Authenticity and Integrity
Authenticity has become a bit of a buzzword recently. It was originally about integrity and honesty in our lives and work. Now the word is becoming more and more like jargon.
Every time I hear it, or discuss it on Twitter with others, I’m feeling an accusing finger pointing my way. That nagging sense many don’t think I’m authentic.
And in my own mind, my greatest fear is fast becoming I’m simply not being authentic enough. Not living or writing with enough integrity or honesty. Still holding back from the real truth.
I read three blog posts which drew my attention to this, and then this quote by Rob Bell, one of my favourite authors, which really sealed the deal.
“Are you willing to give up numbers any money, to be sane and whole?” — Rob Bell
I see so many writers worrying about brand, image, marketing, stats, money — and these things are not bad in themselves. If we want to see people’s lives changed by our work, and get it out to the world, these things are important, and we must take them seriously.
But somehow they’ve become the point. They’ve become the whole reason people write. I see tweets saying “Need 10,000 subscribers/followers? Read This!” or “How To Get 100,000 People To Read Your Blog”, and I sigh in despair.
A healthy ambition
We’d all like more followers and subscribers, of course we would. And that’s a healthy ambition to have.
But ultimately, we don’t need followers to validate our work. We don’t need subscribers to make our work valuable or worthwhile.
It’s good to have ambition and look to grow a following — I’m working hard myself to grow my following and subscriber list, so I can have a positive impact on the world, and use my gifts to serve more people. And that’s a good thing.
But ultimately, I don’t need a big subscriber list to write. I don’t need lots of followers to validate my work anymore. I’ve let go of egotistical ambition, and chosen to pursue integrity in my work.
Because if we let ego and unhealthy ambition drive the car, and give them control, we’re on the road to losing our soul.
I don’t want to write material which is a lie. I don’t want to be a person or writer who fakes integrity or uses authenticity as his ‘platform’. Because when you do that, you immediately lose all integrity.
British blogger and author Katharine Welby-Roberts says we often confuse authenticity with vulnerability — and I agree. But authenticity does require a degree of vulnerability.
To have integrity means there is a degree to which you’re vulnerable.
However, I’m not going to bare every single fact about myself in my work. As I’ve said elsewhere, being authentic doesn’t mean exposing ourselves, and sharing every intimate detail.
No, being authentic is being honest. Being real. Telling the truth.
Being authentic in our work, is being vulnerable as far as it’s appropriate or safe to be, and acting with integrity — not just when people can see, but when no one is looking.
As a writer, it means reaching deep inside yourself and letting the words flow out. Sometimes, thought not always, it’s pulling out your heart and bearing it on the page. It can mean deleting and rewriting until the truth comes out.
This is a battle. It’s not a destination we reach, because as soon as you think you’ve reached it, you’re liable to screw up again. It’s a constant wrestling with ourselves to be the most honest we can, and to always live, speak and work with integrity.
This is a battle for your soul.
Keep Your Soul — Share Your Unique Story
I feel this even now, writing this post. The finger pointing at me, waiting to show me how I’m slipping into fake mode (I’d say another word, but I’m trying to be polite). I don’t want to be fake, to be a liar, to act without integrity, towards anyone — and this includes towards you, the people who read my work.
I don’t have all the answers, and I never will. All I have is my story, my experiences, my knowledge, and insight. And of course, my words to share them.
My hope is always these will somehow be encouraging, challenging and inspiring to others — that’s why I write so much publicly. But ultimately, I just want to be honest, true, and yes, that word again, authentic.
As writers, we all owe it to the people we encounter — whether that’s face to face, on social media or through our writing — to have integrity in the work we do.
In a world full of image, branding, and lies, we need to be better. We need to be people of integrity, honesty and truth. We need to live in such a way that others can see it in us, smell it on us, and which reflects back onto others.
And as writers, this needs to pour out of us in our work. All creative work is a reflection of the truth of it’s creator — so let’s commit to raising the bar, and creating great work of integrity and truth, which serves the people who choose to read it.
The world is looking for integrity and authenticity more than ever.
I’m desperate for more of this in myself, and in my work. I know I’ll always be wrestling with this issue. I won’t always get it right. None of us will all the time.
I hope you’ll join me in the wrestling.
I hope you’ll choose to delve deep into yourselves, and find the words you were created to share with the world.
Because it’s your unique, authentic story which will have the most impact.
And the world is waiting to hear it.
Visit James at JamesPrescott.co.uk.