It's never a good idea to be someone you are not. It’s an even worse idea to be someone you are not in the age of the Internet. Authenticity has always mattered. It matters now, more than ever.
Over the last several days, I have watched in stunned awe as former NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal has been “outed” as a white person. This was the first time I had ever heard of someone pretending to be black, unless it was as some kind of a sick joke or to ridicule, belittle and harass.
You'd have to have been living under a rock for the past week not to know about this story, but just in case, let me share some background.
On June 15, 2015, Rachel Dolezal resigned her position as head of the Spokane, Washington, office of the NAACP amid revelations by her parents that she is a Caucasian who has been posing for years as an African American. We have also learned that Ms. Dolezal allegedly pretended to be white when she allegedly sued Howard University for discriminating against her because she was a white pregnant woman. Ms. Dolezal has also allegedly plagiarized the artwork of several artists, and may have tried to sell her knock off creations on eBay.
Authenticity matters. It is never a good idea to pretend to be someone you are not. While this is true in all aspects of life, it is particularly true for Makers and Handmade Entrepreneurs who use their personal brands and unique life stories and passions to sell their products and services. Here are a few of the many reasons why it's critically important to be who you are in business.
1. It's easier on you
Remove the mask. Better yet, don't ever put it on.
Use your resources to be the best version of yourself. Business is hard enough without wasting precious energy to invent and maintain a new persona for yourself. Reserve your energy and time for perfecting who you are, instead of who you wish you had been.
Donna Maria, Indie Business Network
2. People don't like being lied to
When a customer chooses to buy your products, she is also choosing to believe the story of you, and everything that goes along with that. If you are pretending to be someone else, or you are making up your story so you can sell more products, people may not notice at first. But eventually, someone will notice, and then word of your lying ways will spread like wildfire. This is not something you want to happen.
3. Being yourself honors the Creator
I call the Creator “God,” but that's just me. If you believe there is a Creator, whatever term you use, being yourself honors the exclusive creature you were created to be. We are all born with unique talents, gifts, attributes — and yes, imperfections — each of which is hammered and chiseled over time to become the human being we are on any given day. It's an act of service and honor to mold yourself into the one-of-a-kind creature you are, and there is also great satisfaction in doing so.
All of this boils down to a matter of integrity. As Abraham Lincoln said:
You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.
If you cannot be who you are in business, then you need to leave your business. Inventing a new personality, or even aspects of one, does no one any good — especially you.
Have you ever trusted an entrepreneur, only to find out later that he or she was pretending to be one thing but is really another? How did you respond? Have you ever struggled to be who you are instead of being who you think you should be, or copying who someone else is? I would love to know your thoughts and feedback in the comments below, or share on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.