You’re Doing Authenticity Wrong
October 25, 2017
This is a post that I originally published at Entrepreneur.com on May 1st 2017.
“Authenticity” – a word that is becoming more and more important to business people. And a word that is constantly being thrown around by anyone with a blog, podcast or voice to share. Including me.
The premise of entrepreneurial authenticity is being yourself, telling your story and allowing yourself to be truly you whilst serving an audience that is drawn to what make you uniquely you.
When you put it like that, it sounds easy. In fact, surely it should be the very easiest thing that we can do in business, after all, we're all ourselves and surely it's ok to show that in business.
Sadly that's not always true.
We're all conditioned, from an early age, to be “professional”
We're taught that personal lives and business lives have to be separate, that we have to maintain an air of “professionalism” in everything that we do.
But there's a difference between genuine professionalism and actually being professional, just like there's a difference between being authentic and what we perceive that other people believe is our authenticity.
Professionalism, as we're taught it, causes us to remain subdued.
The professionalism that we're taught by society, by schools and by “establishments” is actually no more than a set of old rules that are designed to keep hierarchy stable and add a layer of control to a workforce.
The issue today, though, is that generations are becoming less and less accepting of this and as such, people like you and I are finding this “traditional” version of professionalism to be constraining and that thought process can lead us to wonder what's wrong with us.
There's nothing wrong with us.
Nothing at all because actually, professionalism is simple: be fair, be honest, be open and be value led.
Oh, and don't be a dick.
What about authenticity?
I often wonder, is authenticity simply becoming another buzz word that runs the risk of falling into the “professionalism” trap – that is: losing it's actual meaning and being replaced with something that we're taught to do in a way that everyone else either does or expects us to do.
Guys like Brad Burton, Chris Ducker, Gary Vee and Brian Fanzo do a great job of educating their audiences on exactly what authenticity looks like, and how to allow it to manifest itself in business and in life.
The challenge is that I see so many people actually try to behave like these guys as opposed to taking their teachings and applying it to their own circumstance.
Just because you swear, say “hustle” or “grind” and wear jeans does not mean that you're being authentic.
Rather, it's up to you to define YOUR story and craft that into a narrative that embodies your personality, your values and then gets wrapped around your business to become your brand and the cornerstone of your entire marketing strategy.
It's about merging your “why” with your journey so far, your aspirations, your goals & objectives and taking honest, open and transparent steps towards providing things that actually matter to your audience by using the unique mix of life experience that only you have.
Being “like” someone else is simply not going to cut it.
Being authentic isn't about applying behaviours that you see elsewhere to what you do, it's about realising what behaviours and tone of voice come most naturally to you and fusing that with the delivery of quality to your audience.
The problem? It's not that easy
Being authentic is like being professional.
Unless we're doing what is expected of us, then it can be hard to find the confidence to be truly unique.
Coming out as yourself can be scary – what if people don't like it? What if people stop following me?
The real truth is that you don't get along with everyone, you won't align with everyone and yes, some people simply won't like you.
But then some people don't like The Godfather.
Hard to believe but it's true. To me, it's one the greatest films ever made, and I watch it over and over.
The point is that by actually being authentic you will build your own tribe and those that don't like you simply won't matter – and they sure as hell won't change the opinion of those who love you.
The tribe that you do build will be in it for the long haul, as long as you stay actually authentic.
Sanity check, please
You're you. You are, and that is a wonderful thing.
Don't post a curated version of yourself on social media, don't try to be authentic and end up doing so in someone else's personality just because you think that “being authentic” is what your business or your brand needs.
Just like being professional is simply exercising common sense, being authentic ifs simply exercising the harnessing of your personality and learning how to communicate that in a way that comes naturally to you.
The point is: check in with yourself every now and then to make sure that you're actually being authentic, and that you're not simply being what you perceive people want you to be, or simply copying traits of those that you follow.
The biggest sign that you're being genuinely authentic?
Well, that's simple: it feels easy.
The feeling that “something isn't quite right, something doesn't fit” just isn't there and everything that you do is not only delivered with purpose, but you can deliver it effortlessly and with an air of quiet confidence that simply does not exist when behaving in a way that isn't your version of authenticity.
Do you have to work at it?
Of course, you do, but being authentic should be your default and the only thing that you should have to work on is remaining confident that being truly you will reap long-term, higher quality results than being any other version of yourself at all ever will.
Don't forget, the more you expect from yourself, the more you WILL excel!