It’s that time of year for plenty of posts on how to “transform” yourself for the new year, and setting goals to better yourself is certainly a worthy pursuit no matter when you do it. But I can’t help thinking that sometimes, we get so caught up in trying to live up to other people’s expectations that it’s easy to lose sight of what makes us unique as individuals. Whether online or out in the world, we live in an era when those expectations are always on display, and our mistakes, mishaps, and embarrassing moments are more public than ever.
One option is to give in to those expectations, hide your true feelings, toe the line, and filter your actions based on what you think other people want to see. You won’t be surprised to learn that I advocate for a slightly different position.
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because, in the end, those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.” ~Dr. Seuss
If you want to see the full spectrum, from too real to totally artificial, just visit your favorite social platform. You’ll find some influencers who aim to build a following solely by doing what’s expected, playing on audience expectations, and never revealing a thing about who they really are. They may say something controversial, as long as they believe that’s what their audience wants to hear.
These people may succeed initially in building a following, but it’s a fickle thing. One wrong step – or break from character – and that same audience will move onto someone else who tells them what they want to hear.
Then you have the people who always speak their mind, no matter what, even when saying nothing would be the much wiser path. TMI is real, and it’s not hard to find someone who wants to tell you about their bodily functions, or discuss their position on every controversial political and social issue of the day. It’s great to feel comfortable being open, but you don’t necessarily need to share every single gory detail.
The true influencers – those who last, build connections, and foster relationships – know how to be authentic, honest, and real, without going over the top. They might touch on a controversial subject, but they’ll do it thoughtfully, rather than offering a rapid-fire opinion on every trending topic. They’ll let you in on meaningful details of their personal lives without sharing so much that you feel like you’re at someone else’s family reunion. They’re not perfect, but they embrace that fact and accept that they can’t please everyone.
Most importantly, they’re comfortable in their own skin – which is important both online and out in the world. I gravitate toward people who are authentic and confident in who they are, and I try to be the same way when dealing with other people. I may not always say exactly what you want to hear, but what I do say is coming from an honest place. My opinions are just mine, and I try to provide enough background that you’ll understand where I’m coming from, even if you don’t ultimately agree.
On a marketing, social, and influence level, you’ll often go much farther being authentic than you will by only saying and doing the expected. But this isn’t just about building a following. Being who you are, connecting with the people who matter, and refusing to be dragged down by the negative, ultimately makes for a happier life with more freedom. Just be “you,” and the rest will come along.
This originally appeared on Ted Rubin.
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