The Problem with Authenticity

Exploring Authenticity

Most people would agree that authenticity—thinking and acting in ways that present the most truthful version of self—is an essential part of living a meaningful life.

So often, however, when we envision the idea of leading an authentic existence, there is an assumption or belief that embracing one’s strengths should be prioritized. Arguably, a more holistic perspective not only involves embracing one’s strengths but also accepting one’s growth opportunities (i.e., limitations).

The Authenticity Dilemma

The problem with authenticity is that it is often viewed too rigidly, too robotically as if it is some height to which one can reach or a tangible goal one can attain. Authenticity is not a target, purpose, or objective toward which one can direct his or her effort. Authenticity is not something one is going to achieve by planning or doing.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of finding one’s true self is not trying to think in terms of authenticity—not even trying to search for it. The idea here is that to place a predetermined value on self-authenticity can create false narratives that arise from adjusting one’s behaviors so as to align with cultural norms. The converse is also true in that establishing criteria from which to build authenticity can lead to excusing or minimizing the gravity of negative behaviors.

ABM_authenticity__2_.5b6c4ddd41ebcUnmasking Authenticity

So, how does an individual arrive at healthy authenticity—taking responsibility for her or his wholeness and brokenness? The secret to cultivating genuine authenticity is pretty simple actually. Think of authenticity as the movement away from capturing the real self, and instead, moving toward accepting one’s soulness [the significance of one’s humanity].

Authenticity involves seeing and accepting yourself for who you truly are. On a deeper level, authenticity centers on being, becoming, unknowing, and discovering without the desire to influence neither the process nor the outcome. The next level of authenticity is based on the context in which one’s humanity can thrive in relationship with others.

Rethinking Authenticity

I now leave you to contemplate the following questions even as you own your story and blossom into the fullest expression of your authentic self.

  • Does your desire for authenticity create room for growth?
  • Will this expansion of your humanity leave your concentric circle and the world a better place?
  • Are your thoughts and actions guided by demonstrable love?

Further Questions to Explore

  • Beyond the social [macro] and momentary [micro] context, what emotional context is involved when the aim is to live authentically?
  • What is being sought after—the approach [ideas, beliefs], the emotional expectation [tension], the emotional response [release]?
  • What aspect of your humanity do you feel needs to be expressed?

6 thoughts on “The Problem with Authenticity

  1. Nice post. I think about these types of things all the time. This reminds me of my recent post about hard work and avoiding the “fake it ’till you make it” mindset that we often feel pressured to adopt:


    Also, have you read The Elephant in the Brain by Robin Hanson and Kevin Simler? They argue that we act in ways intended to boost our status, but that we hide our motivations even from ourselves so that we can look better to other people and create admirable stories about why we do what we do. I think living authentically requires that we accept that we don’t have perfectly pure motives about our actions and desires, and try to live in a way that is less self-serving.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Joe, to piggyback on your point of “accepting that we don’t have perfectly pure motives,” is exactly why the idea of authenticity is not easily captured or condensed in one sitting. That is, our motives and actions as humans are often nuanced and multilayered based on primal, ecological, and social factors that continue to evolve throughout our lifespan. Couple those factors with judgements, assumptions, and perceptions…and we can see how convoluted “authenticity” can become.

      Thanks for pushing the conversation forward. And I’ll definitely check out the book: “The Elephant in the Brain.”


  2. Ooh, this gives me good ideas to chew on. And you’re so right–we chase authenticity as if perfect, rather than realizing it will highlight our foibles as well as our shining light.

    Liked by 1 person

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