How To Be Authentic

I went to see a band on Sunday night. A band I first saw in Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow in 1986. I was very young. They were and are great but they never made it commercially. They’re like a lot of bands who are loved by musicians but not by enough of a fickle and skittish public. The music industry is littered with these great bands.

One of the guys I was with said something interesting.

Who’s that singer..?

He said the singer in the band was singing with someone else’s voice.

He didn’t mean that the singer was parodying or copying someone else. He meant that the singer was not using his own, working class Glasgow voice. He was using a stylised this-is-what-a-singer-should-sound-like voice. He went on to comment about other British rock stars from the past singing “oh yeah baby…” This is not real either. We don’t say “oh yeah baby” in Britain. It’s a parody.

Driving in the rain…

So I’m driving down the M6 yesterday and I’m pondering all this and it strikes me that it’s all about being authentic. And being authentic is important. And not just for singers either. For all of us. No matter what you do.

So – how to be authentic?

Easy really. Be yourself. The real you. Never pretend about anything and never try to impress anyone. Be aware of your values; value your values and act in accordance with them.

But this can be hard. The trouble is that our authentic selves can often be smothered by layers of inauthenticity, usually driven by conditioning.

It’s the conditioning, stupid…

We are conditioned to try to please people

We are conditioned to fit in.

We are conditioned to accept as true what society says “real” is, i.e. a rock singer sounds like this/a business person acts like this/success looks like this…(insert whatever the current vogue is).

In essence, we are conditioned to be inauthentic because it is unlikely that what we are conditioned to be is who we really are.

So inauthenticity is the default.

And that’s when it goes wrong.

We start to imitate others, pretend we like stuff we don’t, act in ways that we are not comfortable with (hello organisational politics). It goes on.

And that’s stressful…acting all day every day is stressful.

And also sub-optimal…how are you going to do your real best when you’re acting all day?

It is better to be yourself and find where you fit, than to pretend all day and hope you don’t get found out.

You will be happier, more relaxed and ultimately more successful.

When you are the product…

And if you’re in the business of selling you – and we all are to a greater or lesser extent – then being authentic becomes critically important. No one wants to buy a pastiche of something else. People can spot inauthenticity a mile off and there’s an awful lot of it around.

And if you are your business, being authentic, having your own voice, is a real differentiator in a world of low priced commodities. Most people prefer “real” over perfect and the ones who don’t you don’t need. Their loss.

Authenticity is just better. And ultimately easier because you don’t have to remember who you are trying to be.

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