If you’ve been around on the blog circuit for any length of time, you’ve heard the advice: be authentic. Be yourself. Let your readers see the real you.
What a lot of people don’t get is that there’s no way to be more authentic. You already are authentic.
You already are the real you. Think about it.
If you give your readers every last detail down to the mole on your backend, the fungus growing under your toenails, and how you used to binge and purge when you were a teenager, that’s authentic.
If you carefully keep personal details to a minimum and preface a revelation about what you ate for lunch with “I don’t usually share much about my personal life, but…” that’s authentic. That’s you.
Divulging the income you earn from your blog down to the last cent is authentic. Never saying a word about it is also authentic.
Confessing to personal failures, fears, and weaknesses is being authentic. So is keeping quiet about them. Spreading the word about your magnificence and how your armpit odor should be marketed as eau de moi is yet another form of authenticity.
In other words, you are who you are. If you’re a master manipulator, that’s authentic. If you’re as guileless as a sheltered teenager on your first date, that’s authentic too.
What else can you be?
Authentic is defined by Oxford Dictionaries like this:
of undisputed origin; genuine: the letter is now accepted as an authentic document
authentic 14th-century furniture
Who can dispute your origin? Are you the genuine you with all your faults and foibles? If not, what or who are you?
made or done in the traditional or original way, or in a way that faithfully resembles an original: the restaurant serves authentic Italian meals
every detail of the movie was totally authentic
If you’re authentic, are you made or done in the traditional or original way? That doesn’t sound quite right. And if you’re faithfully resembling an original, well, good luck.
based on facts; accurate or reliable: an authentic depiction of the situation
Now we’re talking about something that sounds like honesty. If you want to be authentic, is it all about honesty? Certainly, you shouldn’t be lying. Definitely not.
Instead of striving for authenticity (whatever that is), should you strive for honesty? I’m all for honesty—I can’t imagine lying about something in a blog post or anywhere else online. Too much trouble, as far as I’m concerned, and pointless.
But does honesty mean you need to be 100% open, direct, and in your face about every single thing you write about?
If that’s what’s meant by authentic, I don’t think the concept would be as popular as it is.
I’ve mentioned a few bits and pieces about my personal life in blog posts over the last few years, but I don’t think you want or need to know all the gory details. Nor am I interested in telling you.
Does that mean I’m not authentic?
And as far as accurate and reliable goes, I do hope you’re doing some fact-checking whenever you post factual information (I’ve seen some doozies).
But if you make a mistake or leave something out inadvertently, does that mean you’re not accurate and reliable? Maybe.
But it doesn’t mean you’re not authentic. It only means you’re authentically unknowledgeable or careless.
Who you are, your true self, the “real” you, is always reflected in what you write. You really can’t hide anything. Even if you’re a slick con artist of some kind or trying to be someone you’re not, people can tell. Even online.
We’re all authentic, and there’s no way to become more authentic or stay authentic.
And if you define “authentic” as being honest, why not just call it what it is instead of using a pleasant-sounding euphemism that means whatever anyone wants it to mean?
Maybe some of us embrace the notion of authenticity because we’re not quite ready to be fully honest. A good story or article or blog post doesn’t tell everything, after all, only the parts that keep the reader moving along.
Or we want to be something or have some sort of guideline but we’re not sure what.
What do you mean by authentic?