Personal branding: How to use a gap analysis to identify gaps between your “real” self and your “ideal” self

Marketers use gap analysis to identify shortcomings in business structures and find opportunities for organizational improvement. The same can be done in personal branding. Let’s look at how we can use gap analysis and attention without judgment to evaluate our thoughts and how that affects our personal brand.

You can examine gaps between your “real” self (identity) and “ideal” self (image) by paying attention to your cognition. Cognition is a thought, attitude, behavior or value. Cognitive dissonance happens when you do something that goes against a value or you hear a new idea that goes against a long-term belief. This creates a gap. Through mindful attention and acceptance, you can learn to assess your thoughts and bridge this gap.

Mindful attention means attention without judgment. Often, we label sensations like tension or fear as bad, inappropriate or unwanted. When we judge a particular feeling, such as, “I experience fear. This is bad. I don’t want to feel this way,” we automatically create a conflict; a conflict between the current feeling (bad) and how the feeling should be (good). Attempts to resolve this conflict by suppressing the negative emotion. This requires a lot of energy1 and causes us to feel even worse.2

Acceptance plays a crucial role. We can allow every feeling, emotion, sensation, or thought to be there through mindful attention and acceptance. These cognitions are there anyway. So instead of fighting against them, try to be willing to acknowledge, allow and accept these internal states.

By letting go of this struggle, you save energy,3 and could experience that the bad thoughts fade away automatically—often sooner than when you actively fight against them. As soon as an emotion receives room to exist, you can experience the emotion as temporary. The emotion comes and goes. In this way, you become an observer of your inner states.4 You’re no longer identified by your emotions or completely lost in the content of your thoughts. Instead, you’re the observer of them. You still experience the cognition, but now you have the choice of being fully taken by it or not.

By observing our thoughts without judgment, we can experience their transient nature. In other words, we’re not defined by them. In addition, we learn that not everything we think is true. This process can help us to identify gaps between our “real” self (identity) and “ideal” self (image) resulting in a more authentic personal brand image.

In my psychological romance novel, All the Other Voices, Marina James’s main character. She has a happily-ever-after plan for her life. To Marina, it’s about consciously building an image—her personal brand—so that she can get what she wants in return from her life. But, just like many of us, she struggles with her thoughts sometimes sabotaging her. You can read a sample chapter to see if my writing style aligns with your reading preferences. If you like what you find on these pages, the chances are you’ll enjoy the full book.

  1. Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, E., Muraven, M., & Tice, D. M. (1998). Ego depletion: Is the active self a limited resource? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1252- 1265.
  2. Wegner, D. M. (1994). Ironic processes of mental control. Psychological Review, 101, 34–52.
  3. Alberts, H., Schneider, F., & Martijn., C. (2012). Dealing efficiently with emotions: Acceptance-based Coping with Negative Emotions Requires Fewer resources than Suppression. Cognition and Emotion, 26, 863-70.
  4. Deikman, A.J. (1982). The observing self. Boston: Beacon Press.

 “Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.”

— Michael J. Fox

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