“I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.”
-Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Sorry, I can’t hear the truth of your message, because it’s buried in pretense!
Pretense is one of my favourite words these days (along with BS, although I guess they go hand-in-hand).
Business Owners who are marketing and selling on-line are in a dance with pretense. The world of marketing and sales is filled to the brim with it.
This is the pressure to make oneself appear a certain way in order to achieve a favourable result.
The favourable result, usually unarticulated, is to get the most clients and make the most money. Most Business Owners, especially of the transformational variety (coaches, public speakers, workshop leaders), won’t want to admit this.
They have told themselves that they are leading a movement to change the world! They are helping people inspire other people. They are genuinely in this for all the right reasons.
And that may be true, but at the same time, there’s something else at play….
Pressure to profit.
Behind the scenes making-money and getting the most clients is what many mission-driven leaders are talking about. How can I tweak this title to get a better result? What would make this Facebook Ad convert at a higher rate?
Now, before you write me off as an anti-money, anti-marketing, anti-business person, give me a chance. I love making money. I love sharing my message. I love making sales. I have taught Transformational Leaders how to sell from the stage for the past 6 years, quite passionately.
And, I have marketed and sold plenty of programs myself over the past 8 years.
And, I have also, first-hand, spent years in the grips of pretense, without even knowing it.
When one’s livelihood depends on people resonating with who you are and what you say, then yes, there is an inherent pressure in that situation to appear ‘authentic’, ‘wise’, ‘caring’, ‘funny’, ‘free’ or whatever quality you feel you need to portray that matches your message.
There’s an inherent pressure to share your message in a way that people will want to hear.
There is an inherent pressure to ‘cater’ to your audience in order to get what you want.
Doesn’t that sound icky? It is. Just writing it feels icky.
What is this ick?
This ick is something deeper and more insidious than any of us realize. I ‘icked’ my audiences with pretense for years without knowing it. And I am a highly-sensitive, highly-aware human. How does this stuff slip past you?
Well, the answer is a little complex…but if I can simplify it for us, I see that it boils down to one thing:
Pretense arises the moment there is an agenda. The moment I want something from a situation, have a specific goal in mind, or need to make money, pretense is born.
Eg. if you are my potential client and I’m on a 1-1 enrolment call with you, and I know that I have monthly expenses to pay, then I’m under-pressure for you to perceive me favourably and to also tell you what you want to hear in order to buy from me.
I have an agenda.
The presence of Agenda is kind of a necessary evil, because by it’s very nature the Egoic Self, “me”, wants something. It always wants something, that’s it’s job.
The trick is, to become aware of your agenda, and to become aware of what your Egoic Self is really going after and why.
For example: This is what I discovered about “Me”, what Egoic Karen wants. Here’s a 3-part depiction of the recipe for my Egoic Self:
1) Never-be-alone: Avoid rejection at all costs, make sure people like me by being uplifting, upbeat and pleasant, by sharing kind words and appreciation of who they are. Always stay in close relationships with clients, friends, boyfriends, even if they aren’t genuinely right for me. Be around people all the time (run workshops, coach, be with friends, attend group classes…a mania of togetherness). Afraid people-pleaser.
2) Seek Security: Deeply afraid of becoming a bag-lady and not having any money. Must ensure that I always have a lot of money.
3) Be Significant: Be important. Don’t be invisible. You must matter. You must have something important to say (how perfect to become a public speaker/coach making a difference in people’s lives and doing ‘meaningful’ work). Don’t slip into the abyss of meaninglessness. You must stand out.
The more I’ve become aware of my agenda to Be Important, Secure and Never-Alone, the more I’ve seen that these ‘agendas’ drive me, enslave me and never stop wanting.
They could run my life (and my business), all the way to the grave.
They create endless pretense, a non-stop act in the world.
So…what’s my solution?
The best solution, if you have the guts for it, is to dive into what your Egoic Self fears the most…in my case, I took a several year swan-dive into aloneness, insecurity and insignificance.
(which, on a practical level has looked like, selling all my belongings, living from a suitcase, dropping almost all but the most true and basic income-generating activities, leaving a long-term relationship, moving to Mexico without a plan, being willing to let my entire business that I’d built die and spending most of my time alone living like a monk)
I jumped in and bathed in these fears. I drank the water as I swam. I pickled. I marinated. I befriended. I argued with them. I cried. I trembled. I listened to what they had to say.
And over time, I realized that they weren’t true. They were unfounded. They were a false guard against life. They were completely unnecessary. They were BS. They were pretense.
And so, I’ve largely shed pretense. And I can feel it with it’s hardened armor when it comes upon me.
And I can smell it a mile away in others. I hear it’s tinny voice. I hear the ick, and I can’t pretend not to.
In a way, I miss the old days where I was oblivious to pretense. I had more friends then. I could listen to more people’s messages.
But now, even those who I love and respect and want to hear what they have to say, are so covered up in pretense that I can’t hear their truth. Their truth is muffled by falseness, by these insidious fears.
I wonder if they even realize?
This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.
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