me.
Next thing I know I’m standing on a TEDx stage sharing a project I had embarked on. And without even noticing it, that day I became a “Motivational Speaker”. Companies, schools and organizations started inviting me to speak at their events.
My website, michellepoler.com, went from showcasing ads and brands to demo-reels and testimonials. My business card went from eight colors to three and I started comparing myself to other speakers. To be honest, I was feeling like an impostor hoping not to get caught during my next presentation.
I. freaked. out.
I’m no Brene Brown, I thought. I’m no Simon Sinek or Tony Robbins, why would anyone want to listen to what I had to say?
My impostor syndrome was taking over me.
So I did what I know how to do best: brand myself.
I realized that I couldn’t begin to compare myself to other professional speakers. That’s when I remembered one of the key learnings from my branding days: USP (Unique Selling Proposition). What makes me unique? I asked myself.
1. My background in design gives me the skills and the eye to craft nice slides – I watched dozens of TED Talks and even the best ones had terrible slides.
2. My Venezuelan accent and choppy English can be either embarrassing or interestingly cool, different, unique. I choose the latter
3. Finally, I can’t stand high heels, fake eyelashes or any kind of business attire.
So I branded myself as a young, up and coming speaker with colorful, hand-drawn slides, cool sneakers and cropped-tops, a relatable vibe and a memorable opening that *may or may not* include hardcore reggeaton dancing.
Dancing "Vaivén" by Daddy Yankee at the International Student Leadership Conference in Rome
I embraced the things that made me different to become my authentic self on stage and wow an audience my way.
I learned that the only way to defeat the impostor syndrome and gain the confidence to believe in ourselves is by differentiating instead of comparing.
Comparison leads to lower self-esteem, depression, and makes us doubt our own skills and potential.
So take a moment to think about your USP. Embrace those little things that make you different, and own the real you.
“Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be. But to find out who we already are, and become it.” – Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
PS: Have fun. Don’t take yourself too seriously :)