Authenticity is not glossy and clean

17.02.2015 - 16:58 · 3 min read

One of the favourite subjects of any blogging or business "gurus" is authenticity. They drum for your content to be authentic, which means basically genuine, real and original. When you write a blog post, Tweet or a Facebook update you need to use your own voice, style and be true about what you are conveying. That's all very true. The same time these "gurus" also tend to tell you to be positive and make your readers and followers feel good. They want authenticity as long as it's glossy and clean. Nobody wants to hear unpleasant things and most people get really uneasy when they have to face anger or sadness.

Authenticity is not glossy and clean -- Mervi Emilia

You know that cliché in movies and television shows where a woman bursts into tears and all the men around start to look for a way out. That might be true, but it forgets that also many women would want a way out in that same spot. As a species we haven't yet evolved above the nervousness certain feelings cause us. In nature it makes sense. Anger is meant to scare the hunters and rivals away and sadness is often a sign of sickness and death. Being exposed to those kind of emotions hits our very basic instincts.

On web anger and sadness only becomes popular if it has comical value or if it's some really morbid story, preferably with an uplifting ending. Have you seen those videos where a perky type pretends to be angry in an oh-so-cute manner to make a point that even they have bad days? It often is followed by advice about getting over with it and becoming cheery again. All that makes anyone with real sadness or anger or troubles in their life feel like a second class person. Continuous anger and sadness is bad for you, as much your mind and body, that's true. Trying to pretend you never experience them is equally as bad. Suppressing emotions can cause you heart disease or even cancer. Now you could point out that there are other ways and forums for airing your feelings than in public. That the rest of us shouldn't have to deal with them. What if everyone keeps up appearances and shows up happy and pretty online? That's not authentic. That will fool anyone to think it's the only way to be, and all the "negative" emotions are wrong.

As I mentioned on the latest Week in review I received a great piece of feedback from someone on my email list. They wrote it's especially great about my emails that they are not superficial, trivial and nothing-really-saying filler content some bloggers send their lists and that I've got my heart in it. It made me think what's the secret. My emails cover subjects that aren't always positive and cheery. I don't try and do uplifting, because frankly I don't work that way. It wouldn't be authentic to me to be overly positive, look only on the good sides of events and write about fluffy and easy things. I know some people get uncomfortable with this and some have unsubscribed from the list when they've felt my emails aren't easy enough for them. Similarly I have been privately scolded by people who want to hide behind a façade of success and perfection for being too open about my life and work. Unfortunately they are right in a way. Appearing successful can help you become successful, land a job and make loads of money. I've learned the hard way that trying to make others happy and appear as something I'm not is unhealthy. It's how I ended up having a burnout before I was 25. Authenticity, that real kind of authenticity which includes the "negative" emotions, is one way for me to keep myself sane. Also finding out that others have similar problems, aren't always successful and cheery and have went through rough times has helped me. I would still think I'm the only one with my anxiety and depression unless someone at some point hadn't been brave enough to talk about their emotions and struggles in public.

Authenticity requires the whole variation of emotions. It's not pretty, in times it's raw. It doesn't leave out sadness or anger to benefit those who want to close their eyes from it. Authenticity is messy and often anything but cute and sparkly.

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Mervi's picture

I'm Mervi Emilia Eskelinen, an artist and business consultant and coach from Finland. I help indie businesses, freelancers and bloggers to find focus with their branding, marketing and web. I have almost 20 years of experience and a bachelor's degree in everything about digital media and marketing.