“I’ve always been a rebel. I never do things the way they’re supposed to be done. Either I go in the opposite direction or I create a new direction for myself, regardless of what the rules are or what society says.”
-Grace Jones in her telling book, I’ll Never Write My Memoirs
New York, 1977, icon Grace Jones is beginning her recording career. A tall, dark-skinned woman, born in Jamaica, sporting an androgynous look, and a bold attitude. She didn’t fit it. To any norm. Not in the music industry or acting or modeling, where dainty, fair-skinned, and delicate was the rage. And in most circles, still is. The best way to describe Jones then – and now- is fierce.
And she never apologized.
“I can’t be bought- people hate that.”
Her entire career, Jones has remained true to what she wanted to do and who she wanted to be. Her career shaped itself around her truth.
What can we learn from Jones about being bold and not selling out?
Do we all need to be eccentric and outrageous like her? Is that the definition of being true to ourself?
It’s not so much what she did or her particular style that you can learn from.
Being bold is not what you think. You don’t have to be loud or outlandish, like Jones. But staying true to who you are will be an act of boldness.
Somewhere along the road to adulthood, free-spirited childhood ends and mask-wearing begins. The masks we wear become thicker and more complex and the connection we have to our truth erodes. It’s hard as hell to even remember what our truth is, who we are.
Pseudo Positivity Culture and most mainstream marketing suffocates our truth with images and messages of what perfect, right, good is and what we should all be striving toward, our connection gets scrambled.
We’re driving along the road of life moving further from our tower of truth and our home station gets muddled. We can barely hear it. Until soon other stations start coming in clearer, louder than our original one. But they’re not our stations. The music is blaring. It’s catchy as ever. And before we know it, we’re singing along, but these aren’t the songs of our truth.
This is particularly easy to do online because we see other people, leaders, ‘influencers’, doing their social media a certain way, for example, and we think, That’s it! That’s how I need to do it , too. If it works for her, it must be the way. Even though our first instinct is screaming at us that it’s not our way, we go along. And soon we’re creating look-alike images, writing updates that read and feel the same and even creating products much like our fearless leaders.
And there’s nothing wrong with inspiration. None of us work in a bubble. The trouble is when we start hearing their voice -their song – over our own. When we’ve driven through the gates of admiration miles ago and now we’re so deep in wannabe world that we doubt and drown out our own creative direction.
So how do you get clearer on your truths? How do you even remember what they are?
Here are a few questions I ask myself when I’m working (writing, coaching clients, or creating a course). They help me. Maybe they’ll help you, too:
While doing xyz, for example, do I feel like I’m betraying myself in any way? If yes, stop.
Does doing this feel delightful, and liberating? If yes, keep going. “Think of Marie Kondo’s question: ‘Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, I dispose of it.
Kondo was referring to household items, but it’s just as true for entrepreneurs who want to build businesses that feel true and real.
Caveat: There are things in our business that don’t always feel joyful (think: administrative tasks).
But…these minor tasks aren’t the same as your main body of work, crafting your message, creating products and services and making connections that feel delightful.
And here’s something else you can ask yourself…regularly:
Can I hear my own voice? In this message, social media update, blog post, offer?
Am I layering ‘youisms’ into my work?
Youism is a term I (obviously) made up to refer to thoughts, behaviors, tendencies that feel real to you. That feel like your truth. That may even be at odds with the mainstream.
An example is ‘youism’ itself. The fact that I (quite frequently and randomly) make up words is one of my youisms. It feels delightful and liberating for me and helps me express myself where conventional language doesn’t quite work in certain contexts.
I have many youisms. And so do you. They’re aspects of self.
My unconventional copywriting is one of my youisms. This is fueled by my almost instinctual questioning and resistance to mainstream conventions that are rooted in oppression. They go way beyond my copywriting. They fuel how I live. But for the purpose of this article, think of youisms that are absent (and present) in your work.
So, once you’ve recognized that you’ve traveled off course, how do you get back to your home station?
Small, steady steps.
Small and steady isn’t sexy.
But it’s the way home.
It’s how you slowly unpack what doesn’t feel true for you and tune in to what does.
First, you decode (get clear on what doesn’t feel right).
And then you build. You start replacing what doesn’t feel like home to you with something else. You probably won’t get it ‘right’ at first. That’s okay. This isn’t a test. Just start replacing.
I used to write sales pages to the copy conventions Pseudo Positivity Culture is built on. My copy was filled with fear-inducing, triggering tactics rooted in portraying only a certain image of perfection. When I started recognizing that wasn’t my truth, I asked myself, what’s the opposite of this? (sometimes extremes get us closer to home).
I’d say to myself, okay, Alicia, I don’t like how this feels, what feels different? And I’d re-write those same pages over and over.
You may not be a copywriter. Maybe you’re a coach or healer or something else. But it’s the same. When you realize that something you’re doing -or saying – doesn’t feel like your truth, what would the opposite action or message sound like? Feel like? Start writing about it. Speaking about it. If even just to yourself in the beginning as you get clearer on your pathway home.
Then. One day. I can’t tell you when that day will be (it may even be today)….you’ll open up and sing your truth on your platform and in your work.
As Grace Jones says,
“Put your message in your music”
Whatever you create, your products, services, put your message into it, add your youisms, and state your truth.
And guess what? The people who’ve been waiting to hear it, will sing along.
First we decode, then we rewrite