Online business owners, bloggers, and Instagram ‘stars’ are often criticised for being fake, inauthentic, and not 100% real. With carefully selected photos only showing a certain portion of that individual’s life, some of which often involve multiple shots to ‘perfect’, and many other posts allegedly being ‘undercover sponsorships’ – there has been a cry out of late for people to be more real and transparent in the online world.
Not only did we recently see Essena O’Neill hit the headlines as she quit social media after feeling like a fraud, and as a result encouraged others to not believe everything they read in the online world – but I’ve been seeing articles and blog posts popping up everywhere about how fake online business owners and personalities are. I have also heard my clients and many of my peers speak of their struggles around feeling real in the online world, when their life and work is seemingly more of a struggle than the shiny social media feeds that they see and the interviews with ‘successful’ entrepreneurs that they listen to on podcasts.
Now I know there is a BIG truth here – there are people out there who are arguably inauthentic, who allude to a perfect life when their real life is far from it, and who aren’t transparent in their business or life. But this isn’t the whole truth – and I think it is lazy and detrimental to our own health and happiness to convince ourselves that it is.
In this article I hope to encourage you to challenge your thinking around this topic – in a way that will hopefully help you grow and become more authentic and connected to your true self.
Monitor your internal dialogue
Next time you are looking at someone’s social media feed, listening to an interview about them, or reading one of their articles – start to make a deliberate effort to monitor your internal dialogue.
Do you find yourself saying things like the below sometimes?
- Meh, that’s just their highlight real. As if their life is that perfect. What a fake. Why can’t they show us the good, bad and the ugly?
- Why are they pushing this product on me? They must be sponsored for this post and aren’t being transparent about it. How immoral of them.
- Look how beautiful they are. They must have used a filter. Why can’t they show us their real self? You aren’t being real if you use filters or alter photos in any way.
- That photo is clearly staged. Why can’t they show us the truth behind it? Who’s life looks like that, really!?
- It’s easy for her. She’s an overnight success. She doesn’t have kids. Things have come easy for her. She has connections. Why can’t she just be honest and admit that?
If you hear a voice whispering things like the above to you, I gently encourage you to call yourself out: they are judgements.
You are judging that person. Maybe you’re silent accusations are right. Maybe you’re silent accusations are wrong. Maybe your silent accusations are partly right, partly wrong. In most cases, you won’t know either way, despite your suspicions or what you convince yourself to be true. But there is one thing that you can know for sure – you are making a judgement.
Start to pay attention to the judgements you are making. Are they coming from a genuine place – or are they coming from your inner critic or mean girl and are in fact associated with a self-judgment? Make an effort to become super aware of them – what is being said, what triggered them, why was it a trigger, how are you feeling, why is it hurting you, what buttons have been pushed, what fear do they amplify within you? Turn the mirror on yourself and get an intimate understanding of why that photo or interview or article resulted in that judgement.
Focus on yourself and your own growth
When we make judgements like these, it is often because what we have seen or heard has triggered something inside of us. Something that we are personally struggling with or have strong beliefs about.
- Maybe that perfect picture or Instagram feed has made that niggling feeling in your heart like your own life isn’t perfect rear it’s head?
- Maybe that interview where an author talks about how she connected to her inner self and the book just flowed out with ease and grace touched a sore point where your own writing journey hasn’t been so simple?
- Maybe that selfie with those shining eyes and clear skin has reminded you of how you don’t love and accept yourself as much as you would like to?
- Maybe that online coach who shares all of her achievements has hurt you because your own business hasn’t been progressing as quickly as you had hoped it would?
- Or maybe your just plain pissed off about people not being real online and am over it BIG TIME!
I personally believe that judging someone (regardless of whether we are right or wrong in these judgments) is taking the easy way out. It is much more difficult to peer within and identify why they triggered something within you and use the insights you unearth as a lesson to move forward and apply to our own self-awareness and growth.
So next time you feel yourself judging someone or triggered by an inauthentic example on social media, I encourage you to look within yourself and focus on how you can use what you are feeling to grow as a person and become your most authentic and best self.
Reflect on your own definition and application of ‘real’
I think that terms like ‘real’ and ‘authenticity’ are not black and white. They are complex and can shift depending on the context.
According to psychological testing, my number one strength is honesty. Having said this, I suspect my definition of ‘real’ and ‘authentic’ in the online world is different to many others, simply because I contextualise.
To me, being real and authentic is being my true self in both private and public. In the online world as a business owner, this means sharing the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ – IF I think it will help those who read it. Every time I share something less than perfect about myself or my life or business, I generally do it to connect with my reader, to give a glimpse into my world, or to share a lesson that I’ve learnt that I think can help them.
Having said this, I have also made a conscious effort to balance not sharing absolutely everything with them. It’s okay to have boundaries. Just because I operate an online business and social media accounts, doesn’t mean that the public has a right to know absolutely everything about me and the intricacies of my life. Some things are frankly none of their business.
I think in order to find your balance of being ‘real’ and still honouring yourself and your privacy, you need to reflect on:
- How you define ‘real’ and ‘authentic’ – and what are your ‘rules’ or ‘criteria’ for operating in alignment with this.
- Who is your ideal client, what is your niche, who are your audience, and who are you here to serve – because what you post should generally be in alignment with this.
- What is your intention for being visible online? What is your truth? Why are you here? And how does this impact on you being your most authentic and real self?
- What your boundaries are – what things are personal and sacred to you – and don’t need to be shared publicly.
- What can you learn from the judgments you’ve made of others and how they portray themselves online? How does this help you decide how you will and won’t behave?
It is then your responsibility to act in accordance with your definition of authenticity. When you see someone post a photo or make a comment online that triggers a judgement about them not being ‘real’, you can then do the following:
- Remember that their definition, ideal client, niche and boundaries might be different to yours – and that you need to be mindful of the context of which they are sharing the information. Remind yourself that what matters is that you’re living in alignment with your own values and authentic intentions – not what someone else is doing.
- Reflect on why it triggered something within you and question whether you need to relook at your definition or adjust your own online behaviour based on what you have learnt about yourself.
- Remind yourself to use the experience as a lesson to grow and become further aligned to your real and authentic self – rather than to belittle yourself or that person for not being real or perfect.
- Make a conscious effort to remind yourself to be more loving and accepting of yourself, as the inner critic is often at play when we ponder on these issues. Ask yourself – if I was my highest self right now, and truly loved and accepted myself, what would I say or do?
I really hope that you find this article useful when wading through the online world. We all (including myself) see images and words that trigger difficult feelings within us and result in judgements – we are human after all (and I personally don’t think judgements are always a bad thing!). But I do strongly believe, and try to practice myself, in using these instances as a way to learn more about ourselves and live more in alignment with our truth and purpose.
Let’s soar together,