Am I Authentic Enough? Are you?

Pamela Chan,

I greatly respect Tara Sophia Mohr’s work and have mentioned her before online and to friends. In her recent blog post, Mohr writes about the flawed and trendy concept of “personal branding”.

We lead ourselves into a weird, objectifying split from self when we try to create or deliberately present a brand. Instead, approach it from the inside out. Work at being the most expressed, consistent, unapologetic version of your authentic self. Work at letting the real you come through. (Tara Sophia Mohr)

The term “personal brand” has reached a point of being overused.  Many people in the business and social media communities are pushing back by focussing on the need to be authentic.  You can even combine the presentation of your “authentic self” into your “personal brand”. (See course below from a Women of Influence website.) I get it – we should be authentic. I certainly hope that I come across in person and online as being authentic (AKA real). But why does this call to be authentic rub me the wrong way?  Maybe subconsciously I’m saying “um I don’t think I’ve been faking it up really”.   I don’t hide who I am and what I think, and I’m confident enough to reveal these details to others.

Last year a friend cut off contact with me simply because I wrote about how my friends and I have put a lot of effort into staying in contact over the years.  Apparently this viewpoint came across as being exclusive, which would make me hardly sincere and natural.  Perhaps this ex-friend considers me to be a showy, introvert-extrovert personality who steps out in ways that that person cannot.  Perhaps I am viewed as lacking depth and authenticity. I would argue that the natural me was seen in this relationship but that person can’t relate to or appreciate me.  There had been sufficient opportunity to either experience who I was or focus on me and who I am.   If there were years of built up discomfort and disapproval, nothing had ever been said or intimated.  That said, maybe I am in denial about the degree to which I am authentic. Was I being too honest or not honest enough in this friendship?

Joe Pine, author of Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want*,  observes that we live in an awkward time when we have to “confirm” whether friends are really friends on Facebook.  Pine shares three rules for being authentic:

  • unless you are really authentic, don’t say that you are;
  • if you don’t say that you’re authentic, it’s easier to be authentic; and,
  • you’d better be authentic if you say you are authentic.

The last rule is a way of saying that if you are going to talk about the need to be authentic, you better walk the talk in a real and natural way.  As Mohr says, people will know who we are because we are living and revealing who we are – not just saying that we need to live that way.  Writing warm and fuzzy comments and updates, and revealing your personal challenges and lifestyle habits on social media does not count!

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Mohr’s thoughts about finding and revealing our natural and complex selves is part of a larger workplace/social media conversation that’s out there and happening. Its influence will spill into other areas that will touch the lives of everyone from students to seniors. It’s always best to keep abreast of these things.  How do we represent our ideas, undertakings, ambitions – ourselves – online and in person?   Are we letting the real us shine through?  Are we helping the youth in our lives to learn how to navigate the use of social media while they express their authentic selves?  As Mohr writes “how can we become braver about being us”?

Go out and be authentic.  This is what we are being told.  Or just keep doing what you’re doing if it already feels real to you.


Musings on Being the “Perfect” Brand, Authenticity and Transparency

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