Have you ever been talking to someone and suddenly realized that they were trying to fake you out? That jarring feeling isn’t pleasant, but it’s an important sense we have to detect when people are not being genuine with us. It’s probably an inherited trait: we sense when something’s not authentic and we recoil from it.
Faking a personal or professional brand is just like faking a personality – it doesn’t work. Sooner or later you realize that you’d be better off being comfortable in your own skin. In this parable of the fox and the tiger, the fox learns that masking his authentic self doesn’t get him very far.
In the deepest, darkest jungle, the fox had always envied the tiger, the pride of the jungle. Walking like a queen, her brilliant gold and black strips shining brightly in the sun, the tiger commanded respect from all the animals in the jungle. Whether she roared, raged at her prey, or laid in her lair, she mesmerized everyone. The animals feted her with the best of their catch and sought her favor when they had issues to settle among themselves.
But the fox couldn’t accept this situation. He knew that he was a crafty, cunning hunter with a keen sense of smell and great stealth. He even had the respect of his fellow foxes and most animals for his gifts, but he wasn’t satisfied – he wanted the tiger’s ‘awe’ factor.
One day a clever little monkey spotted the fox fuming under his tree, and decided to play a little trick on him. The monkey said that he could ‘counsel’ the fox on how to be as terrific as the tiger. “The tiger is loved and revered because of her golden coat and black stripes. If only you had those kind of stripes, you’d look majestic too!”
Following the suggestions of the monkey, the fox rolled in the mud and smeared himself with soil. “Now I’ll mark your fur with a red hot iron, which will give you a beautiful finish – a yellow back branded with stripes. Then, all the animals will respect you just like the tiger!” the monkey said.
In his fervor to be respected like the tiger, the fox fell for the monkey’s devilish plan, and the result, as you can imagine, was disastrous. The branding left the fox with burns and bruises, made worse by the insults from his fellow foxes. He looked nothing like the tiger, and instead of gaining newfound awe and power, he was instead mocked and driven out of the forest in shame. He realized too late that trying to take on the image of a tiger won’t turn you into one.
Are some of us like the fox in the story? – trying to be something we’re not? The parable shows how unlikely that tactic is to work, and that the most vital ingredient for creating a personal and professional brand is truth. People will eventually see through false behavior, online or off. So what you write, comment, and post online has to be rooted in your real convictions and beliefs, or you run the risk of establishing a false front. A mask, that could lead you to ruin.
This transparency has a cost, though, if you’re naturally aggressive or just an ass. In that case, you’ve got some other work to do on your own insecurities and inconsistencies. You’ll want to use this chance to evolve both as a person and a professional.
“Blogs [that recommend a] separate [identity] for personal and professional social media presence make me sad. Be a better version of you and you won’t have anything to hide!” – Kristen Bitzegaio
The ‘how’ of being authentic is rather tricky, because, in reality, there’s no trick to being authentic. It’s a process that calls for courage. We need to ask the right questions to probe deeper about our intentions and motivations. Simon Sinek has posited that we can operate with intent when we ask ourselves ‘Why We Do What We Do’. The key is to remain engaged and motivated about the purpose behind our pursuits, not just the pursuits themselves. Simon constantly asks his team members to explain the reason behind their actions and decisions – to keep them rooted to their goals.
Being truly authentic is about being able to offer your best self to others: understanding yourself better, building on your strengths and overcoming your insecurities and shortcomings. The fox had a reason to be proud – his abilities were outstanding, he didn’t need to imitate a tiger to earn respect, and neither do you. Your own unique abilities and traits are what mark you out from the crowd, and give you an identity that others may find unique, endearing, and ultimately valuable.
Find that value in your authentic self. Embrace it. And never hide it behind a false mask.
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MetaMorph Corporation is dedicated to creating the future of unique, personal branding. Find out more here.