Do you always try to be your most authentic self? Social media experts claim that authenticity is the key to success.
“Creating a remarkable experience for an audience starts with authenticity,” according to Copyblogger’s blog. Neil Patel, founder of QuickSprout, says, “Being authentic means being true to who you are as a person, writer, or company.
But wait a minute. What if they’ve got it wrong and authenticity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?
Don’t Be Yourself
That’s the position of Adam Grant, the nationally recognized professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He’s also a best selling author and TED speaker.
In other words, people listen to what he has to say, and in a New York Times opinion piece he claims that being yourself is “terrible advice.”
Grant says, “If I can be authentic for a moment: Nobody wants to see your true self. We all have thoughts and feelings that we believe are fundamental to our lives, but they are better left unspoken.”
It may be authentic to tell a colleague what a boring speech he just made, but why hurt his feelings?
How authentic you are depends on a personality trait called self-monitoring, he says. If you’re a high self-monitor, you’re very careful about what you say and do, adjusting to social cues. You don’t want to offend anyone.
If you’re a low self-monitor, you listen to your inner voice, regardless of your circumstances. Sort of “what’s on your mind is on your tongue.” That may be more authentic, but can hurt your career prospects. Studies show that high self-monitors are more likely to be promoted into leadership positions.
I wonder, does being a higher self-monitor – or less authentic – mean being a phony? Grant says “no.” That’s because being conscious of your environment and striving to present yourself as you really are to others based on social cues may not be authentic, but it is “sincere.”
“The shift from authenticity to sincerity might be especially important for Millennials,” says Grant. One finding is that younger generations tend to be less concerned about social approval.
“Authentic self-expression works beautifully, until employers start to look at social media profiles,” he says.
We’re All Putting on a Front
Grant’s opinion piece got me to thinking that we’re all putting on a front of our public selves. We’re designing and projecting the profile of the person we’d like to be, and that isn’t always who we really are.
I know that in more than one job, I was given what are called “stretch” assignments. They are meant to challenge you beyond your knowledge and experience.
I attended a seminar of a major money center bank a few years ago. Several senior women executives were talking to members of the bank’s “Women’s Initiative,” who were mainly middle managers.
The head of one of the Bank’s biggest profit centers recalled a meeting when she was still climbing the career ladder. Her then boss called her into his office and asked her to take on a particularly challenging assignment.
She nervously told him, “I won’t know what I’m doing.” He replied, “Hell, no one knows what they’re doing. Just make it up as you go along.”
That’s what most of us are doing, I think. The world is changing so rapidly that it’s hard to keep up. Me, I’m going to do more self-monitoring. No one needs to know when I’m scared or don’t know what I’m doing.
I may not be projecting my authentic self, but I will always be sincere in figuring it out and in striving to do the best that I can.