Femme Fatale: The Art and Science behind Female Con Artistry

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Female Con Artists.  They’re typically the dark and astonishing femme fatales we encounter in thrillers. We witness them lie, manipulate and steal. They strike us as unempathetic, narcissistic, and having no remorse. Yet we are draw into them like electromagnets. What is it that makes these characters so intriguing?

If we look at the research behind it, con artistry tends to be accounted for by underlying sociopathic tendencies. Clinically referred to as antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), this mental health condition results in longstanding patterns of manipulation and violation of others around them. Approximately 2% of females in the general population are estimated to meet the diagnostic criteria for ASPD, versus 6% of men. The condition is enduring and consuming, as it tends to overwhelm their personality.

More than a set of personality traits

The most memorable characters in both fiction and real life tend to be unique, compelling, differentiated, and relevant. In other words, they have have strong personal brands. And con artistry might just might be the most fascinating intersection between psychology and personal branding yet.

Take “Anna Delvey”, for example, the real-life professional scammer who inspired the Netflix series “Inventing Anna” (2022). At the age 31, the European sham heiress immersed herself in the world of New York’s elite, scamming hundreds of thousands of dollars out of friends, banks and investors. Her extensive list of con achievements include everything from“cheque-kiting” (depositing bad cheques and then withdrawing the money before they bounced) to scamming companies into giving her money for elaborate “projects”, all while living a lavish lifestyle well beyond her means.

The daughter of a truck driver, Anna Sorkin grew up in Russia and spent her adolescence in a small German town. After rebranding herself as Anna Delvey, a German heiress, she hatched an elaborate scheme, allowing her to scam enough money for the launching pad she needed to make a splash in the Big Apple. And what a splash she made. As New York’s Jessica Pressler documented, “through a web of lies, wire transfers, and the right RSVPs, Delvey secured hotel rooms and nearly founded a ‘Soho House–ish type club’”.  She spent long stays in five star hotels, took luxury holidays, and injected herself into the art, fashion, and banking circles–all while conning professionals such as architects, lawyers and investors to help found her private members club, “The Anna Delvey Foundation”. Eventually the gig was up, as banks and hotels did their due diligence and exposed Delvey as the fraud she was. Delvey is currently incarcerated without bail in Rikers Island jail and faces multiple grand larceny charges.

It begs the question: how in the world did she get away with it for so long? 

Here’s where we need to look beyond any personality disorders and consider some impressive personal branding strategy, mixed with a little luck (and maybe a knack for forging or repurposing bank documents!).

“She needed a heavily curated brand, one that people would find familiar enough not to query. In this case, jet-set Euro trust-fund baby with grand plans to open a knock-off Soho House-style club.” — Sunday Times editor Josh Glancy

Indeed, Delvney spent years cultivating her fraudulent brand, posing as a well-connected heiress who was seen at the most happening parties and events and lived out of luxury hotels, all while not actually having any money.

In addition to curating the right personal brand for the scam, she positioned it exceptionally well.

The right moment, the right signals

Delvey got her foothold when interning for Purple magazine in Paris, where she latched onto the social circles of the magazine’s editor-in-chief. Delvey saw an opportunity that gave her the veneer of credibility she needed to launch her brand in New York. Soon Anna had become a figure on the NYC social scene and was seen at the most happening parties. She managed to be at the right place at the right time, and always looked the part. One acquaintance who met Anna at a party thrown by a start-up mogul in Berlin commented that “she was wearing really fancy clothing — Balenciaga, or maybe Alaïa — and someone mentioned that she flew in on a private jet.” She’d taken to hosting large dinners at the swanky downtown restaurant Le Coucou, which were attended by CEOs, artists, athletes and celebrities. She also dropped the right names; those of the New York elite, such as Aby Rosen, giving off a signal of status to those in the know.

A ripe zeitgeist

Delvey was also savvy enough to target the right city as her mark, and at the right time. Josh Glancy points out that she possessed an instinctive sense of how to exploit contemporary New York: “Con artists reflect the time they live in because they demonstrate what people want to believe. So Anna Delvey was the perfect scam merchant for the age of the influencer. If Kim Kardashian can waltz into the Oval Office to discuss prison reform, might Delvey not also acquire the life she longed for by creating a seductive avatar? Aside from the criminal fraud, this is what other influencers do all the time.”

Social media also provided the perfect platform for exhibiting her elaborate hoax. Take, for example, a selfie posted on Delvey’s now defunct Instagram (where she had over 40k followers): her trademark oversized sunglasses, with a private plane behind her, and one hashtag “#Basel” (the lavish art fair), followed by a comment from a follower: “Nice jet. Yours? Impressive.”

A marked target audience (or “marks” in this case)

Delvey honed in on her marks and seemed to have an agenda for each of them. Flashing cash (she was known for handing out crisp $100.00 tips like leaflets to hotel staff), hosting extravagant parties and picking up the tabs (or so people had thought) gave credibility to her brand. As Jessica Pressler pointed out in her expose: “Anna looked at the soul of New York and recognized that if you distract people with shiny objects, with large wads of cash, with the indicia of wealth, if you show them the money, they will be virtually unable to see anything else.” And the thing was: It was so easy.

Delvey clearly used the right props–people and money–and knew the right tricks. The “friends” and hangers-on she accumulated served to enable Delvey to perpetuate the myth around her brand, essentially by being paid off or getting sucked into the bright, shiny world of the rich and famous. As her former friend described in Vanity Fair: “It was a magic trick—I’m embarrassed to say that I was one of the props, and the audience, too. Anna’s was a beautiful dream of New York, like one of those nights that never seems to end. And then the bill arrives.”

Delvey scammed a top NY architectural design firm into creating a pitch deck for her “Anna Delvey Foundation”. Designer Marc Kremers on Twitter: “…It’s not a pitch deck, it’s a work of fiction. It’s graphic design weaponised as an instrument of grand larceny.”

But pull a thread…

Once you pull a thread, however, scam brands tend to unravel quite quickly. The alluring persona they crafted typically defaults to a disassociated response, such as a deadpan, emotionless expression and vacant eyes. It’s similar to what Anna Delvney’s former friend Rachel DeLoache Williams reported when she confronted Delvey: “Against the raised voices and direct accusations, Anna’s face assumed an unsettling blankness. Her eyes were empty. I suddenly realized that I didn’t know her at all.”

Aside from the destruction they do along the way, perhaps the most unfortunate part of a scam brand is the emptiness that’s often left after their scam brand inevitably crumbles. Despite the shiny facets to their strong (but deceitful) brand, a weak foundation often resides underneath;  you almost certainly won’t find core branding attributes like authenticity and empathy (and certainly not remorse), as these are mostly foreign to someone with sociopathic tendencies.

“The thing is, I’m not sorry… I’d be lying to you and to everyone else and to myself if I said I was sorry for anything. I regret the way I went about certain things.”– Anna Sorkin (AKA “Anna Delvney”) in a New York Times interview before her sentencing.

But just when we thought the lustre of the personal brand that once dazzled New York had faded, this grifter gal continued to make a name for herself even from the confines of Rikers Island when Shonda Rhimes  brought her story to the small screen. After all, given the success of past blockbusters like Catch Me if You Can (also based on a true story), perhaps it’s not all that surprising that Delvey’s story captured the attention of Rhimes. And there were plenty of us who tuned in with fascination to take a fascinating peek.



A look forward: Your inner personal brand checklist

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In my last post, we took a look back to reflect on our personal brands. After all, it’s important to look back as a step towards building an even stronger brand in the New Year… we need to know what we’re working with here!

Remember that your personal brand is the total picture of how others see you and what you represent. It’s about what makes you unique, compelling, relevant and memorable, and it needs to be authentic.

personal_branding_dilemmaBuilding on questions from my last post, here are five fundamental areas to assess for building a strong inner brand:

1)    Brand Attributes.  As your personal brand is best seen through eyes of others, assessing how others perceive you is incredibly valuable for building a healthy brand.

  • I asked you to think about how others may have perceived you last year and identify three words they might use to describe you (across family, friends, co-workers, etc). Now, what three words would you use to describe yourself?  Are they consistent with how others might view you? If there are discrepancies, how can you resolve them to make the perceptions of others more consistent with the perceptions you hold of yourself?
  • What three words would you use to describe your ideal self (how you would like to be seen)?  What (realistic) goals can you set to achieve your ideal attributes and make them known to others?

2)    Differentiation. Your unique combination is what differentiates your personal brand from others. Think about the accomplishments that set you apart from others over the past year.

  • What personal traits helped you to achieve these accomplishments?
  • Which of your unique qualities or strengths do others rely on?
  • What do you do better than others?
  • If you are working, what do you bring to your position that differentiates you from your colleagues and competitors?

3)    Passion and Purpose. Take a look at what made you feel most passionate last year (in your work or personal life) and when you felt your “personal best”.

  • Are there opportunities to shine last year and tap into this passion?
  • What activities feel the most meaningful and fulfilling to you?
  • Can you invest in causes that move you by becoming more directly involved in them this year (e.g., volunteering for a charity, advocating in your organization, joining an association)?

4)    Values. Your personal values are at the very core of your personal brand. Think of it as your personal operating system.

  • Take a look at the personal values that were the strongest last year. Are these the values that you want to stand for in the New Year?
  • Do a “fresh” values assessment for the New Year – you might be surprised!
  • Assess whether you are living congruently with your values. If there are discrepancies between your behaviours and your values, what changes need to be made?

5)    Direction. Personal goals can give our brands a clearly identified direction.

  • What destination would you like your personal brand to head towards in the New Year? In two to three years? In five to seven years? Do you have a “road map” of short, medium and long-term goals to get you there?
  • What would you like more of in your life? What would you like less of?
  • In the last post, I asked if you felt good about your answer when people asked, “what do you do?”. If not, what changes can you make in the New Year!


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A look back: Your personal brand inventory

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Another New Year. What better time to step back and reflect on the state of your personal brand? For this post, I’m simply going to offer some questions to help you reflect on your personal brand last year as a step towards building an even stronger brand for this one.

As mentioned in one of my earlier posts, everyone has a personal brand, whether they realize it or not. It essentially comes down to how others perceive you…what they say about you when you’re not in the room. Your personal brand is the total picture of how others see you and what you represent, not just the product you’ve created or the position you fill. It’s about the person behind the product or position…and their personal story. It’s about what makes them unique, compelling and memorable.


So here is my quick and dirty inventory intended to help you reflect on your brand:

1. Your Inner Brand

  1. Over this past year, think about how you may have been perceived by others. What three words would your clients and/or co-workers use to describe you? Your boss? Your family? Your friends? Others in your the community?
  2. What accomplishments over the past year set you apart from others?
  3. Who where your biggest influences or inspirations?
  4. What unique traits or strengths did you discover about yourself?
  5. What did you feel most passionate about (work or personal)?
  6. Were there times when you shined, or you felt you were at your personal best?
  7. Which world events or personal causes last year that moved you the most?
  8. What weaknesses would you like to make less relevant?
  9. What personal values were the strongest?
  10. Did you accomplish the professional and/or personal goals you set for yourself this year?
  11. Did you feel good about your answer when people asked “what do you do”?

2.  Your outer brand

  1. Do you feel you “looked the part” last year? Did your personal style accurately reflect the image you intended to project?
  2. Overall, do you feel you had a sense of presence when you walked into a room?
  3. How would you describe your overall level of assertiveness and ability to effectively communicate?
  4. Did your lifestyle (home, leisure, health) over the past year align with the image you intended to project?
  5. Did you effectively communicate your personal brand to a wider audience, including engaging in social media and promoting your online presence?

It’s quick and dirty, but hopefully you’ve extracted a few useful things to work with. Now that you’ve done the dirty work, we’ll kick off the new year with some posts to help you build and manage your brand more effectively to get the results you want this year and many more to come.

HAPPY NEW YEAR from all of us at Golden Notebook!



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Top ten posts for overcoming personal (brand) obstacles

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Even if we have a strong sense of our personal brand and how to project it, we will always come up against those sneaky (or not so sneaky) life derailers: the break-ups, the difficult job interviews, those awkward conversations, the lockdowns…

It’s exactly at these times that our personal brand can act as a guide to lead us through. Moreover, sometimes the fall-out from a traumatic or difficult situation may even teach us something about our brands of which we were previously unaware.

Here I have gathered my top ten articles on personal branding obstacles, and how to turn to your brand to help navigate them:

1) How to build resilience into your personal brand:


2) Sidestepping the trap of perfectionism:


3) Dealing with those difficult people:


4) Personal branding for online dating – a challenge if ever there was one:


5) Coping with anxiety and professional speaking:


6) How to get others on board with big changes:


7) Reinventing your brand:


8) Using envy to motivate and inspire you, rather than drag you down:


9) Getting through heartbreak:


10) Last but not least, how to prevent everyday stress from hijacking your brand:



Of course, there are lots of life obstacles out there that didn’t make this list, but I hope this selection will give you an idea of how to prevent them from sabotaging your personal brand, even just a bit!


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“Brand Influencer(s)” of the Month: Meet our Vintage Fashion Influencers!

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Meet Vintage Fashion Influencers Larissa Blintz & Amy Roiland

Last month we looked at the colourful Courtney Quinn, aka @colormecourtney. While doing our research, we came across two fab vintage fashion bloggers who were equally intriguing and deserving of the spotlight.

Defining your personal brand as “vintage” may be appealing, but not everyone can pull it off. If you don’t have the right eye, it can quite quickly go very wrong. Luckily, each of these bloggers has that savvy, and each approaches it in her own unique way.

Larissa Blintz

First up is Larissa Blintz, who uses her Instagram account to promote a vintage shop, Miracle Eye, that she co-owns with her mum in LA. Larissa’s look is more playful and wackier, and her posts make it look as though she is having a whole lot of fun. The colours pop out, and she has been careful not to limit herself just to clothes – something which means she has more leeway to be creative. We also see her mum every now again, and the feeling she creates is warm and welcoming.

Moreover, with over 22k followers, Larissa is proof that one can get results from doing what one loves. She started selling vintage clothes from eBay as a teenager who was being severely bullied, eventually asking her mum (who was a seamstress) to come on board. They now have their own brick-and-mortar shop and specialise in 60s and 70s clothes, just like the Instagram account. Today, she employs her whole family.

Her story is hugely inspiring for anyone, especially young people who are feeling victimised or isolated.

Larissa has been featured in Voyage LA, Gem, and DazeyLA.

Amy Roiland

Amy is a designer, and you can see a high level of art in her posts. On her Instagram account with over 154k followers, Amy  manages to blend both smouldering and fun together, and uses her posts to tell a story of how she put the shot together which adds another layer of interest.

Amy also has the very visual blog A Fashion Nerd. There, she offers the option of paid collaborations with brands. And, with that many followers, it must be a tempting prospect to help put them on the map. You can find her own designs here; she also has an app, Fashion tap, a social network designed catering for the fashion industry.

Amy also lets us into her personal life, sharing pictures and links to her daughter’s account. She’s also been featured in MiloweKids, Olaplex, Voyage LA and Con Art magazine.

Two different bloggers, two different styles, two different stories: both of them proof that you can do things your own way, creating businesses and having fun along the way.



As always, you can find our influencers on the socials!

Larissa Blintz can be found on:




Amy Roland can be found on:






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It’s how you make them feel: Reconnecting with your community after lockdown

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Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Here she captures beautifully the importance of human connection and personal impact. However, many of us here in the UK and around the globe, have recently experienced a difficult lockdown; an isolative period that significantly compromised a sense of community and human connection in our lives. How do we start to make a personal impact in our communities again?

In this guest post, Personal Performance & Business coach Karen Burke of the MindBody Therapy Centre and Therapy 4 Healing shares her thoughts on how to reconnect and make an impact on those around you.

Photo: Pixabay

Here’s Karen…

If there’s a silver lining in these testing times, it seems that we’ve become more aware of our communities – local, national and global.  The impact of our own behaviours through 2020-2021 has highlighted what an important role we have to play at an individual and local level.

We usually take responsibility for ourselves and our family but the whole world? Too much, I hear you cry! Well, we don’t have to carry the whole world on our shoulders but perhaps we need to remember how much we do impact the world around us by how we act, react and the things we say or put out on social media, on a daily basis.

When we think of influence, big names may come to mind such as Branson, Oprah, Jesus, the Obamas, Madonna even! It is easy to see how they impact the world. Many may say, “Well…what can I do?” If we bring it into normal life, let’s think about how we influence those around us. What feeling do they have after being in our presence, even if that is over the phone?

We impact everyone we come in contact with every single day, whether that be family, friends, strangers or the online community. We can use that power to manipulate, strangle others’ dreams, undermine and cuss, or we can use it to say a kind word, to encourage, teach and lift up the spirit of someone who needs a listening ear and an inspiring message.

Why not make a move, a measured move, a move that will make a ripple in the lake effect for the better, so that you have a positive impact on those around you — then, they in turn can help to spread that positivity to others? Your mood affects someone else’s, so intent good thoughts and experiences for people in the community because after all, it is also your community.

Start with your family and friends, then go from there into your local communities, the ‘villages’ around you. Your village isn’t just geographical, it’s made up of those circles you move within. Reaching out can make newcomers and outsiders feel welcome, letting members know that they are seen and heard, cementing the bonds between you.  Your villages could be your sports team, work colleagues, local shopkeepers, gym members or the post person.

Start today, with a kind word, a listening ear…make someone laugh. Start with a healing hug (or use the elbows!) as it can reinforce and show support, enhancing the bonds within your local community. A healing hug is like reiki (channelling energy through touch or non-touch), passing energy to each other more than just verbal words. People who were once strangers then become a member of your ‘village’ and as energy crosses over they share that same spiritual connection; the village ethos, shouting out ‘WE CARE’.

A simple nod of the head or “hello” can make an invisible person, feel visible. A smile or a wave to a stranger can make someone’s day a little easier and maybe next time you’ll start a conversation.

So what can we do? Let’s be present in the moment and pause, by reaching out to someone today. Make that move, be the impact, make that difference and reconnect.


Karen F Burke, ACMA, MAAT, DipPPC, Business Owner, Power Up Coach (Personal Performance & Business), Author, Speaker, Accountant.

Karen Burke is the co-founder with her husband, Devon Burke of the MindBody Therapy Centre in Forest Hill, S. London https://therapy4life.net / Karen and Devon also run a social enterprise, T4H https://www.t4h.org.uk/about-us

Karen Burke is also the co-author with Devon Burke, of Healing Hugs (coming out soon), a book of tips and techniques on looking after yourself, expressing yourself with the ones you love and your communities within the wider world. She is passionate about expanding people’s self-awareness and power, ensuring everyone she works with, has that ‘hug’ they need when someone is in their corner, championing them; their career and/or their business. Her strengths include being inspiring, positive, an implementer and multi-tasker. Her core values are integrity, honesty, loyalty and respect. “I hope I achieve this through all the people and businesses I work with by being supportive and encouraging”.

Twitter & LinkedIn: Karen F Burke

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“Brand Influencer” of the Month: Meet Courtney Quinn

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Meet Courtney Quinn

Image, colour and style are obviously important if you’re building a following on Instagram, and there’s no one who does all three in quite the same as Courtney Quinn. Courtney, who runs two successful Insta accounts, @colormecourtney and @colormemagic, is a candy-themed sensorial delight to follow. Every post shows real joie de vivre and vibrancy, and you can’t help but smile as you peruse her photos. To get an immediate sense of her personal brand, all you have to do is check out one of her YouTube videos like this one:

While her image may look light and frothy, her credentials are not. Courtney boasts an MBA in marketing and worked with brands such as Coach, Timmy Hilfiger and Kate Spade before deciding to take her blog full-time. Indeed, Courtney’s blog was started to help her get a footing in the fashion industry when she found that her MBA was getting her nowhere. And look how it worked!

Photo: Pintrest

One big draw to Courtney’s pages is approachability. She shares details of her life in New York with her boyfriend Paris and her paralysed French bulldog, Waffles, who even has his own hashtag, #waffiegram. Paris is also her photographer, although they occasionally share the limelight on posts.

Nevertheless, a smart business woman appears throughout. Posts on both her Insta and her website take you through how to “get the look”, involving purchases that range from a 37- dollar scarf to a rucksack for just under 1k. She has collaborated with brands that include Birchbox and Adidas, and talks openly about making money from both affiliate links and sponsorship. She also has her own range of merchandise, including sweatpants, bandanas, and phone cases. Courtney’s YouTube figures aren’t too shabby either, with around 7.75k followers, and viewings will also be providing Courtney with a nice residual income.

Courtney’s authenticity shines through her work. In a blog post she talks about the importance of having a budget. It was, admittedly, a sponsored post, but she talked through how Paris had paid off their student debt, put money aside for a wedding, and starting saving for a house. It portrays Courtney as a great role model, as does another recent Instagram post where she talks in frank detail about the amount of work that has gone into building up her account, including the ten hours a day she still spends on her business.

The role model brand is more than just icing on a few Instagram and blog posts. Courtney obviously takes this seriously, as April saw the launch of her mentorship programme for young women of colour. The idea behind it is to give them access to experiences like New York Fashion Week, and open doors to them in the fashion industry. It’s something that she is working on with one of her partners, Uber, and she documents a snippet of it here.

Courtney has appeared in Essence, Teen Vogue, and Yahoo Finance. She talks a lot about how her business is built around herself, i.e., her own personal brand, and how any sponsorships or collaborations need to be in alignment with her brand. As she says in Teen Vogue, “my personal brand is my north star that guides all my decisions.”

Wise words for anyone to follow.


You can find Courtney on her website and of course on the socials:












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Navigating Lockdown Heartbreak

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As Covid-19 restrictions ease and life becomes a bit more normal, many are emerging from lockdown as newly single. It’s no surprise that trials of a difficult lockdown and the subsequent economic pressures will have resulted in couples realising they no longer want to be together. After all, mental health professionals and lawyers have been predicting the Covid-19 break-up surge for some time, and we now better understand the myriad reasons behind this post-pandemic boom.

In a previous post, we focused on dealing with redundancy as a result of lockdown. This month, we take a look at post-pandemic relationship meltdowns. Just as with redundancy, your own personal brand can help you get through this.

Knowing your values

Being forced to spend a lot of time together, often in close quarters, has meant many people have realised that their personal values are incompatible. You may have been keen to instil family rules around education to keep the children occupied and learning, while your partner failed to support you. Or, working alongside your partner, you’ve realised that their ethics are a little shakier than you imagined. This can result in you seeing them in a different light, and perhaps everything, even those little habits you once loved, becomes annoying. This “values mismatch” can be the death knell for a relationship.

Of course, we don’t have to share all our values, but in most healthy relationships, they do overlap somewhere. Otherwise, a mismatch of values may keep showing up. What’s important here is that you don’t take the blame for how you feel. Values are a vital clue to who you really are — the authentic you — and compromising on too many of your values often leads to feeling like something is misaligned in the relationship.

Remembering how you want to present

Building on values, knowing how you’d like to be seen is important in navigating relationship issues. What qualities of your personal brand are important to you? Fairness? Collaboration? Compassion? Knowing how you want to be perceived can help you chart a dignified course through divorce or a break-up. If you are ever in doubt, and compassion is how you want to be seen, for instance, then asking yourself what is the compassionate choice here, may help get you through.

It will also help lead you to the right people. If fairness is important you, then you will know to seek out a lawyer who above all is working for a fair divorce. Likewise, someone who is willing to fight might look for someone who is more aggressive legally.

Family lawyer Joanna Toloczko of Royds Withy King says, “We all behave badly from time to time, when we are in an emotional state, but this only leads us to feel badly about ourselves and diminish our self-worth. Remaining calm and grounded and true to your core values will help to maintain your self-esteem and to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. It will also help you to act in your own best interests and those of your children.”

Turning to your personal image

While we often look to inner branding strategies like values and strengths for getting through difficult times, looking to your outer brand (the outer representation of our personal brand) is also important for a number of reasons. First, our personal style is one of those things that can help us feel better about ourselves. Dressing in a way that enhances our personality or flatters us can help give us a boost at a time when we can feel down and confused.

Break-ups are also a time when our identities might undergo a transformation. Many women report that when they are no longer part of Mr and Mrs X, they take on a whole new identity, or harken back to their younger and maybe more adventurous selves. What does this mean? It means you can have some fun in experimenting with your outer brand, trying out a new style that you normally wouldn’t have worn before. It could be a great time to visit a stylist and get some ideas from an outside source, or just think about how you want the new single you to look.

Many films and books portray break-ups as a time when everything falls apart, but many men and women often say it’s a time that incentivizes them to become healthier, to eat better and start taking exercise. It can be a renaissance in taking care of themselves.

Confronting inner obstacles

Sometimes it’s not us that decides on a break up. When we aren’t in control of change it can seem even more scary and unknown. It’s easy to feel paralysed and get stuck, even if things can never be the same again. Alternatively, we may find ourselves getting hugely anxious about the future.

However, the most effective way to maintain any type of anxiety is through avoidance. In fact, it’s a fantastic way to feed it!  So, assuming that’s not your end goal, the best strategy is to “stare down the demon”.  There are lots of great resources out there to help with handling fear.

You may also see the inner critic becoming more at home at this time. That unhelpful internal voice can be pretty self-sabotaging…and it’s one of the biggest obstacles to building a strong personal brand and something I often see in my psychology practice, even with otherwise very successful individuals. It can sound like a constant monologue of self-doubt, one that builds up a flawed picture of us and our careers and relationships. It often rates us against others, and because this rating system is flawed and irrational, we almost always come up short. The inner critic can send our personal brand into a real wobble at the best of times, and during break ups it can run riot.

Unhelpful thoughts can undermine our confidence and kill our motivation, and ultimately sabotage our personal brand. One of my favourite tools to I turn to with my clients is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). ACT uses the term “getting hooked” by thoughts or feelings to illustrate the concept that we can often become entangled with unhelpful thoughts, which limits our ability to take effective action and live a rich and meaningful life.

Another really helpful tool is Mindfulness and there are many websites and Apps that can help you lean into this, and learn how to recognise and put aside those self-critical thoughts.

Remembering the flip side

It’s easy to focus on the negatives while discounting the positives, something we refer to as “negative filtering” in cognitive and behavioural therapy. During divorce, negative filtering can become even more pronounced.

Lawyer Joanna Toloczko has these words of encouragement “Try to see the positives – it is rarely the case that either party wishes to leave a relationship which is happy, loving and supportive unless a third party is involved. Very often, people remain in unhappy or unsatisfying relationships because of the very natural human fear of change. Often being forced into situation of change can have positive benefits for you. Whilst the first few months of living without your partner may be difficult for you, it is likely that your future life will be better in the medium to long term. It can be fun to reinvent yourself. You don’t have to go the whole hog a la Madonna, but losing some weight, joining the gym, finding a new hobby, making new friends or reconnecting with old friends can often be enjoyable and empowering”.


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“Brand Influencer” of the Month: Meet Gabby Bernstein

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Meet Gabby Bernstein

This bestselling author, influencer, motivational speaker and spiritual guru has one shiny, multifaceted personal brand going on. With teachings of self-love, forgiveness and holistic spirituality, including with how to attract what you want into your life, she’s even been dubbed a thought-leader by Oprah. Gabby’s brand is sparkly and upbeat, and vows to help you to “become the happiest person you know.” Despite her positivity, she’s also open about her difficult past, including addiction and food issues and co-dependency. She regularly talks about hitting rock-bottom and the tools and practices that helped her build her way back up. She’s now “in the business of serving souls”.



Gabby’s social media combines memes with slogans like “You’ve mastered survival mode, now it’s time to live”, with short videos where she sits on her favourite chair and speaks into a microphone. She features longer videos on her YouTube channel, such as Dear Gabby, her weekly show offering up real-time straight talk life coaching to guests:



Gabby is obviously an astute business woman. In addition to plenty of info about her books, her website offers online courses, a membership club where you can listen to meditations and “manifest your wildest dreams.” Gabby has built a community of people who resonate with her spiritual beliefs and financial rags to riches story. Moreover, she regularly runs shorter challenges to give people a sneak preview of her club. Gabby’s books regularly hit the non-fiction bestseller list, with compelling titles such as Spirit Junkie, Judgement Detox and Super-Attractor. Her net worth from book-sales is estimated to be in the millions.

Everything is slick, stylish and professional. You can get an idea of her meditations here:



Gabby is no stranger to the mainstream media. She has been featured in the NYTimes, ABC News, Superfast Business, Elle and Cosmo. However, like our last influencer Trent Shelton, Gabby’s power lies in her own platform. She has had over ten years of growing her social media; her Twitter account, for instance, was launched in 2009.

One thing we have learned from our Influencer series so far is that they have all built up their followers over time, persistently posting well-crafted content to their target audience. They inhabit many platforms and their style and messages are consistent. While they may appear like overnight successes, it’s clear that a lot of work has gone into creating their influencer status. And Gabby is a stellar example one powerhouse of a personal brand.



You can find out more about Gabby on her Website  and of course on all the socials”

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/gabbybernstein/?hl=en

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/GabbyBernstein

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gabriellebernstein/

Pinterest https://www.pinterest.co.uk/gabbybernstein/_created/

YouTube https://www.youtube.com/c/GabrielleBernstein/featured






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“Brand Influencer” of the Month: Meet Trent Shelton

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Texas born Trent Shelton is a straight-talking powerhouse of a self-development guru and influencer. Previously signed as an American Footballer for the Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks, and Washington Redskins, Trent’s football dreams were cut short after a knee injury, which created a very different path in his life.

Image: Trent Shelton’s Twitter

An inspiration

If you listen to Trent speak, there’s something spellbinding going on. It’s not only in the inspirational way he delivers his message, but in the message itself. Trent is the ambassador for self-belief, self-respect and self-responsibility. He came to fame after making short and compelling rap-style YouTube videos to capture his own journey of self-development. He credits his success and motivation to two pivotal moments in his life: the birth of his son and the tragic suicide of his best friend.

“I was at a crossroads of my life, and I had to make a decision on who I wanted to become. I wanted to be a better father for my son and I wanted to honor the soul of my best friend.”

His video journeys soon went viral, kicking off a motivational speaking career and launching a global community of Rehabbers. Trent signs off his videos with his signature phrase “It’s Rehab Time. His other popular mantras are “It all starts with you”, “Never settle” and “Don’t die with your dreams.”

“Your perspective can be your power, it can be your prison.”


In his videos, Trent talks a lot about being authentic and transparent. While he speaks frankly about his own difficult struggles, he also shares the mundane moments that make up his day, such a getting annoyed with himself for thinking about posting on social media first thing in the morning. He’s also open and proud of his faith, although his work has a strong message for believers and non-believers alike.

One thing is for sure with his brand: what you see is what you get. You know exactly who he is and what he stands for.

Here’s a great example of Trent live:

“On this quest of growing your social media, growing your following, being an influencer, take care of your mental health, people.”

A passion and purpose

You only have to watch  videos like the one above to instantly see the passion that Trent exudes. When speaking in front of an audience, it’s also clear that this passion is contagious.

He often speaks of having purpose and vision in his life; a higher calling to do his work. He sometimes shares “signs” of this calling, such as a woman getting in touch after viewing his Don’t commit suicide today video on the day when she was going to kill herself, and choosing to not go ahead. Stories like this add a larger meaning and purpose to his brand. There’s a strong sense that his influencer status goes well beyond making money or gaining status.

A connection with his audience

Trent uses this authenticity to build a connection to and community around his brand. Once you notice him, Trent is everywhere – social media, podcasts, merchandising such as face masks…he even puts out his lyrics out on singles. You can find him in magazines like Success magazine and The Shadow League, as the author of Greatest You, you can of course find him on the bookshelves.

He also recently launched the Rare Breed Academy with fitness coach John Pruna. Even in this co-branded fitness programme, Trent has established a strong sense of community through their “town hall”, an online place for members to connect and ask questions.

Trent believes that when your life is a mess, you don’t need someone telling you what to do, you need someone by your side. With over ten years of self-help and personal development videos behind him, Trent has certainly created a far-reaching brand that centres on self-development, one that very much feels “by your side”.

In Trent Sheldon, we find a true example of someone who has worked persistently and consistently to use the power of personal branding to help and inspire others. Respect.


You can find Trent Shelton on his website, and of course all over the socials:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/trentshelton

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/TrentShelton and  https://twitter.com/rehabtime

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LikeTrentShelton and https://www.facebook.com/RehabTime.Org/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/trentshelton/_saved/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkwdk8T8kJAzH7CusCv8QoA



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