It's tempting. It's so very tempting. No one would know the difference, and it's so tempting. Not only is it tempting, but it's easy. It's so easy to be someone we aren't. It's so easy to only tell a part of the truth. It's so tempting to be "more" than we really are. Sometimes we care more about what people think about our photography - or our "success," than we do about our ACTUAL success.
We fudge the numbers just a little. We publish pricing on our websites that we know we can't actually command. We talk about how great our business is, when really it's suffering. We tell clients about what a great experience we provide, and then fail to deliver. We borrow money we can't afford for gear we don't need. We even pass off work as our own, that we know isn't ours. It's so tempting.
The problem with "tempting," is that every time it gets a little easier. Every time we move the line between who we are, and who we pretend to be, we blur it just enough that the next time - we don't even think about it. Every time we move that line, we get farther from who we really are.
Integrity is about being the same on the inside, as we are on the outside. Every small business owner (every person really) struggles with who we want to be on the outside. We struggle with who we really are, and we hope that no one will call our bluff.
The thing is, people will eventually figure you out. The people closest to you can already tell, but even those who interact with only the "outside" you will sooner or later discover that there's something not-quite-right. And yet it's so tempting. It's so tempting to just tell a little story - one that makes us look just a little bit better than we are.
Being a person of integrity takes hard work. It requires practice. It means being who you say you are. It means owning up to your mistakes and having the character and conviction to do what's right. It means being consistent whether anyone is watching or not. It means your outside matching up with your inside.
The cost of integrity is humility. Being a person of integrity means that sometimes people will see you for the broken person you are. Being a person of integrity means that sometimes you have to make real sacrifices. You sacrifice your ego, your pride, and your temptations. Being a person of integrity requires discipline.
On the other hand, the rewards for integrity are many. The reward for being a person of integrity is trust, and trust will take your business farther than any kudos you might desire. The reward for being a person of integrity is never having to watch your back. The reward for being a person of integrity is that when things get difficult (and in business - they will), you'll already know who you are, and where you stand.
As an artist, it so tempting to be someone we aren't. I've been there. I wrestle with it every day. I want my peers to appreciate my work. I want my community to see our success - even beyond what it really is. I want people to think we're wonderful, even the best. I worry about what people think, and whether or not they think we're good enough. I struggle with whether or not people will think we're the real deal - or that we're just pretending.
Everyday, I wake up to a wife and a daughter. To them, I'm a dad. To them, I'm a husband. To them I am security, and safety, and provision. Everyday I'm reminded that they know who I am, and that I never have to be anyone else.
Everyday I'm blessed to work with incredible clients. I work with amazing people who trust me to tell their story. To them, I owe authenticity. To them I owe a responsibility to be who I say I am, and own it.
Integrity is hard, and the alternatives are tempting, but in the end, there's only one choice that's worth it.