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“You are not being yourself” – What Hermann Hesse knew about authentic marketing

by | 12. July 2020

Hermann Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldmund describes a friendship in which one friend wants to represent a made up self in order to please the other. Both of them learn that there is no point in faking a self that does not correspond to one’s own nature. The same applies to your marketing.

Narcissus is a novice at a medieval monastery. He is extremely intelligent and educated and teaches at the convent school. Goldmund , being quite a bit younger, charismatic and clever in other ways, deeply admires Narcissus. He wants to be just like him and is convinced that the path of the scholar is his path, too. So he tries to impress the admired Narcissus with diligence, intellectual ambition and a lot of work.

The two become friends.

But Narcissus has the ability to truly see and understand people. He can see through their masks and conditioned behaviour. He quickly recognizes Goldmund’s true potential , which is very different from what he tries to portray.

Again and again he gives Goldmund hints and is not fooled by his efforts to be an intellectual. But Goldmund is desperate. He finally wants to be recognized by Narcissus. He asks why Narcissus doesn’t take him and his intellectualism seriously. And Narcissus replies:

I take you seriously as long as you are Goldmund.. But you’re not always Goldmund. I wish for nothing more than for you to become Goldmund, completely and authentically. You are not a scholar, you are not a monk — a scholar or a monk can be made of lesser stuff. You think you are not educated enough for me, not enough of a logician, or not religious enough. . But you are not being yourself!.

At first, Goldmund doesn’t understand what his friend means – but the conversations multiply. Narcissus describes the two poles that they represent as friends: the intellectual thinker and the deeply feeling, sensitive, creative adventurer. Goldmund’s true nature, an artist’s soul, has been suppressed and split off due to traumatic childhood experiences. Narcissus describes Goldmunds true nature like this:

The natures of your kind, those with the strong and delicate senses, the ensouled, the dreamers, poets, lovers, are almost always superior to the rest of us, to us religious people. Your parentage is maternal. You live life to the fullest, you are given the power of love and the ability to experience things deeply. We logical or religious ones, although we often seem to lead and govern you, do not live life to the fullest. Our lives are arid. The fullness of life belongs to you, the juice of the fruit belongs to you, the garden of love belongs to you, as well as the beautiful land of art. Your home is the earth, ours is the idea. Your danger is drowning in the world of the senses, ours is suffocation in a vacuum. You are an artist, I am a thinker.”

And he also explains to Goldmund where that comes from – and how blind he is to his true qualities. Through these conversations, Goldmund’s traumatic childhood memories come up and he can finally integrate what truly belongs to him. Following his true nature, he leaves the monastery – and in the course of the time he experiences the world more and more in a way that corresponds to his experiencing, spiritually rich, artistic soul.

Hesse not only put it beautifully in words and pictures – it’s like a key to one’s own soul – but also so aptly summed up what “being authentic” means. And that we humans actually have a very precise feeling for it. There is absolutely no point in pretending and following false ideals. There is a reason why everyone is different.

I take you seriously as long as you are Goldmund. (..) You think you’re not educated enough, not enough of a logician or religious. Oh no, but you are not being yourself.

So if you have a business that you want to share with the world,take this parable to heart. Don’t think about what you’re “lacking ” of and how should be, in order to please people. Don’t do your marketing with pretense that is meant to enchant others but hides your true qualities.

The people who are waiting for you, will see you, appreciate you and take you seriously when you are just being yourself .

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