Unfakeable – Why Authenticity in Business Matters

Author: Katerina Thomas

authenticity in business

Authenticity is a hot topic in business right now. And for a good reason. People want honesty, they want some realness from brands, businesses, and social influencers. But what effect does authenticity has on business? And if the advice is to be more authentic what do you make of the advice to fake it till you make it? Let’s find out.

In this episode, Katerina talks about

Part 1: How to be authentic and true to yourself

Part 2: Authenticity and the power of ‘Why’

Part 3: ‘Fake it until you make it’ and have a positive mental outlook

Part 1: How to be authentic and true to yourself

I once met a girl who told me how she started her business. Christiana is a fashion and nutritional coach and also a mum of four kids.

When Christiana had her fourth child she got very depressed. And, to feel better she started looking for something to do.

So, what can you do when you feel down all the time? Well, she learned make-up, and she learned photography. And although all these activities made her feel a bit better, something was missing.

She wasn’t happy. So what was wrong? It turned out Christiana had postnatal depression.

The true real reason why she felt so down was that she wasn’t happy about her weight. She wasn’t happy about the way she looked. And, she wasn’t happy about having children.

But, one day Christiana decided to start a Facebook page. The idea was to start helping mums like her to lose weight by inspiring them on social media. And, like many starting solopreneurs, she invited friends and family to ‘like’ her Facebook page.

She was expecting them to ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ but no one did. No one liked her page or engaged with her social posts. That’s kind of sucked.

Some of her friends and family even criticized her for starting a page.. As you can imagine this was a big blow for Christiana. Supportive friendship and understanding can make a huge difference when you feel down. And lack of such support is not helpful at all.

But Christiana kept going. She was authentic in her messages. She was creating content to help other mums. And, it was no longer about her. It was about other mums who wanted to lose weight and feel better about themselves.

What is Authenticity?

Today I want to talk about authenticity. In personal life and in business. I’m sure you’ve heard the word ‘authenticity’ many times over. It’s kind of become a cliche.

Authenticity is a hot topic in business right now. And for a good reason. People want honesty, they want some realness from brands, businesses, and social influencers.

Authentic people don’t pretend to be someone they aren’t. They’re unapologetic, they follow their principles and beliefs when they make decisions.

They don’t hide their flaws or try to appear perfect. Or, be something they’re not. They show their failures as well as their successes. And they don’t pretend to have all the answers when they don’t or say things because they sound nice. In other words, they’re being themselves.

Many of us think of ourselves as (more or less) authentic. But each of us in certain situations and in certain ways is a bit hypocritical, and a bit false.

For example, think about how someone you know shares only “good” pictures of themselves or posts on social media. We’ve seen people doing this, we’ve done it ourselves too.

But why are we doing this? Being real comes at a cost… sometimes. People who liked us before may stop liking us. So, if we feel we might lose their love, we will not be completely honest and authentic.

And, this is the opposite of being real.

We want people to like us even if we don’t admit it. And its kind of hurts because we are social creatures. We want to belong to a group.

Most of us don’t want to look bad, naive or say something wrong, or stupid. So what do we do instead? We play along, we put on a mask ‘hiding’ our true identity.

But, do we always realize this? Of course, not. This often takes place in our subconscious minds.

But gone are the days when you put your professional persona on LinkedIn. And, your family life – on Facebook. And, your perfect life – on Instagram.

Today people want to see the ‘real you’ irrespective of the channel you’re using.

But if we are not being truthful about who we are, we pay the price. We lose a sense of connection with our audience. Always trying to “look good” can have a bad effect on our well-being and our sense of connection.

Social media is an amplifier, so if you fake your persona – it will amplify your fakeness. And your perceived ‘fakeness’ will intensify the Imposter syndrome.

What is this Imposter syndrome? And, how do you know you have it?

One way to determine is to ask yourself some questions like..

  • Do I ever feel like I’m the dumbest person in the room? Or have self-doubt?
  • Do I feel ashamed and embarrassed about something?
  • Do I act like everything is fine in front of others, but don’t let anyone know that I feel very insecure?

Imposter syndrome is when you feel like you’re not good enough. Or don’t deserve the successes you’ve had. Or worry that someone will find out that I’m not who I say I am and I’ll lose everything that I’ve built.

So What is the effect of not being real or authentic on business? But you know the answer already. The world is changing fast and we know how powerful social media is. People are watching you and they are judging you. I know, it sounds a bit creepy but they do.

Part 2: Authenticity and the power of ‘Why’

People want authenticity. They want to deal with companies that show real emotion and care about what they do.

So, by being real in your business you create loyal customers and inspire others to do the same.

And how do you do that? By being open and by showing that you care.

The most important thing about a business isn’t what you do, but why you’re doing it. Or Your Story, Your Big WHY..

I’m sure you’ve heard a famous TED talk by Simon Sinek about the power of ‘Why’. Sinek is addressing the concept of (the Golden Circle) which is doing the whole magic. In his talk, Sinek teaches how great organizations communicate, lead, and get loyal customers. He argues that great leaders and organizations focus on WHY they do what they do, instead of What they do and How they do it.

This is a powerful message. And, the key message here is that your brand and your company need to reflect something bigger than yourself.

You need to speak to people on a deeper level than selling products or services. You need your business or brand to be different and unique. And, one way to build your uniqueness is through your personal story.

People know you, and then they like you and finally, they trust you, and then they buy from you. Of course, you can make a quick sale without all this. But your customers will not buy from you again unless you show them why they should buy from you.

And why is this important for you to have customers wanting to buy more from you? Once you have acquired a customer you paid the acquisition cost whether it’s the cost of running an ad. Or a cost of your time writing content that leads people to you and your brand.

Many business owners believe that they should find new customers to make their business work. And this is backward.

When you focus on your big WHY and when you’re real with your customers through a story – you build stronger relationships.

You connect with people on a more personal and emotional level. You show them who you are, what you stand for, and why you do what you do.

I often struggle with the idea of being 100% authentic.. Because I know it can also backfire if you go too far with it. Being too authentic can make you repulsive to certain people or even groups of people. This is especially true if your ideas or beliefs are unpopular or controversial in some way.

If you choose the path of 100% honesty, expect people to disagree with you or even troll you. But it’s a personal choice. By being real, you’re taking a risk that some people or a group of people will disagree with your ideas or beliefs.

Is this a bad thing? You decide.. For some, it is, for others, it’s not. Still, it doesn’t hurt to be mindful of who you’re choosing to be authentic with.

If you share your personal beliefs about controversial topics with clients, be mindful of the effect. You’re risking making some people uncomfortable or even unhappy because today we live in a polarized devised society. This manifests itself through a wider gap between the views of different groups of people.

Another point here is that being too real and genuine can actually come across as a bit abnormal or even fake to some people. In business, being too authentic can limit your options when it comes to finding partners. Brands or companies might see you as a bad fit.

So the bottom line is authenticity is a good thing to have, but only to a certain point. So be mindful of the risks so you don’t limit your options in the long run.

Part 3: ‘Fake it until you make it’ and have a positive mental outlook

Another point here is that being unreal leads to Imposter Syndrome. Perhaps you’ve had the phrase ‘fake it till you make it’.

I remember the first time I ever heard this phrase.

I was doing my advanced degree and I was teaching part-time in front of a large audience for the first time. Of course, I didn’t know how to manage large classes. And, of course, I wasn’t confident.

I had some disruptive students in my classes and I struggled to keep them engaged. So, the advice was to pretend to be more confident. This didn’t replace the need for training and skills development of course but having a more positive mental outlook helped a lot.

Fake it till you make it is a great phrase because it is telling you to act as if you’ve already achieved what you wanted to achieve.

There is some interesting neuroscience research that suggests that “Fake it until you make it” can lead you to a happier place. The very act of smiling for example can elevate your mood. Self-belief strengthens your tendency to be right.

Many people don’t understand this concept. It’s not about pretending to know the answer when you don’t can lead to mistakes if caused by overconfidence (and we will talk about it on another programme). Instead, it’s about projecting a confident mindset in the face of adversity.

Studies show that the technique often works. Think about the effect of Placebos in medicine. So it’s like that.

But no matter who you are, what you do, or who your audience 33 per cent will love what you do, 33 per cent won’t and 33 per cent won’t even care. So, stick with the people who love you and don’t spend a single second on the people who don’t. It’s better for your mental health this way.

In any business, small or large, you’re going to have some people who like what you do and some people who don’t. What do you do with a third group – the people who neither like nor dislike what you’re doing? Let them decide. But don’t spend time and your creative energy on the people who don’t like what you’re doing and you’ll be on your way to a successful career.

Do not compare yourself to others. And, don’t be afraid to share your opinions about things in your videos or posts.

It doesn’t have to be about everything that you think about, but when you share your opinions, you’re connecting with like-minded people. And creating stronger connections, which is an important part of growing your following.

So, be constructive, not self-destructive. And, don’t use negative language because you can project the emotions you feel through the words you use.

So instead of saying things like.. I can’t do this, I can’t believe I made that mistake.. I can’t believe I did this. This is going to take me forever.. People didn’t respond to my last video… and things like that.

Turn these words around and say I’ve had to record a bunch of video clips, but it’s okay ’cause I’m trying to find the best one’. Or ‘I have more videos to make, and I’m getting better at this. So embrace the learning curve and how to do it differently, and better next time.


So let’s recap 3 points that we’ve covered about authenticity.

1) Be authentic and true to yourself and your values. If you do that, people will trust you and they will engage with you at a more personal level which is good for business.

2) Share your signature story to connect with your audience. Be real in your business message, as this builds trust and attracts loyal followers. And at the same time, reduces the Imposter syndrome many business owners feel.

3) Have a positive mental outlook. Believe in yourself because strengthens your tendency to be right. If you stick to this strategy you will build trust, credibility, trust and reputation. Act as if you’ve already achieved what you wanted to achieve. And, you will get there. 


Share This