I wrote last week about some brand development work I’ve been doing. Part of that process involved asking people who have experienced me and my work to provide me some feedback on what makes me unique, what they appreciate about my work.
Authenticity Shouldn’t be a Competitive Advantage
One of the things that emerged as a theme in the feedback I received was that people described both my writing and speaking as very authentic. This was music to my ears personally, because I try to live my life in a “what you see is what you get” kind of way. I’m not sure it makes any sense to me to strive to live in any other way than authentically to who you are.
But, then I started reflecting a little further on this feedback and I became a little unsettled, and maybe even a little disheartened. I was bothered not by the fact that my network and customers described me as authentic, but that we live in a world where authenticity has become a competitive advantage.
When I really sat and considered this insight, it hit me pretty hard. This wasn’t new information. For nearly a decade, I struggled to fit in within corporate America because the forces of conformity are almost overpowering there. I know that authenticity has become increasing difficult in a world that seems to be designed to help us “fit in.” I just didn’t realize (or had been trying to ignore) how significant this issue has become. I see it more clearly now than ever.
And we need to make some progress.
This process has emboldened me with the awareness that I need to protect my own authenticity even more fiercely than I have in the past. Partly because it’s healthy. And partly because I want to be an example for others.
There is no greater reward in life than being able to live life on your own terms and being accepted for it. Authenticity shouldn’t be a competitive differentiator, it should be the norm. What should differentiate us is our actual difference, not the degree to which we truly reveal that difference to the world.