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Personal Branding lessons from Maria and Marion

Dear Friend,

Happy Women’s day!

I had written this post a couple of days back and I kept holding off posting it because I wanted it to be right. I just knew I wanted to say this in the right way without rubbing off badly.

I think  I have an idea why..

As I walked by the reception of my office, strutting down the hallway, a headline on CNN caught my eyes:


As a former athlete myself- yeah,I ran the 100m/200m relays and did high jump and i was quite good at it, I feel so pained at this incident , the Maria Sharapova Brand is worth over $77M dollar with NIKE alone and they were one of the first brands to pull out!


I saw her apology and as much as I am very irked with integrity, I feel so bad on her behalf. Like I told my colleagues earlier, it might have been a honest mistake and like she said, she didnt realize the particular drug was now illegal now after having taken it for medical reasons for the past 11 years!

She was to me genuinely broken.

But the harm has been done, her reputation has been harmed and even if she can turn this around and have a comeback , It would take a whole lot to be the beloved brand “Maria Sharapova” that a lot root for in the tennis world.

See Marion Jones, her case was really big for me as I was currently an athlete when she won the  2000 Summer Olympics and because of similarities in stature and the sports we both did, i was often joking called by her name. Her reputation spiralled down the drain and so did her life. 

I am pained for both women and I sincerely pray that Maria Sharapova’s case doesn’t get as bad.

Bottom line

Now to my Original Post:
Personal Branding Vs  Self-centered Narcissism

In my usual manner of getting lost online, I found myself on a page where I was reading more about Maslows law of hierarchy.  Maslow (1943) stated that people are motivated to achieve certain needs. When one need is fulfilled a person seeks to fulfill the next one, and so on.

The original hierarchy of needs five-stage model includes:
  1. Biological aMaslow's_Hierarchy_of_Needsnd Physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep.
  2. Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear.
  3. Love and belongingness needs – friendship, intimacy, affection and love, – from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships.
  4. Esteem needs – achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, respect from others.
  5. Self-Actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

As my journey of building online personal brands out of professionals progresses, someone had questioned the motive. And I found that truly profound. Questions help you get clarity so I very much appreciated the person as much as I wanted to resist and not take him seriously.

So I asked myself the why?

Esteem Needs!

Simple, the natural human is built in a way that we strive for more. The fourth level of the hierarchy is esteem needs, including self-esteem, confidence, respect of and by others, and personal achievement. Like the need for love and belonging, the need for esteem is very emotional and happens in both our conscious and subconscious minds. It’s there whether or not you accept it. It a nagging need.

When this need is fulfilled, we are able to strive for the next level which is Self-Actualization; a place of constant learning and peak experiences. A level where you are constantly in touch with who you are and how you always seeking to achieve the next peak and the best of you are, basically your potentials.

It is this need that Maslow believed people are always striving to satisfy but only a few achieve. It is very subjective and highly personalized.

This is the ultimate level! Its more emotional than it is physical, however, it is achievable.

Now this is where I seek to constantly and deliberately attain and where I also want to help others reach by been visible and well positioned for the experiences that we desire. However, I am not blinding my eyes to the dangers of creating an online brand, all Hype and no integrity especially with the high interaction of social media in Nigeria, anyone can literally be anything behind their computer screen. I need to however warn you that Branding is actually about becoming visible, likable and trustable. If your created online brand is all brag and no content, you will be found out sooner or later and one thing will inherently happen:

You would lose trust!

So here are things to do offline even while you are building your brand online:

  1. Be worth it!

If you say you are it, you better be it. Gather the skills needed to do the job. Self-develop, be the best you can be. If you are learning, it’s great but don’t be tempted to over amplify your skills and say you would learn on the job when you get it. How many times have we been told that its Packaging? Instead find the right words that best describes you. Don’t call yourself an Expert when you are not. Use words to communicate your aspirations. Your brand is meant to evolve and not be static.  A growing brand shows you are taking efforts into been a better you!

  1. Be confident not Arrogant!

There is a thin line between the two. Even if you are the thought leader that you truly are, find the comfortable place between humility and confidence. If you do not have confidence, you would be walked upon no matter what you are bringing to the table and you would be passed over for recognition. If you are arrogant, you put people off! Remember, your brand is about been visible, likable and trustable. However, not everyone would like you, simple fact of life though.

  1. Be a team player!

As much as personal branding is sometimes confused with self-centered narcissism, you don’t exist without a team. You are not a one-man riot squad. Teams are key and even if you are the brain behind the team, acknowledge your team. People buy into who you are especially when you treat people right.  The aim is to STAND OUT and not get everyone else to STAND DOWN!

Till next time my dear friends, chew on these thoughts, as much as I have become an evangelist of personal branding, I am conscious of the truth that your Brand is your reputation, online or offline!

How are you building your Brand?

Yours in Building her Brand,







Author: Abisoye “Faari” Akinola

Abisoye is an IT Professional and a Corporate Trainer by day, Mom & Wife on weekends and LinkedIn enthusiasts every other time.
She believes LinkedIn is the real deal to find and meet awesome professionals and thanks, Reid Hoffman for the Idea!
Your go-to girl when you need to brainstorm great ideas.
She helps bored mid-career professionals who need get to switch gear to the next level using personal branding and confidence as tools!
You can find sharing her daily wisdom on Instagram

6 thoughts on “Personal Branding lessons from Maria and Marion

  1. This really comes close to home for me. I am at that place where I am asking why. And this helped put some things in perspective.

    Thank you for sharing faari.

    Thank you.

  2. A pity about Sharapova. Where was her team (mangaer, medicals, etc) in all this? such oversight!

    Meanwhile, I enjoy reading your posts because I can easily relate to them. Thank you for sharing.

  3. This is quite an inspiring piece…you just motivated me all over again.. thanks. Personal branding is very critical and shouldn’t be overlooked like we do most times.

    1. Dear Maria, We ALL need to stay motivated…we are not doing anyone good by playing small and demotivated…
      Cheers Sis!

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