On Authenticity

Aktualisiert: 15. Apr 2019

On Social Media, in business relations and when building a company

A few years back, I heard for the first time for myself and for anyone, for that matter, the feedback: “She is authentic”. Since then, I’ve bumped more and more into the concept of “authenticity” and felt the dilemmas we all have between showing our truth and conforming with the expectations of others especially on social media, in professional relationships and in building a company.

Social Media

The social media dilemma was probably the easiest for me to resolve. I’ve decided quite early that I don’t care about expectations. I don’t care how many followers I have, I don’t care about filters and “face beautifying apps”. It is an outlet to be creative, to train my eye for design and to tell my beauty: my city, my moods, my likes, #lifewithnofilter #liveinthelight.

Business Relations

In business relations it gets trickier. In the corporate world, juniors that are authentic, i.e. express their truth, are encouraged as they are seen as fresh minds whose main objective is to help the company keep up with the times (from personal experience, as well as Adam Grants’ book, “The Originals”).

But later, especially for women, there is a fine line between being perceived “authentic” or “too emotional/too direct”. It is the hardest when one talks about things nobody in a team wants to hear or that do not follow “the known story”. I am perplexed how much energy and value are wasted in organisations because everyone is more preoccupied with fitting an image (with my favourite two extremes – the yes-sir and the I-am-smarter) than actually focusing on the content and the problems to solve.

For now, I picked for this dilemma what I call “honesty with kindness”. It means that I have promised myself to always tell my truth when it helps the common objective and the persons involved, in a way that is inclusive and assumes that we all bring our best intentions to the table. Is it easy? No. Do I need it to keep my self-esteem? Yes.

Photo by Inspired by you from Pexels

Building a company

But the hardest it has been for me to think about authenticity in the context of my company. I've read recently “Marketing Rebellion” by Mark Schaefer, and I’ve become aware of how brainwashed I am by the current marketing thinking. How can you be authentic to “Diversity. Responsibility. Transparency. Respect.” (values that most companies put on their websites) when there are no minorities in critical company roles, profit comes before environment protection, fiscal heavens are a “smart move” or one lists phone numbers of different countries on one's website to appear bigger than one is? (This last one is hailed as a great start-up growth hack.)

So this is how I’ve decided to approach it for my company. First, be self-aware and see it as a journey: I have worked for 14 years in the capitalist system as it is now, with all its strengths and imperfections. It’s going to be a continuous personal learning to challenge what I see as “normal” and to choose the action that is aligned with my values and helps the common good.

Then, I have revised the principles I want Bonamode to have and made them stronger, more difficult to reach for a company: Love. Learning. Freedom. Joy.

  • Love encompasses care, respect and responsibility for everyone involved.

  • Learning because that’s the healthiest way to grow. It pushes us to accept that we are not perfect, but to be aware of our strengths and weaknesses and take conscious decisions.

  • Freedom because it’s the most noble benefit of Profit, it allows a team to follow its principles and to support efficiently as many people as possible.

  • Joy because this world is as it is, so it’s better to celebrate the good and change what can be changed.

Finally, I struggled the most with transparency, which is part of authenticity, and concerns many sensitive subjects in the life of company, from how products are made to financials, salaries and decision-making. I was inspired by Tony’s Chocolate openness about their production process and financials, as well as Buurtzog’s transparency about their processes and learnings. So I’d rather choose candidness, being candid. Like the fact that I am still learning German and that there might be text errors on the website. I am so happy when someone emails me about a mistake they found and want to support me to correct me, simply because they know I am here to serve.

These are my thoughts so far. I’ll update with any learnings I’ll get on the way, but I’m more interested how do you see authenticity, how do you express it in your personal and professional life?

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