I gotta be me! I just gotta! But can you run a business and still be true to who you are?
In short, yes, absolutely. And if you’re a normal-ish person, you’ll have a pretty easy time being you – no matter what you’re doing. But if you’re a bit off-kilter, things can be challenging.
I had a lovely DM the other day from a chap on LinkedIn.
It made a nice change from the usual weirdo DMs. I’m not talking about the good weirdos who message me, I love those, I’m talking about the fuckers who make no logical sense. Whose messages leave me wondering if they’ve spoken to another human before.
(If you are one of those people, please, in god’s name, don’t write your own content.)
This nice chap had some complimentary things to say – not creepy things, profesh things.
He liked my schtick. He admired the way I was able to be me and he asked how he could be more him.
(Yeah, I didn’t quite get it either but apparently being me is a bit extra.)
He was struggling to write as his real actual self. He had preconceived ideas of business content. All this time he was holding back, trying to conform to what others were doing. But he wasn’t happy. He was living a lie (ok, that’s a little dramatic). He really wanted to stop pretending.
I was stumped. I mean, I gotta be me, right? Why weren’t others being me – I mean them?
I must confess, it puzzles me – people not knowing how to be themselves. It’s something I take for granted.
Hold up, being you might cost you your job.
Ok, there are some serious reasons why you might not fully relax into being yourself at work. For example, revealing your sexuality or your neurodivergence might impact you negatively. It might cause you to be treated unfairly. It could even mean you lose your job directly or indirectly.
(If you’re in a job like that, I hope you can get the hell out ASAP, telling your boss to go fuck themselves as you leave.)
Being you as a freelancer.
You’re a business owner. You call the shots. You write for your business the way you damn well please.
But some freelancers, like the chap who sent me a message, feel anxious about being who they are. They feel all exposed and vulnerable. They lack the confidence to say “Oh, sod it”.
They care about what people think.
Unless you hold those people dear or they pay your rent, stop giving a shit about them. With practice, you can cultivate immunity to nobodys who have shitty opinions about you.
If you have a healthy dollop of self-awareness, you’ll know your faults.
You’ll at least have an inkling that certain traits piss people off. (I know I do, I could list about five of them right now.)
When people have described my content, they’ve used words like ‘brave’ or ‘unapologetic’.
I don’t feel any of that at all.
This is what I’m like in real life.
I can’t be any other way. And if you think I’m a bit of an exception, it’s much more likely to be because business content, especially content on LinkedIn, is fucking trash.
We’re so deep in the toilet of mediocrity that when something a bit different comes along it’s all “wow”, “amazing”, “love that!”.
Don’t get me wrong, I like folks thinking of me as an outsider, an individualist. It’s fun, it’s freeing but it’s not hard for me to be those things because I’m not consciously doing that, I’m just being.
Social media engagement.
Business peeps want to haul in as much of this engagement stuff as they can. And most do it by aiming to please everyone. From a business point of view, that’s a terrible idea.
Like crack, generic content is whack.
So I’m here, not really being engaged with (because I’m a bloody maverick). My swearing and rude references are not for general consumption. But if you want to get the likes, you’ll need mass appeal.
We live in an age of odd sensibilities.
Awful things can be sanctioned by governments yet planting an f-bomb in business writing is STILL something many will not tolerate.
(And that’s fine, btw, there’s nothing wrong with having a bad gut reaction to profanity.)
I don’t write about politics or social issues. I keep miles away from religion. I don’t even jump on the latest bandwagon, and yet, I have a rep for being a bit of a rebel.
Some dude once accused me of trying too hard to be ‘edgy’.
(Heaven fucking help me.)
I made a joke about a fictitious child with developmental delay. Thing is, I wasn’t trying at all, I was just being my unsavoury self.
That’s the beauty of jokes, someone always gets upset.
People struggle to separate the human from the quip. They conflate the humour with the person’s moral character. And they do the same with swearing. They make assumptions based on their own emotional reaction.
I can’t see into the future so I don’t know who’s going to get their knickers in a twist over my content.
The temptation would be to play it safe but again I’m not thinking about this stuff all that much. It’s only when people mention it that I’m reminded.
And yeah, I love giving in to temptation but not for the sake of my own sanity.
Businesses, like humans, have different personas.
You’re not going to like them all.
I have a confession: I’m not being totally me.
If I unleashed my complete personality, the full, uncut version, you and a few others would probably make a swift exit – you’d certainly get offended (if you haven’t already).
The wonderful news is I don’t need to be all of me to work with you. A snapshot of what I’m like is enough.
Most of us adopt different versions of ourselves.
How you are with Auntie Mary is probably different to how you are with Clive down The Swan.
My advice to those worried about being themselves is this: you’re never going to be as despised as Hitler.
(Unless you’re a genocidal maniac.)
Interestingly, the people that worry about upsetting others are often benign, benevolent sorts.
But really, the majority of people don’t care all that much about you (soz). So you need to chill out and write content in the way you want.
If you’re hiding the true you away, resorting to blandness to keep the great unwashed happy, just stop. Just STOP right now.
If you need help making your content scream “I gotta be me!”, get in touch.