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Being authentic is something that gets tossed around a lot online. It seems to be a pretty easy concept. You are yourself. You do not make an effort to be something or someone you are not. And you can’t say it about yourself. It’s like being cool – something only other people can say about you. 

When I first started looking at this piece, I decided to ask Chat GPT about being authentic in business. This in itself feels like a strange approach. As if I couldn’t trust my own judgement on the matter and need AI to tell me an acceptable view of authenticity.

The AI piece mentioned words like ‘genuine’, ‘honest’ and ‘trust’ quite a lot. Transparent cropped up quite a lot too. What it didn’t mention, however, was acceptance which to me is a key part of authenticity.


Acceptance is knowing that not everyone will like you. That some things I find boring other people enjoy.  That you can be a football fan and be mates with someone who loves opera. That you can accept these differences without any issues. I think this is a lot easier to do in real life than on the internet. Let me explain.

Hanging out with different groups of people and getting to know them means focusing on your common interests. So you might talk about how much you enjoy the repetitive beats of Pete Tong to anyone from your Granddad to next door’s cat to the postie. However, you’re going to get the best response from someone who has or is developing a similar appreciation. 

We all let loose with different parts of our personality depending on whether we’re on a night out with friends, at a networking lunch or meeting new neighbours. In fact, it seems like the only time you’d come unstuck here is a big social gathering, like your wedding or a big birthday, that brings all these groups together. 

What you’re doing with all of them is finding a connection. That’s what businesses want to do too. Find the right people for their product or service.

Being authentic online

That’s where the issue with the internet comes along. It’s a very judgy place and that makes it hard to be yourself. Being on the internet is like being in a big party with everyone you know plus a group of passing strangers who dropped by because the door was open. And someone is going to hold you personally responsible for the car park down the road being full. Sometimes this can lead to great conversations with exploration of different viewpoints and the sharing of experiences. You know, exactly the ideal we have in mind when we champion sharing online.

On other occasions, it just makes you ask yourself if you’re too much. Or what will happen if you say something that gets a hostile response? So you might try to be who people want you to be and that’s where it all comes unstuck because you’re not being you any more. 

Even writing this I’m thinking about what people might say when they read it. That it shouldn’t say anything that might upset someone. The thing is if I did that then I may as well use the bland and boring version that AI wrote.

I don’t like boring so you’ve got this instead. An acceptance that being authentic also means turning the volume up or down so, to speak, in different situations to focus on common interests. That I’m my most authentic when I’m feeling relaxed and accepted. That fear is what stops us from being ourselves.