I Am Not Authentic

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The term “authentic” gets used a lot in social media. It gets used all over the place. We tend to use “authentic” to mean something like this: a person who says what he or she feels and who shows you all aspects of his or her life.

None of us are authentic, unless we suffer from some serious mental disorders. We all filter. It’s part of what makes the world work. If we were completely and utterly authentic, we’d have no friends, no loved ones, no business.

So What Do We Mean?

When we say authentic, I think what most people are really seeking is some kind of “closer to reality” experience. For instance, if I have a bad day, I talk about it. If I’m feeling a bit hurt by something, I might talk about that, too.

But there are limits to what people want with regards to authenticity. What if you presented your business idea to me and I said, “I really feel it’s not sustainable, and won’t really serve you well.” That wouldn’t really help you much. First off (and I learned this from my brief flirtation with seeking VC money), maybe I don’t see the value in your project, but that’s a fault of mine. So if I say something like that, I’m not doing you any favors. Second, if I’m going to dissuade you, then that’s not really helpful in your business pursuits.

When we say authentic, I think people want some sense that we’re not just all business all the time. I think sometimes what we’re asking for with authenticity is a sense of what happens behind the curtains, so that we better understand what influences one’s opinions and thoughts.

But that doesn’t really equal authentic, just like a restaurant called Three Gringos isn’t ever going to be authentic Mexican cuisine. Authenticity shouldn’t be the goal. So, then, what should we choose for a goal?

Be Helpful

There’s a lot that goes with true authenticity that isn’t helpful. Instead, the people we connect with would be much better served if we chose to be helpful instead. “Helpful” is a far more useful frame of reference than authentic. But there’s more.

Be Clear and Disclose

Often times with authenticity, people really simply want to know what biases have led to something. When I talk about how much I love the Genesis WordPress theme platform (affiliate link), I’m quick to disclose (as I did just there) that I stand to make money from any sale of that product. This tells you that I have a bias that you should consider, and that I stand to benefit from your purchase.

Does that mean that I don’t like the product and I’m just selling it? Of course not. Some people could do that, but what I have tried to do over years (and by the way, “repetition” is a lot closer to what people perceive as authenticity, too) is to show you that I’ll promote products and services that I’ve used and that I believe in, because I believe they’ll be helpful to you.

Don’t Strive For Authenticity

In fact, the phrase “authentic” should set off alarms, just like the phrase “to be honest” often makes us wonder if the person who says that is rarely honest otherwise. Instead, be honest with yourself and filter that into whatever it takes to be helpful to others. Present your most helpful side to the people who need it, and do so with as much genuine interest in other people’s success as you can possibly muster.

It will serve you far better than the goal of being authentic.

What do you think?

ChrisBrogan.com runs on the Genesis Framework

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  • http://faleafine.com NEENZ

    I’ve been brutally honest to the tune of the definition of authenticity and it’s cost me friendships. I don’t regret it. I did it because I care, but what I’ve learned is that some people would rather be cloaked in faux fur than be clothed in a shirt with a few stains. Thank you for the reminder to continue to be helpful. :)

    • http://www.TheFranchiseKing.com The Franchise King

      We have more in common than you think, NEENZ :)

  • http://www.nerdenterprises.com Seth David

    I think the other point that people have in mind when they are asking us to be “Authentic” is to be sincere, and honest. If I say I am going to do something I should follow through and make sure I do it. This is so important in business especially in this social media business climate because the minute I don’t do what I’ve promised they will attack like crows around a dead body!

    At the end of the day all we have is our integrity so while I of course don’t share intimate details about my personal life with everyone, I can share in a general way, honestly what my life is about. My life is my business right now and probably will be for a while. Once I reach a certain point I will start hiring more people, delegating, automating and enjoying more free time. Then I will have more “personal” stuff to share about. So I am accused sometimes of being too much “about business”. When that is the make up of my life because I want to build something extraordinary then that is what I’ve got! That’s not me trying to sell something.. that’s me being honest and sincere about my life today!

  • http://tiffanymonhollon.com/blog Tiffany Monhollon

    OK, this is really interesting to me for a few reasons. One is that I’m really fascinated about research that shows the affect of social media use on teen girls, whose use of Facebook skews overwhelmingly positive, some research shows. But, they don’t tend to have the emotional maturity to realize that if that’s how they are using the site, that’s how others are using to too…. so it leads to feelings of increased isolation and even depression, because they think “everyone else has an overwhelmingly positive life.” And therefore, the can begin to think “I’m a freak of nature who is the only one who’s ever sad my parents are yelling or pissed that I flunked a test.”

    I think we can fall into this as grown-ups, and professionals too, even though some of us can be emotionally mature enough to say “everyone isn’t authentic and that’s not even the goal” or nod our heads at a post like this, we still sometimes go on to battle those feelings of inferiority at our Klout score or bemoan that we weren’t picked for whatever super-special-prize-inside-internet-famous recognition someone else was selected for. 

    What do you think? Is there any parallel there?

  • http://fbadservices.com/ Justin Dupre

    Excellent points you have raised here.I think what’s more important is being genuine.

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  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual Business Assistant

    I would go with what Justin has said here. Being genuine is what required in every commitment, it may be personal or professional.

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  • http://totalprotect-home-warranty.com/ Total Protect Home Warranty

    Well no one of us are authentic,unless we suffer from some serious mental disorders..I think the other point that people have in mind when they are asking us to be “Authentic” is to be sincere, and honest..

  • http://totalprotect-home-warranty.com/ Total Protect Home Warranty

    Well no one of us are authentic,unless we suffer from some serious mental disorders..I think the other point that people have in mind when they are asking us to be “Authentic” is to be sincere, and honest..

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  • Ajkaplan1827

    Authenticity
    - in the interpersonal communication/social media context – speaks mainly to a
    person’s motives, and whether or not those motives are financially based. Are
    you a shill, or do you really (honestly) mean what you say? Are your motives “pure.”
    This is a gateway to trust, which is (or should be) pretty important for us as
    friends, businesspeople, companies, or brands.

     

    Your
    post is a great example. You’re trying to be helpful (which is fine as a goal).
    But because of your disclosure, we can never know for certain if you’re being authentic,
    no matter how much you may protest to the purity (“it really is good!”) of your
    motives.

     

    Authenticity
    also, in a brand/marketing context, speaks specifically to the fidelity a brand,
    person, place or thing has to itself. Is that person being true to their origins?
    Is that company/product acting in a way this is true to its nature or how we
    know it to be? Again, an element of trust, but also of consistency, as you
    point out. So perhaps you WERE being authentic…if your true nature is to always
    recommend products that you fall in love with and then make money trumpeting.
    But then there’s that nasty financial interest to muddy things up…

     

    I’m
    not sure you can achieve your goal of being “helpful”, if I don’t let you past
    the gate: if I don’t trust the position you take, the reason/rationale for your
    recommendation, or the level of fidelity/consistency your thought or action has
    with what I already know about you. So shouldn’t you shoot for a level of authenticity
    first, as a means to be helpful?

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  • Joel Pinto

    I am with you 100%, Chris, as I continue to read on, and on all over the Web about people simply trying to bring in results and forgetting about the true meaning of “authenticity” or as you said being helpful and straight-forward from the very beggining.

    I’d rather have someone telling me right from the start that he wants my business instead of having them dancing around me every single day, making things to get my attention but from their own, interest-driven point of view. There is a lot to say about “authenticity” and the way it should be used to really create powerful, loyalty driven relationships.

    I do believe for all things happening the way they are, we should truly try to concentrate on developing loyalty, credibility, a great reputation, and then allowing it grow our business by itself, as it usually happens.

    I did enjoy reading your post a lot. Thanks, Chris. Appreciated!

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  • Sole e35 elliptical

    I think the idea is to be honest with yourself because you really cannot lie to yourself. Being too honest can be a real problem though, as another person mentioned above, I have also lost friends over being too honet – mind you – if they were real friends then they maybe would understand….

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  • Anonymous

    I love this post, Chris.
    To me, authentic = genuine + original
    1- Genuine:
    Businesses must create a worthy cause out of their brands by offering genuine help to their customers.
    2- Original:
    “Why should I do business with you and NOT your competition? What makes you standout form the crowd?” Being original (unique) in the value of the services you offer to your customers and clearly communicating this to them will give you a huge edge when prospects ask themselves this eternal (and also logical) question
    In my opinion, these are the two brand authenticity elements that businesses should focus on. When they do, they don’t even have to use the word “authentic”. People will perceive them as such and they will reap the rewards.
    You touched upon a very important issue in the post, Chris. I am an avid reader of your and I can safely say that this article is #1 on my list of “Chris Brogan’s masterpieces”. Thank you for you being such a great inspiration :).

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  • http://twitter.com/Softfacts Tom Klein

    Wow, what a trigger word! So much attention means we have a problem with it. As used here it is a (useful) straw man. By definition it can’t be instrumentalized for marketing purposes, so the aversion to it in a marketing context makes sense. 

    To be authentic is to be who you are.  Its quite simple. To be authentic in our interactions can also be surprising, even to ourselves. Authenticity is the standpoint from which we recognize our own masks and games and efforts to impress or please. So our own authenticity can often be an uncomfortable experience for ourselves.

    We sometimes see something which is authentic in others, but which they themselves don’t see. If we relate to that, it can be a great relief just to be together without the games. But it can also be uncomfortable for others, especially if they are can’t relate to what we see.

    It is convincing to experience someone in business who is authentic, as they can be better understood and gauged. But it is people who are authentic, not brands or businesses, as brands lack the living core which could provide any meaningful standard of comparison, or any potential for growth in authenticity.

    When talking about authenticity, it might be helpful to distinguish radically between people and things (like brands). Brands can be helpful without being authentic. People can be authentic without needing to be helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    I love the filter of helpfulness as a measure of being usefully authentic. Being who you are is only relevant to others if it helps them in the long run. If someone were to authentically be a psychopath, it’s not going to get them anywhere with the public. 

  • http://efanpage.com Sebastian

    Chris,

    I think you make some valid points but also think they we often conflate words and definitions and forget the true meaning of words.  For me (and Webster) authentic connotes reliability and a connection to a proven track record or history.  Take “authentic” coins for example. They are authentic because of their history and sustainability throughout the years. 

    This speaks to me as being more about becoming a trustworthy source (such as yourself) as opposed to someone who claims to be a professional of social media knowing nothing about marketing or sales.   I agree that autheticity should go beyond honesty and think it should really reflect in your body of work as being full proff and consistent. Thoughts?

    Sebastian

  • http://twitter.com/HotSpotPromo Darlene Hull

    I agree with Sebastian about the definition of authenticity, but I also like the way you, Chris, made important points about kindness and filters.  A challenging post.  I’m going to mull it over a while…

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  • http://www.facebook.com/celeneharrelson Celene Harrelson

    Gosh, how I’ve struggled with this one Chris!  At first I was trying to be who I thought they wanted me to be, then totally authentic-not always a good thing.  Now take the balanced approach.  I’m me, but as you said – with a filter. I’m sharing this with my peeps.  Great post. Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/celeneharrelson Celene Harrelson

    Gosh, how I’ve struggled with this one Chris!  At first I was trying to be who I thought they wanted me to be, then totally authentic-not always a good thing.  Now take the balanced approach.  I’m me, but as you said – with a filter. I’m sharing this with my peeps.  Great post. Thanks!

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  • Mark Wheatley

    I think that if your provide good content and you stay on subject, try to help people when you can, you will be judged as being authentic. 

  • http://www.maxfurnitureclearance.com/ Max Furniture

    I am also not authentic! and its very true that if we were completely and utterly authentic, we’d have no friends, no loved ones, no business…i must say that this post is very much helpful and useful…good content!

  • http://www.maxfurnitureclearance.com/ Max Furniture

    I am also not authentic! and its very true that if we were completely and utterly authentic, we’d have no friends, no loved ones, no business…i must say that this post is very much helpful and useful…good content!

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  • http://blogs.cutcompcosts.com/ Workers compensation audit

    Good to be back here, keep updating us, love what you share..you are awesome..
    Thank you

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  • http://powerpunchproductions.com Power Punch Productions

    Now take the balanced approach.  I’m me, but as you said – with a
    filter. I’m sharing this with my peeps.  Great post. Thanks! 

  • http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Who_is_Jagadguru_Shree_Kripaluji_Maharaj Jagadguru Kripaluji Maharaj

    A person who says what he feels and who shows you all aspects of his life. I can’t understand ‘Why the writer is not authentic?’.

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  • bumpercrop

    I appreciate the sentiment behind your thoughts. On a philosophical level, I would

    say that we are organisms that eat other organisms to remain on Earth. What does

    that say about us collectively? I have found that in general, people prefer to be

    in agreement with others in order to sense a maintenance of equilibrium.
    People talk about their “fantasies”. One of mine, is, what would happen if people were truly honest? No need for aggression, just being able to be completely honest, without being rejected by the group at large?

    In other words, in U.S. American terms, one must “package” one’s truth, so

    as not to alienate oneself completely. Authenticity is being able to remain as concious as possible no matter what happens. Thanks.