It was over lunch at Mr. Noodle, Westwood's premier spot for Thai food, that I was reintroduced to the concept of establishing my brand. Over and over again in my first few weeks at UCLA the term was repeated, and it became clear to me that college was not just the place for my academic growth, but for the growth of the professional personality I intend to adopt upon graduating- my brand.
Columbia University Psychologist Dr. Beth Fisher-Yoshida states that the brand someone establishes for themselves defines their perceived effectiveness in the workplace. In particular, she says that we as people (this includes my future employers and colleagues) are attracted most to a brand personality that we think can accomplish the most for us or we think we can work with to accomplish the most together. She says that there are five traits that define supreme effectiveness in someone's personal brand: sincerity, excitement, competence, sophistication, and ruggedness. How one portrays those traits means everything.
This got me thinking- how do I display the five traits above in my daily interactions? What are the habits I can preserve or kiss goodbye to ensure my brand is as best as it can be when I graduate?
And then it hit me- I'm an excessive apologizer.
I falter while asking a question in a discussion? "I'm sorry."
I give an incorrect answer after a teacher asks a question in an otherwise silent lecture? "I'm sorry."
When someone bumps into me in a crowded lecture hall? "I'm sorry."
I know, the last one sounds especially ridiculous.
How can I portray the five traits above if I'm constantly minimizing my presence and belittling my conviction with two dreaded words? The answer is, I can't.
My excessive apologies are one trait I've decided to kick to the curb when it comes to building my brand for the next four years. I want to be known as a smart, strong, capable, and confident woman -- I can't be that so long as I'm apologizing for every move I make or breath I take.
The words "I'm sorry" are the chains with which I've stifled my confidence for years, and finally, I say no more. It's bigger than just establishing my brand -- the words "I'm sorry" have been wrongfully ingrained into the vernacular of women since the dawn of time. A study done by the Association for Psychological Science stated that the issue is not that women simply apologize more, but that they perceive more of their actions as offensive than men do which yields more frequent apologies.
The task at hand for me then is not just re-establishing my brand, but re-establishing the way I've been taught to think. Expanding the space I occupy as a woman with both my voice and my gestures is not an offense -- it's a display of empowerment. And for the female professional I aspire to be and for the brand I aspire to have, empowerment is a must.
It seems I've learned this lesson later than many of the incredible women I've met so far at UCLA. The same mentor who mentioned establishing my brand to me at Mr. Noodle said that I should also find women whose traits I admire and adopt them, and it appears that they've long modified themselves to only apologize when needed. They reject the status quo of limiting their influence as women, and it's their brand that I aspire to create for myself -- a brand of independence, confidence, and empowerment.