When you think about inspiration, where do you find it? Off the latest Instagram quote? (Meh.) Perhaps your favorite coffee mug? (Okay…) Maybe it’s your favorite podcast on your morning commute. (I dig that.) Or perhaps you find it from someone you know personally, or someone you wish you knew. (I love this.)
Here’s what I know: inspiration can’t be manufactured.
It comes from one place, and one place only.
Raw, authentic vulnerability.
Think about the most “inspirational” people you know. People who are “worshipped.” Think about people like Oprah Winfrey, Tony Robbins, Gary Vaynerchuk.
Before becoming household names, Oprah came from a sexually abusive past, Tony Robbins was totally broke, and Gary Vee was an immigrant who started from nothing. None of these examples try and hide where they’ve come from or how they’ve struggled. They share it. Because it’s a part of their stories. It’s part of them.
Perfect and polished personal brands don’t move the world — real ones do.
‘Your mess is your message’ as they say.
So let’s identify yours and get to the heart of what makes YOU inspirational.
1. Be Really Real.
No, like really real.
We are deep in the age of Instagram influencers, fashion bloggers and the like, and it’s super easy to get discouraged about what we’ve got going on ourselves. All this “perfect” imagery makes us believe that we have to be perfect too.
Think about it. How many times did you re-take that selfie before you posted it? How many filters and edits did you apply to the photo of your coffee table flat lay (which you rearranged 50 times) before hitting ‘share’?
That ain’t life, people.
Beyond the digital world, how many times have you lied about how you’re doing? How many times have you hidden your past, your failures, your hardships, your imperfections, because you felt ashamed or out of place in this perfection-driven world?
I am proud to openly share my fears, my failures, my mistakes, my bad business decisions. Not for pity or for sympathy, but to get closer to my audience.
If I share about a bad business decision that someone else has made as well, it gives us a common ground. And if I share about how I bounced back, I can hope to bring some inspiration to that one individual to bounce back as well.
Not only do you inspire, but you cut through the noise. You disrupt the regularly scheduled programming of perfect photo after perfect photo, and bring it back to something real.
That’s what I’m in it for. I’m here to show you (my audience) that I am just like you. I fall, and I get hurt too.
2. You Need to Be Comfortable Being Uncomfortable.
I’m sure you’ve heard it before: “you need to get outside your comfort zone.”
As overplayed as this phrase is, it’s so true.
Take a moment.
What does your comfort zone look like?
OK. Now what is your comfort zone not?
Go there instead. I promise it’s way more exciting than being stagnant. And you won’t believe the opportunities on the other side.
In order to expand- your skills, your mind, your brand- you have to get uncomfortable. That’s the nature of the beast. But the good thing is that this doesn’t have to be super hard. I’m not challenging you to dive head first into the deep end, I’m telling you to take baby steps.
Maybe your comfort zone is working out by yourself on the treadmill at the gym. Maybe tomorrow you try taking a group class to get your sweat on.
Maybe your comfort zone is working in the same position you have been for the past five years. Maybe tomorrow you talk to your boss about growth opportunities.
Shoot, maybe your comfort zone is wearing your hair up in a bun everyday. Maybe tomorrow you let loose and wear it down!
I’m talking baby steps! Whatever those might look like for you. Just make yourself get un-comfortable.
3. The World Needs Your Truth and Vulnerability.
Check #1 again: Be really, really real.
Why? It’ll feel really good for you for one, but even more than that, other people need you.
We are all inspired by our fellow man or woman, and believe it or not, YOU are a source of inspiration for someone else. In fact, probably many someone elses.
It’s important to remember that none of this is about you. (Remember: a personal brand is an act of service). It’s about them — the people who need you.
Think back to Oprah, Tony, and Gary. They don’t do it for themselves. They do it for their massive followings. The reason they have these followings is because their followers see a bit of those brands in themselves.
The woman with a sexually abusive past can relate to Oprah’s story, and can be inspired by her success despite her hardships.
The struggling entrepreneur can relate to being broke like Tony, and can turn his life around just like Tony did.
The immigrant starting with nothing in a new country can look to Gary and think: “I can do this.”
The members of their tribes can relate to these inspirational figures because they can see themselves in them. They believe in these people, and what’s more, they can believe in themselves.
If you’re not already, (which, I’m telling you, you probably already are) you can be that inspiration for someone too.
Bottom line, stop trying to be someone you’re not. Stop trying to cover up your imperfections or mistakes or fear of being judged.
Your mess is your message. Your flaws are part of your story. Don’t hide them.
It’s your truth that will set you free and that will set the world free.
And the world needs more of that.