One of the hottest trends in mental wellness right now is the idea of living authentically. As the thinking goes, authentic living is the foundation of mental wellness inasmuch as it allows each person the freedom to be him or herself. But is it possible to take authenticity too far? And if so, how far is too far to go?
As much as the modern culture might value authenticity, it has an inherent trap: selfishness. It is one thing to want to be free to live a life that accurately reflects who you are. It’s another thing to live that life without impinging on someone else’s ability to do the same thing. Maintaining an orderly society requires that each one of us respect the rights, needs, and opinions of others. Unfortunately, authenticity can be taken to an extreme that does not allow others to be equally authentic.
Living Life Without Shame
Authenticity is one of the mainstays of the Plurawl Hispanic clothing brand. The New York company was founded by a Dominican man who felt he was not being true to himself and his heritage. He now uses his clothing line to encourage the LatinX and Hispanic communities to live authentic lives free of shame.
Not being ashamed of one’s cultural identity is good. Not being ashamed of heritage, lineage, etc. is also good. It is even good to not be ashamed of one’s job, level of education, personal wealth, and on and on. But does that mean people should never be ashamed of anything? Absolutely not.
There are some types of behavior that the culture finds offensive. Such behaviors have always been offensive. And in fact, many of those offensive behaviors are even crimes. Take burglary, for example. Does the burglar’s need to live authentically give him the right to break into homes and steal things? No. Should he be ashamed of his behavior? Absolutely.
No Right to Be Heard
A big part of the authenticity concept is being unafraid to speak your mind. You have your own thoughts and opinions. You have your own ideas and belief systems. You should feel free to express them without fear or reservation. That is all well and good, but do you have the right to express them to people who have no interest in listening to you?
Free speech is a fundamental right that is embedded in the U.S. Constitution. It is a right we all enjoy. But the right to free speech does not equal the right to be heard. You and I can speak freely all we want. No one else is obligated to listen. Sometimes, people striving to be authentic do their utmost to force their thoughts, opinions, and ideas on people who have no interest in hearing them.
Allowing Authenticity in Others
What this entire discussion boils down to is a willingness to allow authenticity in others. If Joe wants the freedom to live authentically, he must also grant that same freedom to Mary. He has no right to deny Mary her authenticity simply because what she thinks and believes does not match up with his thoughts and belief systems. Unfortunately, so many people who clamor about wanting to be authentic do not tolerate authenticity in other people.
It is possible to take authenticity too far. We go too far when we force our authentic selves on other people. We go too far when we allow our own authenticity to impinge on someone else’s. It is enough to cause one to wonder if pure authenticity is even possible. Here is a hint: it’s not.