Today I was having a conversation over lunch about social media and branding. I was talking about how important it is to keep everything sharp, have professional photos, check for spelling mistakes etc., and that’s when my friend Callum stopped me and said ‘people don’t want to see you being perfect all the time, man — that’s not the real you.’
My first reaction was going to be a ‘yeah, but,’ followed by some excuse about maintaining a strong image, trademark or whatever — but the more I thought about it, the more I realized he was right. That isn’t the real you, and everybody knows it.
Of course, despite all appearance, nobody actually is perfect. Besides, there’s nothing likable or relatable about somebody who just constantly out-does everybody else — online or in real life. It’s no fun being around the guy who has it all figured out, and he usually just makes you feel pretty terrible about yourself.
What the world loves is a humble person. Trying to project an idealized, flawless version of yourself online isn’t just unrealistic, but it’s counter-productive — both in terms of friendships and business.
It might actually put people off more than it draws them in. Here’s why.
The Most Endearing Quality in the World
Have you ever met somebody famous or really successful, expecting them to be totally perfect and figured out (and even a little stuck-up), only to realize that they’re just the same as you are? Underneath all of the fancy stuff, they’re an ordinary person with flaws, setbacks, and regrets.
It’s always such a wonderful feeling — that reminder that this celebrity or that influencer is really just a human being like the rest of us.
That’s humility, and I honestly think it’s is one of the most endearing qualities anybody can possess. It’s why everybody hates a person that always brags or shows-off, and why everybody loves it when somebody really skilled tells a self-deprecating joke.
Humility lets us know that other people have flaws, too. I once watched a Tony Robbins video about building rapport, and he says that forming genuine connections with people depends upon similarity and relatability. If you’re prancing around like you’re all perfect and only ever sharing the better half of your story, nobody will be able to relate to that.
Being humble is not only crucial when it comes to making genuine connections with people, though. If you’re a writer, running a business or trying to grow an audience online, humility could be your new best friend.
Why Self-Help Gurus Make You Feel Bad
Although they don’t really mean to, self-help gurus and social media influencers can sometimes make us feel pretty bad about ourselves.
When we see people online taking cold showers every day or waking up at 4:30 in the morning, we envy them and all of their put-togetherness. Damn, they’ve got it all figured out. Why can’t I be like that?
What we forget is that we’re only ever seeing a fraction of the full picture. Those people aren’t necessarily productive, healthy or even happy all of the time. They make mistakes, just like we do.
You don’t see social media influencers chowing down on chicken noodles, getting way too drunk at parties or binging on Netflix series. You don’t see them skipping workouts or missing their deadlines. That stuff doesn’t make it past the filter.
You only see the perfect, polished, refined version of the person they really are.
Ryan Holiday puts it best,
“Almost universally, the kind of performance we give on social media is positive. It’s more “Let me tell you how well things are going. Look how great I am.” It’s rarely the truth: “I’m scared. I’m struggling. I don’t know.”
And that can have a weird effect on us — a counterproductive effect. Though we may admire the person, that filter prevents us from ever being able to truly relate to them. Instead, it kinda makes us hate ourselves and feel dissatisfied with who we are.
An Alternative Approach to Branding
I don’t know about you, but I love finding out that the people I look up to are flawed. I mean, I want to see them do well and all— but it’s nice to know that sometimes they mess up, too.
I like to see Casey Neistat having the occasional creative block on his daily vlogs, or reading Shannon Ashley’s beautifully honest writing about her successes and her failures. (The full story, not just the polished version.)
The thing is, we all mess up. We all sleep in from time-to-time or fail to stick to our fitness plan, and that’s okay. Of course, we should strive not to screw things up, but when we do, it can be pretty demoralizing to see our digital friends doing everything perfectly.
And if you are that influencer, I’ve found that showing a little humility online can really help you to connect with your audience. That’s why I write about how to write, or how to well in business — to help people up because I haven’t forgotten where I started.
It’s why I write about my fiancé’s battle with cancer and my parents’ separation. Not because I want sympathy, but because I want you to know that, no matter how fancy my Instagram looks, bad things happen to me, too.
Back to the point — nobody wants to see you being perfect all of the time. They want to see the real you; the raw person underneath — the one that eats Chinese food and stays up late every now and then. It helps them not only like you more, but it also stops them from feeling terrible when they fail to meet your unreachable (and unrealistic) standard of living.
Not only that, but you, I and everybody else using social media can see through anything fake. It’s glaringly obvious, and so it helps to show some of the real stuff from time-to-time as well — a tweet about writers' block, a video of your hangover pizza, a photo of you taking a day off.
I write about self-help and personal development. Anybody reading my articles might assume I have it all figured out and that I’m super healthy and productive all of the time.
I’m not. I try to be, but life gets in the way. I eat junk food, I drink, I swear, I get up late sometimes. Granted, I feel bad about these things and strive to be better, but nobody’s perfect, and I guess we should all stop pretending.