A Concept Worth Developing
My favorite motivational speakers—Gary Vaynerchuk of Vayner Media, and Gabby Bernstein, author of Spiritual Junkie—stress the importance of self-awareness. It seems like a no-brainer that in order to be successful in business, self-awareness is key. Branding experts pride themselves on understanding brands and the value of brand consistency in marketing. However, I’m often surprised by how clueless we as consumers are, regarding what brands and political identities we unwittingly buy into. Our deep longing to fit in makes us sitting ducks. When we are not self-aware, our biggest fears and longings dictate much of our behavior. It’s easy to see in others, but not so easy to in ourselves. How does this affect the choices we make about, well, everything?
Social media use (and the data collected on us, as a result) is another reason to be even more self-aware. Whether we intend to or not, through our social media we are essentially asserting our personal brand. We are waving a flag to advertisers saying, “Over here! Come get me!” How great would it be to know yourself so well—even the parts you keep hidden from yourself—that you are no longer susceptible to fake news and advertising that does not work in your best interest?
I’m asserting that self-awareness, when it leads to the uncovering of the shadow self, is our road map to developing an effective personal brand. Along with that comes freedom from negative consumerist patterns. Our current political identities are the worst manifestation of this shadow self and with that, we are being grossly manipulated.
Ancient Types and the Unconscious
Most of us don’t fully grasp the concept of the archetypes applied by psychiatrist Carl Jung in the early part of the twentieth century. I was raised by a father who was fascinated by the psychoanalytic movement spawned by Jung and Freud. As a result, I have spent my entire life understanding, defining and coming to terms with the concept. Working as a stylist, I even utilize Jung’s work when styling clients’ wardrobes and maintaining thematic consistency at photo shoots.
A quick-and-dirty definition of archetypes is to understand that personality is developed by consciousness as a tool of the ego. For example, a woman gives birth to a child, she becomes a Mother. Within that new circumstance, a new persona emerges. That new self is, however, is an ancient form of consciousness from the human collective. It carries a highly evolved genetic component rooted in survival, as well as a cultural component: how the role of that person as Mother fits into society.
Any aspects of personality that emerge as a tool of the ego in our early years of development become part of the personality we have for life. According to Jung, the ones that we hide from ourselves in our unconscious create the “shadow” side of personality.
Some believe that this shadow is responsible for the illnesses and addictions we manifest. What if the shadow is also responsible for our consumerist patterns? Is the shadow getting us into trouble with our credit cards and social media compulsions? The shadow of the Mother, for example, would be the ways in which we were failed by our own mothers and therefore cannot rise to the cultural ideal of the Mother. So we unwittingly compensate.
In Carl Golden’s Soul Craft blog, he outlines straightforwardly The Twelve Common Archetypes dividing them into three sections:
THE EGO TYPES
- The Innocent
- The Orphan/Regular Guy or Gal
- The Hero
- The Caregiver
THE SOUL TYPES
- The Explorer
- The Rebel
- The Lover
- The Creator
THE SELF TYPES
- The Jester
- The Sage
- The Magician
- The Ruler
All I’m doing here simply giving the list of the twelve archetypes, but if you read Golden’s article you can see them broken down in more detail. You will start to identify with these archetypes and see how they apply in the various roles life forces us to play—or the roles we choose to play. Contrast that list with Brand Archetypes by Allan Kunigis for Business Owner’s Playbook, and you’ll see how insightful and adaptive the concept can be.
Once you’ve identified your relationship to the twelve archetypes, cross-reference them with how business marketing tactics may be exploiting them. Are your personal and psychological unresolved issues/shadow-self making you their patsy? If a political headline or ad campaign is giving you strong emotional reactions, stirring up desires and longings, chances are they’ve hooked you and you are no longer in charge of the choices you are making. Your shadow is.
The Shadow Lurking Beneath the Surface
We need self-awareness to unhook from the lure and make truly conscious decisions. We start by deciding not to fear the shadow. The shadow has power because we dread identifying with something we find unacceptable. However, in order to mature into a whole self, we must come to terms with the fact that any and all of us are capable of the worst things given the “right” circumstances.
Learning not to fear our shadow can be an amazing journey into self-discovery. In not repressing the shadow, we can own our shortcomings until they have no real power. In fact, we find that we can laugh at ourselves and learn true humility. Beware of the self-righteous and those taking themselves too seriously, for they have not become familiar with the shadow lurking behind their superior values.
Branded A Fool
Whether we like it or not, most of us have a personal brand. No matter how much people try to not be about it, choices have to be made. The choice of what clothing to wear, which car to drive, which neighborhood to live in, etc., all come together in what is usually a tidy little package that tells the world exactly which box of types we live in.
These choices tell others what our shadow self is doing as well. People who see themselves as “good” people are often dismayed when people from other groups aren’t buying it. It’s also easy for the political media machine to pit us against each other. More often than not, we help them along by continuing to ignore our shadow whilst self-righteously and unwittingly posting our outrage on social media.
The moment we realize that we are willfully branding ourselves is the moment we start to uncover the shadow. It’s not a comfortable thing to do, but it does set us free from outside manipulations. We find that our reasons for our self-branding are due to the expectations of others. Branding by default, I have found, is not the fast-track to happiness or empowerment. Often, we buy into an entire lifestyle and career choice that makes us miserable. Students of philosophy come to understand that it is in self-knowledge (know thyself) where our values really come together.
Here are a few examples of how these archetypes manifest in the modern world.
Visible Social Archetypes
The Social Maven/Boss Lady
Taking the aspect of the self that we are comfortable with and consciously merging that person’s identity with the darker side of the shadow creates a beautiful tension when it comes to fashion styling and art. A designer’s collection might be mostly patrician with a goth twist or rock’n’roll edge. (We see this in play out in Chanel.) The creative genius behind this brand, Karl Lagerfeld seems to never run out of ideas and the collections are consistently spectacular.
The formula is solid. Lagerfeld knows that his client is a high society woman with an understanding of subculture and enjoys the play between the two seemingly contradictory entities: The Ruler and The Rebel. This is where brand and image become effective, even fun. Our consumer choices and lifestyle choices become deliberate if not methodical by leading versus being led.
Lagerfeld has chosen Chanel it-girls who have built their image on this balance, such as Kristen Stewart and Natalie Portman (especially in her Coco Mademoiselle persona for Chanel ads). In fiction, characters like Olivia Pope (played by Kerry Washington on Scandal) and Annalise Keating (Viola Davis on How To Get Away With Murder) are both powerful, stylish versions of Rebel and Ruler. Madonna and Anna Wintour may be the most visible examples, as their careers have helped define this archetypal balance for two generations.
No matter the time and place, The Hero is always with us. Jung’s idea about the Hero archetype was developed by writer Joseph Campbell, who gave us the idea of the Hero’s Journey. In it, self-awareness comes through being bled into humble submission before triumphing over the enemy. The Hero learns how to integrate his or her shadow and reach into a deeper place in the heart or soul, to find more in the self to carry on when others would give up.
George Lucas was influenced by Campbell’s concepts when he developed Star Wars, which has in turn influenced countless others. The narrative arc of nearly every superhero movie follows a formula taken from myths, Jung and Campbell. But there are countless real world examples, too, that are much more relatable.
Megan Leavey is a recent film, based on a true story, that shows this arc. The titular character does major shadow work and find’s her life’s purpose. A drunken escapade leads to her working in a military dog kennel and working with the most problematic animal. They are each other’s hero by the end, and save countless others.
It doesn’t have to be this drastic for all of us. Any kind of shadow work to conscientiously heal ourselves and build our archetype is the Hero’s Journey. In a sense, it’s the only journey. When we don’t complete it, we justify staying trapped in another dynamic, such as the Bully/Victim dynamic.
The Bully/Victim dynamic isn’t so much an archetype, but the shadow of our archetypes, especially ones that Jung placed at cardinal points in his system: Ruler, Rebel, Hero and Caregiver. It is playing out in the political arena and in the social media conversations happening around it. Our president is a bully to those who don’t like this particular type, but those who voted for him would have said that Hillary Clinton was the bully. Both camps of voters were rallied around a sense of victimization, and yet appear as bullies to the other side.
There is a blatant need for us as a culture to engage in some shadow work if we are to move beyond this negative archetype we cast ourselves in. It seems as though we are not close to being ready to confront these issues honestly, so we may be in a state Bully/Victim for some time, making us highly exploitable by those willing to use our emotional energy against us.
Your Personal Brand
Integrity is not an achievable character virtue if we are not looking the entire self, especially the shadow. I’m not talking about whether one is morally “good” or “bad” either. I’m talking about consistency. Having a consistent character is the epitome of being self-aware. It is in this consistency that we begin to build earnest relationships. It is also in this consistency where our self-esteem can rest on a solid foundation, taking us out of the role of the patsy and setting us toward something more heroic.
Our concept of being a “good” or a “bad” person is most likely also a default setting, acquired by being socialized as children. Utilizing the concept of Jung’s archetypes, we can see that we are inevitably both good and bad depending on our self-awareness level. However, we can be mostly “good” in the sense that we represent ourselves with integrity. It’s one thing to have an entire aspect of our psyche turning us into unconscious hypocrites enslaved by the unconscious habits i.e.addictions that go with that self, versus being fully aware and in control of the contradictions that make us wholly integrated beings.
“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside dreams; who looks inside, awakens.” Carl Jung