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My BlogHer Experience: Why Authenticity is the Key to Success in Business

What does reality TV star and social media maven Kim Kardashian West have in common with The Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik (who holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience on screen and in real life)? If you said, “Nothing whatsoever,” I’d have been inclined to agree with you—that is, until I attended BlogHer in Los Angeles earlier this month.

This annual conference draws thousands of women bloggers, entrepreneurs and thought leaders to discuss issues ranging from career building to work/life balance to personal self-confidence. I was thrilled to have the chance to see keynotes from Kardashian West, Bialik, and other prominent speakers—and I was honored to deliver my own talk on my experiences as a female business leader and working mom.

But back to those two incredibly different keynote speakers. On the one hand, you’ve got a young woman who thrives in the spotlight and seems to be one of those personalities who’s “famous for being famous.” On the other hand, you’ve got a neuroscientist best known for playing a brilliant, quirky, and decidedly unglamorous TV character—and, more recently, for starting an online community featuring intellectual content by authors she admires.

And yet, as I listened to each keynote, a funny thing started to happen: even while discussing very different subjects, the two women began to touch on similar themes. Kardashian West answered questions about why she posts nude photos (“I do what makes me feel comfortable. … If you’re not comfortable, don’t do that”), while Bialik discussed her many interests (“Why do you talk about so many things? Because I THINK about so many things; I’m allowed!”).

In other words, regardless of what you think of Kardashian West and Bialik, one thing seems clear: both were advocating for the importance of authenticity. In her own way, each woman spoke of the need to remain true to one’s own personality, character, and beliefs, despite pressure to do otherwise.

And here’s the part that’s even more interesting: so did I.

In the breakout session I participated in, we had a wonderful discussion about why knowing yourself and what you stand for is critical for success in business. For example, no one should try to be an expert in everything, but being an expert in the things you’re passionate about will help you stay focused on success.

That’s not always easy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten distracted by what I like to call “head trash”—things that are easy to obsess about but that just don’t matter, like how I look. But staying focused on being my authentic self can help me overcome those thoughts and keep sight of what’s really important: the success of my business, the wellbeing of my employees, the happiness of my family and friends.

And those, of course, are nearly universal values, whether you’re a celebrity, a company president, or anyone else with the passion to pursue ambitious goals for your life and career.