A few days ago, I was scrolling through one of my favourite social media groups when a discussion caught my eye.
Someone asked a really cool question (well, I thought it was cool, but I get quite excitable about such things), and the question was this: how do you feel about the advice to ‘be authentic’ – love it or hate it?
Given that we’ve been talking about finding and using your authentic voice in this blog series for the last couple of months, this piqued my interest.
For Emma and me, what matters first and foremost is that you feel confident enough to use your authentic voice, and you know how to find and use it in practical terms. But this particular discussion went quite wide in the topics it covered…has the word ‘authentic’ become over-used, do people really know what they mean by it anyway, and so on.
I engaged in a really thought-provoking conversation with someone in this thread – someone I know from other groups and pages, and whom I like and admire enormously. This particular business owner oozes personality and her star quality in her videos really inspires me.
This fabulous lady described the people she sees online who are “totally not authentic” because they are “trying to be too professional”.
Now, I get where this is coming from. We live in an age where, joyously, it’s becoming okay – more than okay – to just be ourselves. We don’t have to pretend to be happy when really we’re sad. We don’t have to pretend to be running at full speed when really we’re feeling under par. We don’t have to pretend to be someone we’re not.
We can stand up, loud and proud, for the causes that matter to us. We can stand firmly by our values and beliefs, without the need to confirm to any old-fashioned view of who we should be.
Am I too uptight to be authentic?
But as someone whose style could probably be best described as ‘professional but warm’, should I be worried? Am I too uptight? Should I let it all hang out more? (Spoiler alert: that’s really not going to be a pretty sight.)
This really has struck a chord with me.
I must admit, finding my own voice after decades spent in the corporate world has definitely been more of a challenge than I ever imagined it would be. But even though I’ve found a voice that really sounds like me, I’ve also found that I still want to be professional!
In fact, I’ve come to suspect I have the word “professional” running through me like the lettering in a stick of rock.
So does that mean I’m not being authentic?
Of course, I’m not talking about putting on a corporate telephone voice and a Stepford smile, or using management speak full of jargon and rubbish, or focusing more on the slick presentation than the substance underneath.
When I talk about being professional, I’m talking about one simple thing – recognising that when a client pays me for a professional service, they’re trusting me to take it seriously. With warmth and connection?…ABSOLUTELY! But if you come to us for professional and expert help, you’re going to get professional experts.
(I don’t always take myself all that seriously, by the way, but I take what I do very seriously indeed.)
A (fine) line between work and home?
In fact, I’m really okay with there being a line between ‘work me’ and ‘casual me’. Actually, I think it’s healthy. In all honesty, ‘work me’ and ‘casual me’ aren’t even all that different, but I will at least wash my face and put on real clothes to turn up as ‘work me’…
And here’s why I wanted to share this story with you as we close our blog series on authentic voice. Being authentic goes much deeper than style or the picture you paint on social media. That’s why it’s hard to communicate with impact and influence when you’re NOT standing in your authentic space, because you’re not feeling it.
Really great communication flows with ease and enjoyment when you’re speaking from your heart as well as your head.
By the way, I promise you will always get the authentic me, speaking in my authentic voice…not by showing you my home life (warts and all) but by living faithfully by the values that matter most to me. Honesty. Integrity. Doing the right thing, whether anyone’s watching or not. Being a safe pair of hands to help you build your reputation and your influence – in fact, caring about your business results as if they were my own.
And that’s why I celebrate being both “professional” AND “authentic”. Because that’s really me.
I might not be as funky or as funny as other experts in the online space – but I’m not comparing myself to them. I’m just being me, and I hope to be the best version of me every single day.
So, who are you? Comfortably and joyously you?
THAT’S the voice that matters.
So, that’s it for our blog series on authentic voice – but it’s far from being the last time we’ll talk about it! It’s such an important way you’ll show your value to the world, and it’s at the heart of how we help people like you do just that.
Please let us know what YOU think. Drop a comment here, or come over and see us on our Facebook page.
Until next time, I am authentically yours…
Lucy & Emma | The Communication Coaches