A brand is the simplest, most memorable part of yourself you can give.
I hate the word. I really do! It’s bandied about all the time – a catchphrase of moment. Throw it in a sentence along with “platform” and you’ll fit right in with everyone in the marketing, advertising, writing, and promotion businesses. Imagine my dismay when I learned the 15 Day Challenge for today was to work on defining my brand.
I mulled it over all afternoon. What is my brand? My brand used to be “Preacher Mom.” When I first started blogging years ago, almost everything I wrote tied in directly with my role as a preacher, my role as a mom, and how those two roles fit together – or sometimes didn’t fit together. I began moving away from that “brand” when I moved away from the Upstate three years ago. I finally started a whole new blog – Simply Jan. I wrote about my reasons for this change back in January.
At some point in time I made the unconscious decision that my identity would be tied primarily into just two aspects of my life: my life as a pastor and my life as a mom. I poured everything I had and everything I was into those two things. That isn’t totally a bad thing. I love being a pastor and I love being a mom.
But what about Jan? Who am I, both apart from these other identities and in relation to them? If I was no longer a pastor and/or if my children were no longer living in my house, who would I be?
That’s the journey I’ve been on all year. I decided to drop my defining roles and search for the voice of my self – my integrated, non-role-playing self. A close friend who has known me for a number of years does not like my blog title, Simply Jan. He thinks I’m reducing myself, selling myself short. He claims I’m anything but simple. I appreciate the sentiment. I’m even a bit flattered by it. But the fact is, who I want to be most is simply Jan. Me. Not a role that I’m playing; not an expert in a particular field; not the fulfillment of someone else’s expectation of who I should be. Just me – a little flawed, a little adventurous, a little scattered, a little creative, a little rebellious, a little strange . . . and a lot loving.
The kids and I went to dinner and a movie tonight to celebrate Mia’s return home after being away two weeks. We went to see the movie Brave.
It’s the story of Merida, a princess who is being groomed to fill the role of future Queen. This is a demanding role, one that comes with many expectations of how she should talk, how she should act, how she should dress, what her hair should look like, and what she should do (and refrain from doing). All of this comes at the expense of her self, her true essence. She refuses to submit to a tradition that allows a young man to “win” her hand in marriage. She wins her own hand, quite literally. She is amazing! (Or as my 20-year-old describes her, a total bad-*ss.) She does learn along the way that there is a place for tradition and expectations, but only on terms that don’t require her to sacrifice her self. Interestingly enough, those who love her – the ones who were forcing those expectation on her – also come to that same conclusion. No one should have to change who they are in order to please someone else or just to play a particular role to perfection.
Merida is my newest hero. I think there is a little of her in my writing – the part of me that wants to escape the stereotypes of a single mom, who doesn’t want always “dress the part” of a dignified pastor. who wants to be a good mom without giving up being myself, who wants to be accepted and respected by the important people in my life, even if I don’t always please them or meet their expectations. I understand the place for tradition and expectations, but I’m learning to put them in their place – a place that doesn’t require me to sacrifice my self.
So what’s my writing brand? I’m still working on that one, but so far I guess I would say it’s just as my blog name implies. I’m Simply Jan – writing to share what life looks like through the eyes of my true self. And maybe to honor the bad*ss Merida in us all.