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Show up as the real you

Hsiao-Yen Jones, The Freed Fawn


Eight years ago, when I first started my personal brand and began to share my heart on Instagram, I thought that the key to building my audience was to be as professional and "together" as possible. Common business advice had me believing that if I wanted to have any chance of booking clients and making sales, I had to sell myself as the product. My past and present weren't just chapters in my journey; they were "before-s" and "after-s" I needed to commodify.

For me, this was the beginning of the end. The harder I tried to show only my best self to the world, the less others related to me. While I would get a handful of likes and comments and the occasional DM telling me how "aspirational" my posts were, what I sacrificed was a genuine connection with my audience - where they were, here and now.

All that changed when I "gave up" and started sharing my life as a "during" rather than a "before" or "after." And what would you know, that was when my posts really started to skyrocket. I soon found myself surrounded by a following of 10,000 in the first six months (and now, 40,000 who have stayed with me all these years).

But more important than the numbers were the deep and rich relationships I would make. I didn't just have followers; I had a community that has seen my lowest lows and highest highs and has supported me through multiple shifts in my brand over the years. They weren't there to just consume my content, they were there to witness my evolution, connect with my process, and root me on as a human being and not just a brand. And that has been more priceless than anything.

So, to all who find themselves at the beginning of their own community- building journeys, especially those with personal brands, what I have to say to you is this - stop focusing on trying to be what you think the world wants and start showing up as you are. Because your people can only find you and connect with you if you're showing your true self to the world. Don't deprive your people the gift of your during-s by pretending that you're an after.

We're all in process, and by taking off the mask, you allow others to do the same. And THAT is everything in our social media culture of facades. Take the risk and just watch how powerfully you can not only build your brand but actually make an impact on the lives of your people."

Advice Contributor

Hsiao-Yen Jones

Hsiao-Yen Jones has shared her healing journey with her community since 2015 and works as a trauma-informed mentor and facilitator to support others as they reclaim their real selves beneath their masks.

See Hsiao-Yen's Site