The term “re-branding” has become quite popular of late–in the business world, health care, and even entire countries as well as individuals are “re-branding” themselves. I too have chosen to re-brand my practice as East-West Psychological Consulting, and to expand it to include consultation services for corporations, associations and agencies, educational institutions and the like.

But what is ‘re-branding’? And, for that matter, what is ‘branding’?

Originally the stamp placed on cattle to indicate ownership, it has come to signify identity, even personality, of a business, product, or service…or even, an individual. (That leap in application from commerce to personhood might give us pause.)  The term is widely used today. Singapore has recently conducted a branding of the country itself, selling Singapore to the world–carefully crafting its international image. Korea has begun to do the same.

The idea of ‘re-branding’, that we can recreate our business image, or that of our service or product–or country, or self–in the eyes of others is an exciting one indeed. This is an attribute associated with American culture, in fact, at the core of its pioneer roots and tapestry of immigrants: that there is a never-ending option of renewal and re-presentation.

Can we really recreate ourselves in the eyes of others? Do we get endless ‘second chances’? People ask me this all the time. Can I really start over? Can I get people to see me differently? Can I perceive myself in a new way? Once–or many times?

It’s a complicated idea. We are individuals with personalities that are largely developed in our earliest youth. And once we have given a certain impression to someone, or come to believe things about ourselves, it isn’t an easy task to change this. Some would say it isn’t possible.

The optimist in me–even more, the humanist–wants to see endless possibility and the triumph of the spirit over all negativity and adversity.  As a psychologist, I know that this is a challenging prospect.

More than anything, I value authenticity. At our core, we are the self that we have always known, which is one of the mysteries of consciousness–no matter how much we or our life circumstances may change, no matter the new world around us…no matter how much we age. We are who we are, in the center of our being. And this doesn’t change. This is the constant that we carry with us, the ‘self’ that gives us a sense of continuity throughout our lives.

Yet–and this is terrifically important, I feel–we must not only consider the growth that we undergo, mentally and emotionally, and the ways in which our life experiences mold and shape–and sometimes dramatically alter–parts of us; there is also the element of presentation. The self we present to others…and, to ourselves. This is not necessarily a mask, or merely a persona as Jung described; it is also, potentially, another aspect of our genuineness.

If we think of an egg, the shell is just as much a part of it as the albumin and the yolk. Only a tiny speck has the potential to become a living creature, it’s true–but every aspect makes up the egg. So too only a tiny part of us, whether we call it ‘mind’ or ‘soul’ or ‘consciousness’, is so ripe with potential…but all of us, shell included, constitutes the whole of us.

And that shell, the outer layer, is critically important. It is all that most of the world ever sees. Very few, even among those we actually meet, will ever know us beyond the shell. And if we don’t like the shell, we can change it. Effort is required of us. But it is possible.

Does the core self change? No, though aspects can change; our values might shift, or a life experience might cause us to see things in entirely new ways and make major changes in our lives. But all that is just ‘story’, the narrative that surrounds us. The core, that tiny seed deep within that we call the ‘self’, remains constant.

But the shell can change. And it too is a part of us. And that layer is filled with the endless possibility of renewal. Of (re)presentation. Of ‘re-branding’.

This too is genuine. For it is the only part of us that the vast majority of those we encounter will ever know.

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