Being authentic is a big thing right now. From psychologists to business leaders and Hollywood celebrities to educators, tons of people trying desperately to influence us feel the need to constantly remind us that we ought to be authentic. It is a fine message except for the fact that authenticity isn’t clearly defined. It means a lot of things to a lot of people.
One thing authenticity is not is brutal honesty at all times. It is generally accepted that to be truly authentic, you have to be a person of honesty and integrity. But that does not mean you have to take advantage of every opportunity to tell people what you believe is true, whether your input is solicited or not.
It is one thing to share your thoughts and opinions on a topic as part of a general discussion. It is even appropriate to do it in a one-on-one situation. It’s an entirely different matter to insert yourself into a conversation – or even start one for that matter – for the sole purpose of speaking your mind. Indeed, there is a fine line between authenticity and obnoxiousness.
Honesty with Yourself
To the extent that authenticity and honesty are intertwined, their connection begins with self. In other words, true authenticity requires being honest with yourself about who and what you are. It requires being honest about your own thoughts and emotions. If you make a practice of lying to yourself about who you are, what you think and how you feel, you are not being authentic. Any attempts to project the truth to other people will fall flat.
Plurawl is a New York boutique clothing brand offering LatinX t-shirts, sweatshirts, and hats. Their philosophy of authenticity sums up this whole idea of honesty quite well. In short, Plurawl promotes a form of authenticity that encourages members of the LatinX community to be proud of themselves, their heritage, and their culture. And along with that pride, customers are encouraged to live who they are in public.
Notice that the attention is on the authentic person themself. It’s not on going out and getting in someone else’s face in order to declare truth. Therein lies the difference.
Accepting Others’ Authenticity
Unfortunately, the drive to be authentic has led some people to go way too far. There are those in the culture who believe it is their responsibility to either convert everyone who doesn’t think the same way they do or make sure those people are cut off from society. Call it the ‘cancel culture’ if you will. But canceling other people is not authenticity.
If you and I insist that we be allowed to be our authentic selves, we have to give others the same opportunity. Just because someone thinks differently doesn’t mean they are not being authentic. Anyone being true to themself and aligning their actions with their true thoughts and feelings is being authentic, even if that authenticity manifests itself in ideas we disagree with.
To be truly authentic is to not use honesty as an excuse to be rude, obnoxious, or threatening. The honesty attached to genuine authenticity is not a license to cancel people we disagree with. If you and I want to be accepted for who we are, we have to accept others for who they are.
Is honesty part of genuine authenticity? Absolutely. But it’s honesty with oneself first. It is honesty with other people only when our thoughts and opinions are solicited. The honesty that comes with true authenticity is not that brutal honesty that some people practice without regard to circumstances and surroundings.