Authenticity Is Not a Strategy. It’s a Lifestyle.

I am going to live the authentic lifestyle.

I’m not really sure when authenticity became the hipster trend but it seems the more I surf the Internet, the more I discover bloggers and business people telling the world that they’re going to be more authentic. It’s interesting because I don’t know if the person has been living a huge lie for so long and they want to come clean, or if they just decided that the idea of being real sounded like a nice strategy to earn more followers or friends. Being true to self is awesome but you also have to be very careful in your pursuit of authenticity.

The Authentic Lifestyle

Being true to yourself takes guts these days.

While the world talks about celebrating diversity or being unique, there is also the truth that people generally love other people who are just like them. You see, we appreciate the idea of individualism or accepting people for who they are, but this doesn’t always happen in reality. Birds of a feather flock together. If you fit in with the group, you’re in the group. If you have differing views or opinions, you’re outside the group. It doesn’t always happen this way and there are very accepting people in our communities who really do welcome anyone in, regardless of who you are and what you believe, but in my lifetime experience this a very rare occurrence. If you decide to show your authenticity, you may be embraced or you may be pushed away.

Authenticity has it’s problems.

What if the real you isn’t what the world wants? What if you become transparent about your beliefs or values and no one accepts you for them? What if you share a tweet or a blog post on something you’re passionate about but another group sees you as a hater because of it? We hear the messages to celebrate uniqueness and diversity, yet if you really look around, you will see that in many situations this is simply not true.

Chik-Fil-A. Hobby Lobby. Paula Deen. Justin Bieber. Alec Baldwin. Michael Jackson. Miley Cyrus. 

Most of us in the free world will know these names and likely have some thought or opinion about each one. If we are being totally honest, there is someone in this list that we don’t like because of their authenticity or desire to be who they believed they should be. We’ve seen hate and anger in our media directed at each name in this list the past few years. Miley Cyrus was every girl’s role model but then Miley started twerking. People who grew up loving her began to hate her overnight (sometimes even loving her again). The same goes for the rest of the people and companies on the list.

I think being naked is awesome, but that doesn’t mean I should be naked, especially if it’s in front of other human beings. Maybe you love to be naked too, but people might not want to see the real you either because it might be offensive. Go ahead and dance naked today … be free! Just remember that tomorrow your brand might be dead (and we are all a brand).

Authenticity is a lifestyle. If you embrace it, you must also accept what comes with it.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I am a Garth Brooks fan. He comes from my home town of Yukon, Oklahoma, and is a very talented performer. I liked country music back in the day and even wore a pair of Goat Roper boots while listening to his music. Now I am ashamed!

Garth Brooks was a unique and energetic country star whose music was known all over the world, but then years into the height of his musical career, he made a change that still has many scratching their heads. Garth wanted to do something authentic for his love for rock music, so he came up with the idea to create an alter ego centered on being a rock star and flipped a switch overnight becoming Chris Gaines. He hoped his fans would love it. They absolutely hated it. Garth Brooks made a move that did not connect with his audience and it hurt his brand. The project was later abandoned.

Authenticity can backfire and cause more damage than staying who you are right now. 

People might not like what you’ve become or be ready for the real you. People could also feel betrayed or duped because they believed in or trusted the old you. Being authentic is a tricky situation. You may be damned if you do or damned if you don’t. You have to ask yourself if the risk you are about to take is truly worth it.

If you believe that it’s time to remove your mask and show a new persona that will make your life better, then do it and go all in, but remember that even though the world may say it’s accepting doesn’t mean it really is and using authenticity as some hipster marketing strategy could kill your brand, personally and professionally.

  • http://twitter.com/patrickneve_web Patrick Neve (@patrickneve_web)

    James,

    This post really hits home. It’s almost scary how much it applies to my current experiences.

    Thanks for sharing you view on this topic because it’s a touchy one. You left us with some interesting things to meditate over.