Being Authentic is Hard
Have you ever read an article about marketing that said something along the lines of “Be Authentic”, be yourself?
Yup. Me, too. Lots of them. Authenticity in business is a big buzz word. It’s a great buzz word. Authenticity is key in building your business. But when your business is YOU – whether you’re a speaker, an author, a band, a photographer, discovering what that means and how to apply it can provide a tremendous level of uncertainty. Underneath the uncertainty, I think, is an insecurity: How do we know that we, in all our authentic, genuine glory, are worth listening to?
I say this because I’ve felt it. I have struggled with this throughout my careers. And I say careers, because I have a few different ones: my author side, my day-job-marketing-for-an-accounting audience side, and my marketing-for-you-amazing-people side. I’m a three-sided freak, apparently. That doesn’t even include the family side, the friends, etc… We all have slight variations in the people we are, depending on who we are talking to.
I think when we read “Be Authentic”, we read this as:
Be genuinely who you are, but only in a way that connects to your audience.
Adding a “but” to any sentence devalues it.
Here’s the funny part. Your audience, your true fanbase, will connect to you because you are you, without qualifiers. With quirks. With all your fascinations, and loves.
As I built my author side, I had this belief that I had to keep it separate from my day job side. Those audiences COULD NOT mingle! But boy, was that a lot of work. I faced having to build separate twitter profiles, separate Facebook pages, etc. It was too much to keep up with and way too overwhemling. Not to mention, it was an immediate dis-qualifier from being authentically me. I started thinking, Should I share this funny tweet about my favorite TV show with this group? That group? This side of me isn’t right here. That side could go over there.
I felt like I needed to keep them separate and when I dug deep into the WHY of that, it was because of the fear that my author side wasn’t good enough for my day job side. Or my day job side wasn’t good enough to connect with the author side. But the irony on that whole “side” thing is that they bleed. They creep over to each other. They grab hold because all those sides are still me. Your sides make up your core.
For example, my last book and the one I’m working on now both include characters involved in finance. Heck my heroine in my current novel would have been an accountant, if women were such things back in 19th century England. Coinky-dink? I think not. Finance was not exactly an area I thought about (just ask my husband about my relationship with our checkbook), before I became a part of its community. But that community of amazing people worked their sneaky little way into my very core, into what inspires to tell stories.
I am also a huge fan of soap operas. (I know, what does this have to do with anything? Bear with me a moment.) Soaps have been a part of my life, my memories since my mom watched them when I was a little girl. I also love a total contrast of entertainment, from gritty shows like Game of Thrones and Criminal Minds to family friend, sappy Hallmark movies. I love country music but yes, darn it, I like Yanni, too. (So there.) I’m a total tech geek but I also keep a notebook in my purse. All of these things I tried to slot into a “side” on where to share them. It was exhausting and as it turns out, the opposite of authentic. Because I wasn’t being true to my moment.
I had created an entirely different Twitter handle to chat about soap operas. Why? I was afraid the audiences in my other “sides” would laugh. But then I realized that the “fan base” I was aiming for wouldn’t laugh at my love of over-the-top soap opera couples and stories. They might be amused at me, and that, I can live with. So I closed up all my other Twitter handles and put it all into one. For better or worse. LOL
I have redefined “authentic” for me. I stay within my brand, no matter what I’m talking about. At my core, I find humor and fascination in all the contrasts in this world. “Authentic” means being true in the moment. Don’t overthink. Share who you are, in all your quirky glory, when YOU feel it. If I want to comment on the latest General Hospital episode, I do it. If I want to retweet every post that Buffer sends out during bufferchat, I do that, too. (Wednesdays, 9am, if you want to avoid my twitter feed—or join me. :)) Remember that you’re sharing with human beings, and we humans are quirky folk. We love quirks. We embrace weird. I’m a quirky mix of contrasts. And in being quirky, I’m not unusual at all. We’re all quirky in our own wonderful ways, and it’s those quirks that are authentic. So don’t be afraid to share them.
I like this version of “Be authentic” better:
So go forth and be you!