The New Scarlet Letter: A for Authenticity

by Deborah A Bailey

Are you tired of keeping up appearances? Feel like you have to play a role so that people will perceive you in a certain way? Why is that even necessary?  If you're caught up in the branding and marketing and obsessing over what this one or that one is doing - and whether they might know something you don't (so you'd better do what they're doing) - just stop and take a breath. Really. Just stop.. 

You're Not Doing it Wrong

You're not doing it wrong. In case you haven't noticed, at this point things are changing so fast that what used to work may not come close to working now.

What's the answer? If you're at a crossroads and you don't know what to do next, drop the posing, the fancy titles, the contrived elevator speeches, and get down to basics. Be yourself. People really are tired of all the fakery. We've seen it much too often and it's all starting to sound the same.

What Does it Mean to Be Authentic?

To me being authentic isn't just another buzzword to throw out there when you want to prove your street cred. Doing things just to stand out is just as fake as turning away from who you really are to go along with the status quo (unless you are the status quo - in that case, carry on).

What I mean is, if it took you 20 years and tons of failures to create the success you have now, that's not a bad thing. But if it did take you 20 years and tons of failures and you tell me that it only took 6 months and a simple system (which you will sell me for $997.00) that's stretching things a bit.

What's Your Why?

People start their own businesses for various reasons. Maybe you couldn't stand working for someone else. Or you were downsized and now you want to do your own thing. Maybe you wanted to spend more time taking care of your family and desired work that allowed you to do that.

When I left corporate I did it because I wanted to be my own boss - manage my own time and my own life. It was exhausting to continue the 12-hour days and the 4-hour commute so that I could sit in some grey cubicle all day. If I had been able to enjoy my work and feel a sense of purpose, I could have dealt with all the stuff around it. But over the years, the "stuff" grew bigger and bigger, and the job satisfaction disappeared. I began to question what I was doing with my life. It became unbearable to think that I'd have nothing more to look forward to day after day.

Having your own business is not easy. It is often full of anxiety, insecurity and losses. But at the same time it can be fulfilling, creative and abundant. Going out on my own has reconnected me with a part of myself that I'd put aside for years. In the workplace, I stopped believing in the things that I wanted to accomplish. Instead for a long time I kept my head down and focused on "going along to get along" so that I could keep my job. Unfortunately when I went out on my own I brought a lot of that mindset with me. 

O.P.F. – Other People's Feedback

When I started out with a freelance writing business, people had no problem letting me know that "writers don't make any money." Then after I published my book,"Think Like an Entrepreneur: Transforming Your Career and Taking Charge of Your Life" I was told that "books don't make any money." Hey, I've got nothing against making money, but I doubt there's only one model to follow in order to do it.

After wasting a lot of time trying to be like everyone else, and following the advice of others who can only tell me how to do what they've done, I've decided to let all that go. Why did I go out on my own in the first place? To lock myself up in another prison like the grey cube I ran away from? If I was tired of following along within the corporate structure, why am I choosing to be a follower now?

What's Your Vision?

Look in the mirror and take an honest assessment of who's staring back at you. Can you learn from people who are running successful businesses? Yes. Can you learn from people who haven't been as successful? Yes.

Take it all in, the successes, the failures, the things you like and the things you don't. Create your business around your vision and be willing to experience the good, the bad and the ugly to bring it into existence. Stop feeling that you have to follow or wait for permission to do what you want to do. Trust yourself to lead. Throw in some self love - and wear that scarlet letter proudly.

(Putting on my English major hat here to note that the title of this article refers to "The Scarlet Letter"  which is a book by Nathaniel Hawthorne. However, in the book, Hester Prynne had to wear her letter for an entirely different reason.)

Deborah A. Bailey is author of two non-fiction books including, “Think Like an Entrepreneur: Transforming Your Career and Taking Charge of Your Life .” She's also the creator and host of Women Entrepreneurs Radio, a weekly internet talk show. Her fiction work includes a short story collection and a novel, available on 
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Arabella Bianco said...

Thank you Deborah. It's hard being a rebel, and tiring!

Best Wishes Arabella Bianco

Deb Bailey said...

Hi Arabella! I'm learning that though it can be tiring, it's a lot less stressful than trying to go along. That's why self love and trust is so important. They give you energy as you follow your own path. Thanks for your comments!

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