This story was contributed by our contributor Demetra Ganias, founder of Ganias Media Lab.
Persona is our public face. In other words, it’s how we’re perceived by others. The great news is, we control what parts of ourselves to share. While “crafting a persona” may seem disingenuous, it’s actually the opposite – it allows people to learn who we are, at our best. From our work to our friendships, it’s time to step up our persona, not just for “significant” moments (aka a job interview), but the small, everyday moments that make up real life.
What makes you feel like yourself – the best version of yourself – when you walk out the door? For me, it’s putting on makeup. For you, it might be styling your hair, putting on “real” pants, or even having read the day’s top headlines. There are cues in our routine that tell our brain we’re “on” and they can have a big impact on how we carry ourselves and perform our daily tasks. (It’s also interesting to reminisce about what used to make us feel put together years ago, as opposed to now. Time passes and so does our perception of ourselves!)
Today, I challenge you to start paying more attention to what makes you feel “on” or “ready” because it’s not just you who notices… everyone else does too. It’s a big ask, considering we moms often put ourselves last. But I have seen the power of persona and it’s real! Take time to present yourself in the best light, physically and mentally, and you will change your interactions today and the opportunities that present themselves in the future.
Self-respect on the inside + self-confidence on the outside = a poised, powerful me.
Here are 5 strategies to help you master persona:
To Get Ahead, Work Backwards
There’s a path I champion for figuring out where to start and that is, look to the end. How do you want people to feel about you? If you know the end result, backtrack and consider the behaviors and habits that bolster that goal.
Grab a piece of paper and write down three words you want people to use to describe you. For example, three words I love for myself are articulate, helpful, and loyal. The next step is to create alignment between the way I act and speak and my goal words. Being mindful is the first and best way to improve.
Another exercise is to picture yourself in a new environment, perhaps back at your freshman year of college. How would you show up? Without any baggage about who you were or expectations from people back home, who would you want to be? This should be our mentality when considering persona. Though we don’t have the luxury of going back in time, the smarter, more confident woman you are today can benefit from these same questions.
Introduce Yourself Like a Boss
It’s a scenario that has played out countless times: you meet someone new and he or she asks, “What do you do?” Normal conversation, right? Wrong. Just because it’s common, your answer must be anything but basic.
This is the moment to elevate yourself! Create a single, phenomenal sentence to describe yourself. It will take some work, but drilling down to the foundation of what you do – and what makes you unique – will be worth it. Open a blank document and start writing. Then re-write, erase, use a thesaurus, and keep going back to it. My sentence is, “I help people transform their careers through public speaking.” It’s simple yet aspirational. Notice that it goes beyond a job title and makes an emotional connection about how I want people to feel. Elevate yourself without holding back!
Step Up Your Small Talk
Whatever your perception of public speaking is, erase it. My mission as a public speaking coach is to shatter the misconception that a podium, microphone, or big audience are what signal public speaking. The truth is, you’re doing it all day long. Even a one-on-one conversation is public speaking! That means small talk, phone calls, meetings with just a few people all count. You are revealing yourself – and being judged – by how you show up, so take it seriously. Waiting for a “big stage” to shine is rare and, truthfully, it does us a huge disservice. Don’t be lulled into thinking the small moments don’t matter… they are plentiful and powerful!
Shout Yourself Out
There’s an adage that always rings true for me when I talk persona: you teach people how to treat you. Words matter and if you speak respectfully about yourself, others will follow. Can we all make a pact to remove the word “just” from our vocabulary? Here are some phrases I’d like to banish from our collective dialogue:
I’m “just” a mom.
I held the job for “just” a year.
This is “just” something I do on the side.
Shifting your word choice is a huge component of success. Stop minimizing your experience! Think critically about how your experience has shaped you, and take credit for your evolution.
Persona is Not a Dirty Word
If you want to see change in your life, you need to buy into the process. Don’t let the phrases “crafting a persona” and “honing a message” fool you into thinking persona is fake. First, everyone has a persona whether they’re aware of it or not. Second, people will always judge (as we do…) so take control of the moment.
The goal isn’t to feel judged or pressured, it’s to take ownership of our goals and what we’re doing to achieve them.
If I go to work late, unprepared, and disheveled, my appearance does all the talking for me. It will be much harder to make the case for more responsibility or a raise if my actions don’t align with my intentions. I need to make it clear to my boss and colleagues that I’m ready and deserving of whatever I ask.
If I show up to my kids’ school and activities constantly saying I’m a hot mess, I give others permission to think the same of me. Motherhood is, in fact, messy, so there’s no need to label myself in a derogatory way. I give myself grace and acknowledge I’m doing my best.
Bottom line: Let nothing about you be an accident. You are worthy of investing in yourself.