Karie Bookish Dot Net

What Would Happen If You Had To Be Yourself?

Something very cool happened in my comments section yesterday. A really interesting discussion started to unfold – people started to talk about the whole “yourself as a brand” and “performing yourself in public ” aspect of the craft/knitting business.If you’ve been reading Fourth Edition for a long time, you’ll know this is one of my major hang-ups as an indie designer and tutor. (I even wrote a long post about it as part of the work I did with Glasgow University last year).

I want to share some of the points made in the comments because I think they are asking some very important questions about branding, marketing, social media and (for a want of a better term) ‘cult of personality’. It may not be straight up yarn-related but I hope it’ll provide an interesting glimpse into what it means to work in the craft industry.

I was disquietened by her comments about the need to be positive all the time. Admittedly she is using herself as a brand and may want to keep back some stuff and have a private life. But the more we have this “you must always be positive” message around, the harder it is for us to be honest with one another about how we feel

– Stephanie of The Foggy Knitter

 

I find it’s very hard for me to come to terms with “personality as brand” and “public persona” but I realise that it is how the business works. I have struggled with this for a long time (how I would prefer to just lurk in the shadows!) but the podcast made me confront myself regarding this.

– Karie of Fourth Edition (that’ll be yours truly!)

 

I struggle all the time with the need to be a “public persona,” or a “personality.” Especially since part of what I do for a living is teach classes! There’s a certain online pressure to be this happy, successful person who can share all the secrets of success. But what I’d rather do is gather quietly in classroom spaces with my students, and give them my all. That doesn’t make for sexy marketing copy, though. :-)

– Sister Diane of Craftypod

 

That “have to be happy” is a pressure we feel from both the big, lovely craft bloggers (my gorgeous living room! My sleeping baby!), but we also feel it from the inside of our own heads! No one wants to feel like a loser…and telling the internet that you’re not perfect (in a space dominated by the perfect) is a quick way to loser-town. (At least, in my own head.)

(..)

At the heart of all this is *expectations*.
My expectations of myself. My reader’s/student’s/client’s expectations, and then all those expectations that I’m making assumptions about. Who even knows if they exist? But they certainly guide the way we act/present ourselves in this space.

Tara Swiger

 

The podcast gave me a lot to think about & the blog post has added more. I, too, struggle with the personal brand idea. I’m quite shy which may be why.

– Anniken Allis of YarnAddict

 

Not in the comments section, but on her own blog, Vanessa reflected:

I’ve found that acknowledging that I’m feeling envy and it’s probably unfounded helps me let go of that anger. Then I try to really analyze just what pushed that button. Once I get to the root cause, I look at it from all sides. Is this image that person is presenting the whole truth? What am I not seeing? A messy house, uncombed hair, other to-dos that fell to the way side. Those aren’t presented on the internet.

There is so much to unpack here but the central question has to be What would happen if you had to be yourself?

 

13 Thoughts on “What Would Happen If You Had To Be Yourself?

  1. I’m myself in Twitter & my blog & probably share too much. Things like still being in my nightie when the postman or my grocery delivery arrives at 9.30am. Or running outside in fluffy slippers & dressing gown to put the recycling out as the van drives up the road. Perhaps I shouldn’t tweet these things but I do.

    Also if I pretend to be perfect & have a perfect, happy life, then people will be very disappointed when they meet me in workshops etc.

    I just can’t pretend to be someone I’m not. But I still struggle with the whole selling myself as a brand thing & perhaps I need to get my head around that if I want ‘super stardom’ in the knitting world.

    I also surprise myself with how open I am on Twitter considering I really am very shy.

  2. Interesting discussion. If I had to be myself, I think you would see a person filled with more self doubt/self analysis than they could ever imagine and at the same time, be shocked at the chaos and mad thoughts in my mind.
    The Yourself as brand is like the whole professional “outfit” that I put on as a nurse – you become the nurse, like the knitter or the designer, where you fit the perception that people have of that role, rightly or wrongly. So nurses are expected not to let patients get to them, not get upset or angry or frustrated least they ruin the Angelic image. With designers, people are buying into the design with the aspiration of how this will make them feel or make them look, much like the fashion industry does.

    The problem with both of these is that this is that perfection is unachievable and they we all presume that everyone is being incredible successful and happy whilst you’re the only one who is not coping. Which is nonsense of course because you can’t see the other bits. Perhaps generally we all need to be a bit more honest and try to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves to match these apparent perfect lives that are just a snap shot on the internet in reality.

  3. It’s funny that Vicki mentions the relentless positivity thing, because that’s something that’s always kept me from really feeling any connection with her* (and a number of other crafters who do the same thing- in fact, there are a few who I’ve met in person and it’s odd to see their 100% positive public persona vs their actual personality, haha. I like their actual personality better!) I am an extremely cynical person so I’m sure I’m coming at it from that angle, but anyone who seems happy and perfect all the time rings super false to me, and I feel much more of a connection with people who let you “in” a little bit (and “connection”, of course, sells ;-P) I don’t think I could make my social media positive all the time even if I wanted to. I’m just not wired that way. I’ve been bitching about my problems on one web platform or another since 9th grade. I try to keep it light and curmudgeonly (unless it’s to some sort of closed audience) but still- not relentlessly positive. Relentlessly positive is boring.

    *Absolutely nothing personal towards Vicki, she seems like she’s probably a cool person who I’d like if I got to know her… I just don’t feel like I COULD get to know her from her public persona.

  4. Darth Ken on February 23, 2013 at 1:10 am said:

    Something Paula said above struck me: ” With designers, people are buying into the design with the aspiration of how this will make them feel or make them look, much like the fashion industry does.”

    I wholeheartedly agree, but I would also claim that increasingly people are also buying into the persona and the story of the designer. It is not just about the thing itself, or the brand name, but also about the story behind it … and here, for small indie crafters, this very much includes a story about the creator/designer and about your relationship with the designer (however flimsy and constructed it is).

    It is part of the edge of the small independent designer, and the selling point over the mass-produced. Big companies are struggling to create these stories through expensive CSR efforts and desperate attempts at creating “something viral”. But, if you can market your own designer persona online through all the diverse channels that are relevant … that’s your edge. That’s where you get a name and make the career out of it.

    At least that is what it looks to me looking in from the outside as someone not making a living by being creative (and based on what I see happening in other areas of design, namely prints, ceramics and furniture, but I suspect it is an overall aspect of the creative/design business.)

    I guess relentlessly positive just buys into that whole “adorkable” (hate the word) persona that seems to go together with crafts these days.

    (And I must say, I am NOT envious of having to promote myself that way, even though it is not “the true me” … I would still hate it :))

  5. Some of the most successful designers I know are very open on the internet about their personal struggles, so I think it’s actually a false assumption that being incessantly upbeat is necessary to marketing. In fact, I think people connect much more with people who are authentic in their online presence, like Anniken above, or Alex, or my good friend Woolly Wormhead. If anything I feel this as a pressure, because I’m quite private myself, and rather averse to the idea of spilling my guts online. Whenever anything is going on with me and I think about posting or tweeting about it I feel extremely uncomfortable, and I usually decide not to do it. Basically I feel very vulnerable when I reveal my struggles even just to one person or a few people, so doing so to a huge online audience is very scary. Thank God for private forums!

  6. I’ve loved following this discussion. It is slightly dangerous ground because if you say you have or don’t have a public persona it sounds like you feel like you’re important or well known enough to need one. All I can say is that I have tried very hard as I’ve built up my business to simply be myself.

    And it shouldn’t be forgotten that the natural state for some people is to be positive. I have to admit to being in that camp. I am and always have been a glass half full type of person. I also graduate towards positive people. So I don’t think we should necessarily consider the constantly positive or upbeat person as false. Yes things go wrong for me, but because of my nature I always try to turn negatives into positives. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t but my nature compels me not to dwell on the negatives. I certainly don’t, and never pretend to have, the perfect life! But I am extremely fortunate in that I do what I love, and we are living the life we want to live which, by others standards I am quite sure is not considered a normal way of life!

    On Darth Ken’s point about the story behind design – I would have to agree. But again there is no denying that some indie designers (and I include myself in this category although I’m a dyer not a designer) are inevitably influenced by where/how they live. I cannot help but be inspired by my location, and that inspiration shows in my work. But I don’t think that is something you can fake. I think if it is honest then that honesty shows through.

  7. This is a fascinating conversation to follow, though I’m coming at it from a different angle.

    I’m firmly a hobbyist crafter. I knit and crochet and embroider, all with love and varying levels of beginner skills. I follow blogs and social media accounts of “professional crafters”, but with one exception (Anne Hanson of Knitspot), only by accident.

    Karie, I had no idea you were firmly a professional knitting designer until the release of the Karie Bookish – OMA yarn club! Until then, i saw you as “just” a knitter and reader with amazing taste who I wanted to get to know. Ditto with Amy Christoffers – I found and love her Twitter account having no idea that she was also my favorite sweater designer. (Also, please accept my apologies for being informal or seemingly pushy with conversational questions on Twitter. I was trying to be friendly.)

    At the same time, I also use Twitter professionally, in my day job (nonprofit fundraising and marketing). I self-censor only in the same way I do in any public environment: I keep profanity to a minimum, I avoid philosophical discussions about polarizing topics (religion, abortion), and I try to keep my insults light-hearted or dry. Those are my only concessions to “a persona” – anyone following me knows that I love my work, my nephews, my girlfriend, our cats, my knitting, a good book, and caffeine, that I loathe and speak out against injustice, that I hate snobbery, and that I have a very low tolerance for being personally inconvenienced by those whom I don’t genuinely like or care for. And that’s been far more helpful for me professionally than not; I’ve been approached to speak, write, and apply for jobs as a result of this public presence.

    As a marketer, I firmly believe that there is no one approach that works for all – or even most – people or brands. It’s more important to be aware of what one’s public presence is – and recognize that “persona” is the wrong word if one is being genuine!

    In other words, you’re on to something.

  8. Again, I have spent a lot of time thinking about your responses.

    I love meeting knitters and I love chatting about knitting – and I am so thankful that I manage to do it for a living – but at the same time I am also anxious because I am well aware that I am lot more outgoing, witty, and smart online than I can ever be in person.

    I spend a lot of time thinking about authenticity (and I’ll probably get back to this in a later blog post) and because I am a miserable sod, I couldn’t cope with having to be upbeat about craft all the time. Craft sucks sometimes. And sometimes I don’t knit for an entire day! Do this makes me less of a pro?

  9. I love that this discussion is happening.

    I stand slightly to the side of this problem. I have an online version of my persona, but I think I edit him in the opposite direction that most crafters do. My persona aims to give the impression of being generally abrasive, slightly drunk and massively slutty. My twitter feed is a little more balanced about my sex-life, but on the whole the implications are fairly exagerated. My tone inherits from Regretsy and LSG.

    But, I’m also aware that I’m operating in a craft world that is often reactionary, based on who-knows-who and gossip. I know that the majority of “craft culture”, as published, does tend towards cupcakes and sunshine. I can’t be as entirely brazen as I want. It would, I can say from experience, cost me jobs.

    Which leaves me feeling awkward. I have shaved from the bottom and the top of my experience and then plumped up the middle. I worry that I am become dairy-free-cheese-style-product. But being more honest would be either dull or dangerous.

    And, worst of all, when you return to being the person you actually are, it’s just not as showy. It can be very easy to feel inadequate when you spend all day every day pretending not to be.

  10. I don’t have many other thoughts right now because I’m rather brain fogged, but I did think after I commented on your last post of Kate Davies as a good example of how someone has shared a difficult time in their life with dignity and insight, without a hint of “woe is me”. And she’s continued to promote her growing business without any hustle or stretching of scant original material. She’s the sort of designer and professional whose example I would want to learn from.

    Interesting debate.

  11. We *all* edit ourselves online, whether we are craft/yarn professionals or not. Just look at ‘Facebook friend’ posts. As my partner has observed, there is no better way to feel worse about yourself than visiting Facebook.

    But we also edit ourselves offline too – we don’t (usually) tell the check-out person in-depth woes about our families… we don’t (usually) discuss finances with the dentist etc – it’s not appropriate! (I say usually because sometimes it happens! Especially if we don’t have an outlet to angst elsewhere.)

    Instead, in *all* spheres we usually present ourselves in the ways that we deem most acceptable/desirable/appropriate. So I don’t really see too much difference between editing ourselves online or offline, nor do I see keeping most postings positive as being particularly false – it’s just not the whole of the story.

    We all *create* perceptions of ourselves – just compare the ‘you’ that is presented at work vs the ‘you’ that is presented to your parents, vs the ‘you’ that is presented your children. They are all *you*, just different facets. Like the sides of a dice – no matter which side is face-up, it’s still a dice (die? :P )

    Of course, as a *consumer* of online perceptions, we need to remember that tendency to present the mainly positive/interesting. But that is being responsible for managing our own feelings and perspectives (again, as we need to do offline) – being conscience/analytical of what we are seeing. (“This is not X designer, this is the perception that X designer is putting out there”).

  12. Karie, hello, I’m Jen. I tripped over your blog from another blog… the usual story. What I find that is alarming, is how timely this post comes to me. In fact, I have only recently debated with myself whether or not (at this point in an infant stage of indie designing) to use my real name, or to stay with my knitting ‘pen name’. You see, I am also a musician, and oddly enough, a very shy one, but in person I can get up in front of a room full of people or a small festival, and play my instrument along side of a swash-buckling folk singer (lol,…I’m always the quiet one, without a vocal mic) … but you see, I just struggle with really being heard. (you know, like in the written form) As if performing isn’t enough to convince myself that nobody will throw a tomato at me, I find that the internet is a scary place, and that to shame one’s self is inevitable… as to please one you displease another… so to thine own self be true, and yes, it’s the only way to go I suppose, for then thou canst be false to anybody.
    What do you think… out with it… and print my real name in the ‘about’ section, or stay undercover? Do you think I ought to group my music stage life with my indie design-to-be life (link to tunes I write and all?) I am curious, and keen on asking you, right now, right here. :) Well, anyway, I love this space, first post I read hooked me. So thanks for being brilliant you !

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