Be authentic: we hear that all the time in relation to blogging, social media, and the new marketing.
But what does “authentic” really mean? And what if you don’t feel authentic? What if deep down inside you feel like a fake?
Are you haunted by the silent fear that you will suddenly become exposed as an imposter? We assume nobody else suffers from this fear but ourselves. But the truth is that many people feel this way. You are not alone. All of us struggle at times with feelings of inadequacy. The reasons for this are as varied as the human race: many of us had family members and parents who were not always kind to us. Many of us may have suffered the taunts of other children in schools when we were growing up. Both of those things happened to me. And of course there are worse things, which I’m grateful to not have experienced. However we came to feel this way, it’s more universal than you think.
Before we go any further, let’s talk about what being authentic actually means, and also why it’s beneficial to online marketing (to say the least). There are various meanings and uses of the word “authentic,” but the ones that matter for this are:
- Not counterfeit or copied.
- The quality of being genuine or not corrupted from the original; Truthfulness of origins, attributions, commitments, sincerity, and intentions; The quality of being authentic (of established authority).
- Generally, the condition of that which is reliable, trustworthy, real, original, unique.
Tell Personal Stories
But being original is tougher than it looks, because human beings naturally look to others for cues on how to behave. To be original, you must fight against this magnetic pull to copy and conform with all your might! One way to be original is to tell personal stories. Why? Because your own experience is unique to you, as is the “voice” in which you write about that experience. When I write about divorcing my wife (and the strange but interesting friendship we now share) or crashing my car while being broke or being a vacuum cleaner salesman once upon a time, that’s all highly original and personal.
But is it authentic? I’ll let you decide that. I know I certainly strive deliberately to be authentic.
You know those guys who start a blog about social media, or SEO, or blogging, but they have no experience in these fields? They make absolutely no real money related to these topics? You can always tell, because they never have any stories to tell. They have no experience to draw from. They’re writing about something because they like it, or because they think it’ll be profitable. It’s difficult (but not impossible) for these people to be authentic.
Everybody starts at the beginning, but if you’re deliberately passing yourself off as an authority when you’re not—well I guess you can expect to feel fake, then! This is what is meant by “fake it until you make it.” You may have to until you gain more experience by working clients in a freelance capacity or really spending a lot of money and effort to educate yourself quickly. And you can still tell personal stories which are unrelated to your level of experience which relate to your topic.
More Power Lies Deeper, so Start Digging
Another issue we have with authenticity vs. feelings of being fake is that we don’t even really know ourselves. Most of you are not deeply delving into a study of yourself, into Who You Are and Why You’re Here. Most of you are closed systems to yourselves. You’re a “black box” to yourselves. How many times have you mentally beat yourself up over poor spending habits, or how much you always drink, or why you always seem to get hit with late fees on your bills?
A clue is in the words I used in that last paragraph: “habits” and “always.” You see, most people, when you really break down their individual repeated actions, are operating on autopilot. They’re not truly awake and aware of where their actions come from in their minds. The sad truth is that many people behave automatically, like software simply following a badly-written program. Software programs have loops, that is, sections of code that carry out the same instructions over and over again. The desire to be different may be there, but the same old self-destructive actions are carried out by these “programs.” In other words, a high percentage of what you do is a bundle of bad habits. And we all know changing bad habits can be difficult.
I am greatly oversimplifying, here, and I’m certainly no mental health professional. But it has been my own personal experience that the more I recognized these loops exist, and the more I looked into where self-destructive “programming loops” originate, the better I have been able to break out of these bad loops. You cannot do this unless you consciously choose to do it, and then you have to practice like hell. The deeper you dig into yourself, the closer you get to your own authentic inner source of personal power. And that is what this has to do with blog marketing and running a business.
One thing my friend Clay Collins has said—and I agree fully—is that entrepreneurship is one of best paths to spark personal growth and development. You may even want to think of it as spiritual in nature. The more self-developed you are:
- The more self-aware you are of your bad programming loops
- The more you’re able to interrupt these loops and stop them from running (and running you like a puppet)
- The more authentic you become and the less fake you will feel
- And the more naturally your authority will be real and will assert itself effortlessly
- This will improve your business (it may completely transform it) and that improvement will make its way into your blogging
Here’s a Surprise
Here’s a secret my blog consulting clients benefit from greatly, but which I’ve never said here on the blog until now. The problems that you have with your blog may not originate with your blog. Your blog may merely be the final symptom of your own poor programming loops. If we work our way backwards from the blog, and we ask: what does the blog represent? We know what the answer is: the blog represents our business.
So the problems we have that need solving are in our business, and if we fix them there, then the blog will “take care of itself?” Sometimes. I recently spoke with a client who was concerned about his blog’s traffic. I asked him how he generated leads. He said from referrals and from one part-time cold-caller. So you see, his real problem wasn’t the blog at all. If he actually got more traffic he wouldn’t know what to do with it. I told him to beef up his client referral process and quadruple the number of cold-callers. And, there was something else he now needed to do with the blog (but that I’m keeping to myself and my clients).
Now, what are the personal issues from this man’s childhood that shaped him to have programming loops that weren’t serving him well in business?
I don’t know, and it would have been inappropriate to discuss it with him. But can you see how if we work backwards one more step, and ask: what is causing the business to experience these problems? Then we find ourselves at the end of the line: We stand with only ourselves and our own goofball programming loops we got who-knows-where.
Business problems almost never have a business origin. They have a personal origin. When you work on your Self, everything you touch is affected.
So, What Now?
To sum up and distill down, if you want to be more authentic, even if you feel like a fake, do these two things. Both of them are hard, but the first is less difficult than the second:
- When you write on your blog, tell personal stories that are unique to you in your own voice as though you were speaking to a friend at a bar over a couple of drinks. There are folks who are way better at this than me, like Naomi Dunford, Penelope Trunk, Elizabeth Potts-Weinstein, Nathan Hangen, and Johnny B. Truant. Learn from their examples. The important part is not just that you tell stories, but that you tell stories that have a lesson in them for your prospects that nudges them closer to doing business with you.
- Start trying to become aware of your “programming loops,” so you can interrupt them and prevent them from sabotaging yourself. When you catch yourself “stuck in a loop,” STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING, and immediately begin questioning yourself: why am I doing this? What happened to me in the past that caused this? Is this really beneficial for me and those I love? What should I be doing instead? This may seem really “out there” but try talking out loud to yourself (this prevents your thoughts from wandering and you forget all about it, plus it makes you find the right words to describe everything and prevents you from thinking in vague generalities).
I hope you find this helpful. I am actually breaking every blog post writing rule in the book with this post: it’s not keyword-optimized for anything people are really searching on. It’s long. It’s barely even on topic. It’s risky for me to publish this. But I hope that when you saw the headline it spoke something primal in you and you responded. I can’t speak for everyone in the world, but I believe many people desire to feel whole and authentic. So even though I just paid for and installed the Scribe SEO plugin, I’m not going to use it on this post. Johnny B. Truant is probably laughing his ass off right now.
Personally, I feel more authentic now than I’ve ever been. I’d like the same for you, because with real authenticity comes real authority, real power to help others and thus help yourself.