Getting to the Heart of Branding Ambivalence


Many of the people I work with day to day are empaths, healers, artists, and keepers of the flame. Over all the years I’ve been working, I’ve had countless conversations about working through that “ick” feeling that high integrity people get about branding and marketing themselves.

I’ve been a freelance brand and web consultant and designer for eleven years. I’ve been working in the industry for twenty. So perhaps it may come to you as a surprise that, for awhile and up until a few years ago, I had a really complicated and sometimes ambivalent relationship myself to branding and marketing my own business.

The False Security of Referral Marketing

I’ve been pretty blessed to get so much business through word of mouth. For the longest time, I didn’t need to really market myself too much to keep a roof over my head. Even now, I could probably get by without a list, maybe without networking in the heart-centered communities I contribute to (but that’s debatable). However!

There is a big difference between getting by and thriving.

In order to thrive, I learned I had to learn to get to the bottom of my ambivalence and heal it.

I would often feel like I was at the mercy of whatever random job came my way. Sometimes things were a perfect fit, sometimes not. But when you’re trying to pay the bills, you sometimes make compromises to get by. And often those compromise projects would end up taking longer than my other jobs, have more complications, and take me away from sometimes even being able to accept the perfect fit jobs that would show up. I had filled my schedule up too full with too many things that I didn’t quite want.

In short, I wasn’t taking control over my own business or taking responsibility for my true desires.

Run Away or Take the Reigns?

But, even though I still got some great clients that way, a referral-only strategy was undermining my ability to achieve my biggest goals.

Ultimately my own marketing ambivalence was setting me up to have too many days where I felt like I wanted to run from my business, because the trials inherent in not being intentional outweighed the joy I experienced with some of the very special people I had the opportunity to work with.

I felt so lost, I even went to work for a company for a year. I inevitably came back to my business with a whole new appreciation for my sovereign life and the soulful work I was able to do through it.

Maybe you can relate to falling for this temptation to leave it all behind out of frustration? Maybe you have left it all behind, too, only to realize what you had before? What did you learn that brought you back and aligned you once again with your joy? How are you using that today in your brand?

I finally knew without a doubt that I needed to get to the bottom of my ambivalence and take the reigns in my business, once and for all.

I was determined to thoroughly enjoy my work and work with people who were a perfect fit for my services.

Look at Brands You Like for Inspiration

I talked to people I respected, people who were making achievements in business using high integrity marketing. I began to more closely watch people I admired, like Danielle LaPorte and Marie Forleo.

They were marketing their services. Why was it okay for them to market themselves and not for me? What was the difference?

First I looked at how they marketed their offering and what they were selling. At the end of the day, I realized that I was drawn to brands that not only rang of authenticity, but were also down to earth, heart-centered, and seemed to be genuinely focused on improving the lives of others with grounded strategies.

Think about these things when evaluating your own business’s relationship to the world of branding and marketing:

  • What do the brands you like edify?
  • How do they inspire you?
  • What do you like about their marketing?

When thinking of what I didn't like, I knew that, “Do This One Thing to Triple Your Income,” and “six figure” language totally turned me off. Between dumb (but sometimes admittedly funny) Geico ads and this online “get rich quick” model that had become so prevalent, I had come to associate marketing with something akin to desperation and money-grabbing.

And I had done this despite the fact that there were plenty of examples of people doing it well and with heart. I had spent too much time focusing on what I didn’t like instead of what I did.

Forget About Integrity

Imagine how undermining that was for someone in my industry. If a client ever shouted, “But, integrity!” I really couldn’t make a strong enough argument to make them step up fully, because I wasn’t stepping up myself.

The funny thing was, I loved the people I worked with and believed in what they were creating so much that I actually had no problem helping them brand and market their services. I believed wholeheartedly in the effort and the need for it. But I still kept making excuses for why I wasn’t doing it myself.

So what was really going on? The truth was that there was a more insidious fear at work. The integrity story was a red herring, a disguise for the real problem.

The Real Root of Branding and Marketing Ambivalence

The real reason I was uncomfortable with marketing was because, on some level, I was afraid to be seen. Afraid that if I became too visible, too known for a specific point of view, that I might eventually be attacked for that point of view. Or lose clients for simply following my own voice and perspective in my work.

Deep down, I was afraid of getting trolled or going broke.

How Past Life Pictures Undermine Our Present Day Opportunities

If you are an empath and healer, I believe this mental picture of being lambasted online or becoming a bag lady has a deeper fear behind it. Many of us probably have past life pictures or a past trauma around either literally or figuratively being persecuted or being forced to go into exile for who we really are.

So it’s no wonder that we don’t want to shout too loudly about our point of view or be seen by too many.

The word of mouth method is probably how we did it in those past lives. Have some healing herbs to provide a poor, sick populace? Don’t talk about that too loudly, you might get labeled a witch. Better to let people quietly recommend you when they’re in need and let them in through the back door in order to avoid the potential pitchforks and torches.

Are You Visible or Are You Still in Hiding?

At the end of the day, we on the fringes people — healers, artists, change makers — are often so worried about getting kicked out of the village or being persecuted that we content ourselves with the seeming safety net of referral marketing.

And, it's true — you could Law of Attraction your way into a steady stream of work. However, if you do it without focus, intention, or a willingness to be seen, even that referral river will turn into a trickle at some point.

A thriving business requires you to learn to find more ease in being visible.

Talking Down the Fear to Get to the Real Work

Time and again I’ve seen that the criticism people expect to get by going visible in a big way almost never surfaces; even if it does it’s such a small minority that it’s not even worth fearing.

And yes, you may lose some clients, but the new ones you gain are going to love you so much more for being you.

Being fearful of "going public" is distracting you from the real challenge — how to market yourself effectively to get the results you want.

Or even more importantly, how to structure your business and brand in such a way that you get to do exactly what you love doing and reach enough of the ideal clients looking for your offering that you can actually thrive doing it.

I guarantee, if you are in any way ambivalent about getting out there, then whatever money you spend on branding and marketing will likely prove to be a waste. The Universe does respond to our energy, and without inner alignment on this issue, your brand will end up off kilter and unsupportive of your goals.

Your Challenge, Should You Choose to Accept It

If you do feel that ambivalence or even aggression against marketing and branding, then I challenge you to go deep and suss out the deeper reasons for your feelings. Trust that your integrity and passion will lead you to make the highest good choices, for yourself and for others.

At the end of the day, branding is really about taking what is inside of you and sharing it with the world. If you don’t share it, then we won’t know about it. And I know that you have a gift that we need. Let go of being the best kept secret and be willing to be a well known and loved resource.

Right now the world needs the healers to step out of the shadows and show us how it’s done.

Are you ready to shine your light fully so we can all be warmed by it?