“We think sometimes we’re only drawn to the good, but we’re actually drawn to the authentic. We like people who are real more than those who hide their true selves under layers of artificial niceties.”
Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Authenticity is a tricky subject matter to circumnavigate. It is a topic which encompasses core values, internal characteristics and/or our quaint idiosyncrasies. A person is said to be authentic if they are “not a copy” and “genuine.”
The Oxford Dictionary defines authentic as:
“Of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine.”
How do any of us know if we are being authentic when we are exposed to so many artefacts and communications which either encourage us to conceal or diminish or alter our authentic self? I began to consider that this was a topic inherently fraught with numerous challenges and opportunities for discussion.
Being original or being authentic means being who we truly are. The paradox of living authentically is that others may not like or appreciate the authentic person which we present. One of the limitations that restricts many of us from embracing authenticity is our anxiety concerning the perception of other people. “What if people don’t like or accept my authentic self?” It is a very valid concern.
This blowback that is part and parcel to acting with authenticity might be very problematic to live with; particularly when there is a societal expectation that we conform to an agenda which we don’t genuinely believe in or desire. We may even come to accept the unacceptable if we are not paying attention or repeatedly ignore our uniquely authentic voice.
There are people we interact with, whether by choice or through serendipity, who actively seek ways to camouflage their authentic self. Examples are easily enough located through bullies and controllers, and manipulators and abusers, who will do and say almost anything to protect their projected images of their false selves as their ‘authentic’ selves. Most of the awareness surrounding this subject matter seems to illustrate that controllers are motivated by fear that their vulnerability will be exposed and manipulated in much the same way controllers prey on people’s fragility.
Another obstacle to authenticity is the global language of tolerance and diplomacy, the “I don’t condone it but I tolerate it” headline on the PC poster is one we are all overly familiar with. Is tolerance and diplomacy an act in authenticity or is it a convenient and culturally acceptable lie we adopt? If the latter, then which culture are we assigning the greater value to? If my authentic self is unable to tolerate or not agreeable with something that is culturally acceptable, then how do I absorb the lie?
Being authentic would actually require acting or behaving in a way which challenges the lie. To extend this thought line further even, being authentic by extension is an act of extreme courage. It takes a thrilling amount of courage to step out of being polite or to deviate from what is culturally acceptable to be authentic.