Performative Vulnerability

Authenticity is one of the things many business coaches will say is imperative to your social media presence, content, and marketing.

Authenticity is encouraged so much because it exhibits transparency and builds trust with prospective clients. Coaches have built entire courses around helping you write copy that sounds more authentic –– that is, if the vulnerability and authenticity is actually authentic.

Performative Vulnerability

A larger trend which is being labeled “vulnerability porn or performative vulnerability” has a lot to do with the push that business coaches have made toward authenticity and vulnerability. A lot of coaches have harnessed this trend in their efforts to prove that they are being real with you in order to elicit more engagement and get you to buy from them.

In the coaching and wellness industry, this looks like sharing highly curated intimate details of one’s life for the sake of engagement, virtue signaling, and at the end of the day, sales.

This brand of faux authenticity still only shows you a small piece of the whole picture and is typically only utilized to boost the ego and reputation of the poster. As with everything, it’s often not the action itself that makes it faux, but rather, the motivation behind it. Let’s explore.

Authenticity Workshops and Courses

Firstly, can I just say: if you have to take a course to learn how to be authentic on social media…what’s that say about who you are now?

The very act of learning tips and tricks to appear authentic suggests that you are not actively being authentic now because you are acting outside of your natural behavior. You shouldn’t be learning how to imitate authenticity, you should be deconstructing aspects and behaviors of yourself that aren’t already authentic.

A lot of coaches teach you that vulnerability is the way to be more authentic on social media, but if you are intentionally using vulnerability specifically as a means of making yourself appear more authentic so that you can boost your public perception or get more clients, how authentic is that, really?

Real vulnerability doesn’t attempt to maintain a sense of control and it isn’t used to garner power, prestige, or engagement.

How do you deconstruct things that make you inauthentic?

You start by examining your patterns and habits around people-pleasing behavior and attempts at placing yourself in a hierarchy. What are you doing that is intended to make yourself look better than others, more powerful, or more successful?

You can’t extract yourself from this kind of behavior if the end goal is to influence another person’s perception of you. That’s just more control, fawning, and manipulation.

Real vulnerability, by its very nature, is the absence of control.

When a coach or influencer posts “vulnerable” content only as a means to demonstrate their emotional superiority or their evolved-ness (such as always using it to demonstrate a point or lesson to their followers, or as a means to simply flex their spirituality), that’s usually vulnerability being used as a means for control.

This is emotionally manipulative.

Spotting Faking Vulnerability

When someone posts vulnerable content in a way that allows them to be seen as human (rather than a superior human), that’s a relinquishing of control. That’s real vulnerability. Someone being authentically vulnerable doesn’t pretend to know the answer while in the midst of the process.

You’ll notice that many coaches and influencers never allow themselves to be seen in a state where they are not in control in some way. They cannot be perceived as vulnerable to people whom they are attempting to “teach.” That wouldn’t be good for business when they are claiming to help you feel more in control.

PS: If you found today's topic intriguing and you're an entrepreneur or practitioner who offers services to others, I would recommend checking out my articles on conscious business and subscribing to get notified when there are new posts. Learn how you can work with me here and be sure to check out my new online course, Ethical Entrepreneurship.

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