Honesty vs. Authenticity

Image copyright the author — this picture is kind of a lie… I am terrified of heights and was doing everything I could not to pee my pants.

When I write I try very hard to be authentic.

I was thinking about that the other day when I was having a discussion with someone about posting as quickly as I do. Basically, she wanted me to wait longer to post things because I might regret a post, I might say the wrong thing, I might reveal details of my life that I would regret.

I decided that I would heed her advice and wait at least twelve hours before posting anything personal. Do a couple more re-reads (which will probably help with typos anyway). It seems like a good way to proceed if I want to be careful and build my career.

Thing is, I believe that in order to build my career I need to be doing things that make me stand out and one thing is that lack of filter. I let people in to my life, to my process. I talk about what I feel, who I am, what I believe in, and what I don’t believe in. When I say something I regret my response is to post something else talking about how I’ve changed my mind, not to hide what I said, what I believed in the first place.

I realized that when I see other people who act like that I respect it. I want to see people decide that what they said was a bad idea, that they didn’t actually believe that thing, that it was a lot more than they intended to reveal, that the relationship they were gushing over wasn’t really the one when they got over the initial rush.

In other words, I love people who at least appear to be authentic in public. People who talk about their real struggles and real triumphs.

I worry that if I censor myself too much I will fall into the trap of not being authentic, of managing my image.

Yet at the same time I know we all manage our image to a degree. I don’t reveal everything from my life, I don’t live completely out in the open. In fact, one consistent issue I’ve had in relationships is hiding things from my partners, telling them what they wanted to hear and hiding things I thought would create problems for me.

I still believe that this authenticity is what people want though, that people want someone who will tell them the unvarnished truth. That if I’m having trouble building my e-mail list people would rather hear that than a post about how amazing and successful I am as an author.

The other thing about that authenticity is it means you can learn from my mistakes, and if you are the same I can learn from yours. Not the glad hand salesman “I made all the mistakes in the book” that is such a transparent attempt at faking sincerity, but the honest day by day “I don’t know if I can do this” mistakes that we actually face.

Then there’s honesty. I might post something in the moment and discover that it was a terrible idea, that I don’t believe in what I posted and that nobody should ever take that advice. That’s not honest, even though it is authentic. Honesty requires accuracy, reflection, sometimes even second thoughts.

So I will do the twelve-hour thing… starting right after this post. That way at least I will know that what I’m saying is both authentic and honest…

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