My Instagram is not ‘picture perfect’. I don’t follow a color scheme. There is no picture of me facing away from the camera and reaching my arm out as if I’m pulling you along. My Instagram is not an art gallery—but it is authentic. Why? Because I’ve come to learn that authenticity on social media matters more than “doing it for the ‘gram”.
When I moved abroad I felt pressured to show everyone my great new life. I was afraid to show any type of struggle because I feared being viewed as an imposter.
So instead, I posted beach pictures, salsa dancing videos, and dinners on rooftop restaurants. Yes, this was my life, but only one side of it.
I greatly feared being seen as a failure, thinking that if I talked about the other side of my life—the things that weren’t so glamorous—that people would lose their high image of me.
But the truth is, a lot of things didn’t go according to plan. I ran out of money, I quit my job 3 different times, I received many “no’s” and only a few “yes’s”. This whole living abroad thing wasn’t as beautiful as social media painted it out to be.
Amongst this turmoil, I felt less and less motivated to post only the positive things. Eventually, I began sharing not only my success, but what it took to get there (my perceived failures).
That’s the moment people went from watching, to actually paying attention.
Authenticity on social media can mean different things to different people.
For some it might mean sharing a photo without makeup, or sharing a story of emotional trauma. For others, it could be sharing that photo of you laughing hysterically with messy, hair, wrinkled clothes, and food flying out of your mouth.
Here is my journey of beginning to show the real me on screen, and how you can start to show your true self as well.
Social media burnout is real .
If you’re posting only for likes, if you’re posting what you think people want to see, you’re only adding weight to your self. Every deceptively picture-perfect post is like a 10-pound brick. Eventually, the weight will be too much to take.
Case in point, think of some of the social media celebrities who were famous over a viral video or picture—where are they now? Chances are they are having an identity crisis or “rebranding” because they tried to portray an image that wasn’t authentic. They tried to maintain a lifestyle that wasn’t realistic.
Sometimes Instagram seems like a movie. We post what’s exciting, romantic, adventurous, sexy, etc., wanting our lives to be perceived in a certain way. The more exciting the photo = the more likes. The more likes = the more validation.
We create a costume of false idealization, until one day we realize that costume doesn’t quite fit.
People get inspired when they see themselves in your story, when they can personally relate to it. When you don’t tell your story with honesty, people connect to you like a fairytale.
Every ‘like’ may be a passive admiration, but not true support. Your followers may think to themselves, “It’s great Kiersten can travel the world, go to the beach and live her best life…but it’s not possible for me.”
It’s important that every photo tells a true story that will inspire your followers with possibility. Ask yourself, are you inspired by your feed? Does it make you think, “if she can do it, I can do it too?”
Being authentic on social media may seem easy, but it can be extremely difficult. Every picture or video on the world wide web has the opportunity to be judged, ridiculed, and open to internet trolls. Posting honest content takes vulnerability, and vulnerability is scary as hell.
But vulnerability is what makes connection. It’s what creates inspiration. If you could inspire even a few people by one small act of openness, wouldn’t it be worth the risk?
Here’s how you can show authenticity on social media and build a following that genuinely supports you.
One thing that helps me in showing authenticity on social media is not getting caught up in immediate feedback—the logistics.
Whenever I create a post, I simply upload the content then turn off social media for a while. I let the algorithms do their magic and preoccupy my mind with other things.
Sometimes we obsess over who is going to see our post, how many ‘likes’ it’s going to get, and how many people it will reach.
With the way the new algorithm works, usually a very small percentage of our followers see the post. Therefore, judging our post based on the numbers will only break our confidence.
It’s important to remember that if you show up authentically and your post gets at least one ‘like’, then you’ve positively impacted someone…and that is what matters, not the numbers.
Before posting content, ask yourself why you’re posting it. What is your intention?
Think about who you want to see it (your target audience) and what you want them to gain from it (the value).
Every single post doesn’t need to be super intentional—you might just want to throw up a good-lighting selfie once in a while. But the “why” behind what you are doing will help guide you to create content that represents your brand. It will intrigue others to stop their scroll, consume your content, and engage with your story.
When it comes to being vulnerable on social media, it’s important to start small. You don’t have to immediately post something that makes you cringe with regret and has you freaking out seconds after you post it.
Start with something that gives you butterflies in your stomach, something that makes you feel a little nervous.
If you keep it real in your posts, if you show your true self, people will see it. They will feel connected to it. If your post provides value—if it’s entertaining, inspiring or educating, more people will like and comment on it naturally (which will help your engagement).
When it comes down to it, showing authenticity on social media is more important than showing a fancy picture.
People like realness. People like rawness. And when you can be your most vulnerable, authentic self, it gives people the space to do the same.
One of the most deceptive things about social media is that it doesn’t always give the full story. You see the one picture that was chosen out of probably one hundred other ones, not to mention the ridiculous mission it took to get that ‘perfect’ shot.
If you love capturing and creating quality, strategic content, then do your damn thing. But make sure to be open with your followers and let them know the process it took you to get there.
How did you get to your castle in the sky? Did someone build you a plane, or did you grow wings and fly? Tell the adventure behind the photo, tell the crazy things you had to do to get there, tell the silly story of something that happened along the way.
A picture can say a thousand words, and it’s important to make sure its saying the right (and real) ones.
Whether you value honesty, integrity, or the right for everyone to put pineapple on pizza, post to what feels good in your soul.
Stay true to who you are. Show the world the person you are when you are alone in your room, being yourself with no judgment.
If you post something and your conscious starts knocking on your heart as if you are late for a credit card payment, then you know something isn’t right.
If you post something just to “fit in”, then you are doing an injustice to yourself and your followers.
It takes more effort to be someone you are not, than to be who you truly are. Being yourself on social media is working smarter, not harder.
In a world where technology invades our everyday lives and social media is the primary way of connection, it’s important to be who you are on and off of the screen.
We all have a story to share, and through showing authenticity on social media, we can make sure that story reaches others.
By letting our guard down, focusing on the content of the message over the results, and straight up keeping it real, we create a space for others to do the same. We can use our platforms for positivtiy, and help do our part in de-stigmatizing the idea that social media is bad.
In the great words of Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
Showing authenticity on social media is how you can make others (and yourself) feel good. It’s how you can allow others to feel confident in being themselves. It’s how you can make others feel connected to you.
How does your social media make others feel?
Kiersten helps women of color ditch their 9 to 5 forever and live a profitable and meaningful life as a global entrepreneur. Learn more about her bold, authentic leadership on her website KMarieB and follow her on Instagram @kikimarieb15.