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I had 2 people in the last 4 weeks refer to me as “authentic.”
Merriam-webster.com has several definitions for Authentic including “worthy of acceptance or belief”; “not false or imitation”; and “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character”.
I’ve always thought of that term — “authentic” — as referring to people are are transparent…they don’t hide things.
I asked a Facebook group for what they’re trying to communicate about a person when they refer to them as “authentic” and this is what a couple of them said…
“They are ‘real’, they show who they are without apology, what you see is what you get, warts and all.” – Alan Cohen
“That their actions, behaviors, and words. How they treat others and how they show up when they think it doesn’t matter lines up with what they espouse.” – Meshell R. Baker
So calling someone authentic is high praise.
But being authentic is scary. Especially for someone like me who’s an introvert.
I do videos because I don’t want really want to leave my house.
Authenticity is scary because we risk being judged and we risk rejection.
Is there a limit to being authentic? If you decide to embrace authenticity, does that mean you’ve got to share every detail of your life and risk becoming one of the Kardashians?
I don’t think so.
But the benefits of being more of the real you and letting others see that are that it increases your Know-Like-Trust Quotient or your KLT-Q.
Studies have proven that decisions are made based on emotions and then rationalized through our intellect.
And we know that we all want to work with experts but we want to know, like, and trust those people.
We want to know the expert or authority “gets” us. Often that comes from learning about their backstory or their “origin” story.
So being fully you is an important part of positioning and pre-selling your services to attract great clients.
How do you become more authentic?
You apply these 3 components…
Be true to yourself. This can be hard because after being employees for so long it’s difficult to know what our own beliefs and values are. I think this requires a lot of introspection in order to uncover your values but it also requires a lot of courage to live and act in a way that’s consistent with them because of that fear of rejection.
Here’s a great list of values that can help you identify what’s really important to you.
There’s a level of transparency that’s required for someone to be called “authentic”. You convey your personality in many ways….in your visual branding, your verbal branding, and in the amount of information and back story you share.
This is another reason why I forced myself to embrace video. It allows you to see and hear me and get a feel for my personality and beliefs. It can be hard to communicate that in writing.
Make values-based choices. We often project emotions, values, and beliefs on to other people when we hear what they say and watch what they do. We’re always on the alert for any inconsistency. For others to believe you’re making values-based choices your values need to be visible and audible to others. This again is why I love livestreaming and podcasting. Whether you’re a guest on someone else’s show or you decide to step out and host one yourself your voice and expressions are powerful communicators. To be seen as making values-based choices you need to be comfortable sharing your values.
That can be very difficult for some of us.
So how do you be true to yourself, be transparent, and communicate that you make values-based choices?
Here are 5 tactics.
Create a manifesto or a credo. That’s a statement of beliefs. It can be in narrative form a la Jerry Maguire or it can be a list of beliefs. Either way it shows people what you stand for . You can decide to post it where people can easily see it — like on your About page or somewhere else — or you can keep it for yourself and your team. It can act as a reminder of what you stand for.
Let people in. This is particularly important when you run a small business, especially when you’re the brand of the business. I’m pretty reserved on social media – I typically don’t talk politics. I don’t talk very much about family. But every now and then I talk about my cats and show pictures of them. I sometimes ask for prayers for people who are sick. I share animal videos, especially if they’re really cute or really silly. I think of Facebook as where I work and I share the same sort of things with my virtual office mates as I would with live ones.
Don’t use the fact that you’re an introvert as an excuse to stay hidden and to not join the conversation. People truly want to know more about you, about why you started your business, and about who you are. Remember, we make decisions based on emotions and we work with people we know, like, and trust. If you don’t let people in then they aren’t going to have much to base their decisions on.
Use real pictures. People want to see you. They want a peak inside your life and work. So minimize the use of stock photography on your website. Showing real pictures of you, your team, your office and other real objects can help others create a connection with you.
Take a stand . The problem with trying to please everyone is you really please very few people if any. If you truly want to attract clients rather than chase after them, you’ve got to make it clear what you stand for. Clearly communicate your point of view (POV). Be clear on the problem you solve, the solution you offer, and the outcome or transformation you provide. The more people understand what you’re for the more they can feel a connection and see themselves working with you.
Don’t try to be perfect. It’s easy to be afraid to make mistakes. After all, we spent decades in corporate life watching others be punished for their mistakes. We also lived with the fear of being seen as week or not good enough. And if you have a natural tendency towards perfectionism corporate life only encouraged that. And out on your own it can be easy to carry those beliefs with you. Do your best. Manage client expectations. Be honest about what you can and can’t do and don’t exaggerate or lie. It’s ok to admit your mistakes. And it’s ok to share negatives from your past. Especially if it shows you as human and helps your audience relate to you.
Being authentic doesn’t mean that you over-share and provide a nonstop stream of social media posts about every aspect of your life.
But it does mean finding a way to come out of your shell and create more of connection with your audience by sharing more of yourself.
More of your true self.
You maybe be pleasantly surprised to find it’s easier to create what you always wanted – a large, passionate following that sees you as you really are and values you because of it.