“Authenticity" in psychology refers to the courage to live one's life according to the needs of one's inner being, rather than the demands of society or one's early conditioning.
This topic bonked me in the brain a couple of times lately. Erica Orloff did a post July 9th about what we dreamed about becoming when we were young – did we really want to be writers and did we do it.
When I was young I dreamed of being a great actress and standing on the stage to accept my Academy Award thanking all the little people who made it possible. No, I didn’t become a great actress, but I spent a lot of my life acting like I was interested, amused, happy, caring and so on. I was an actress. I just didn’t get paid or win any awards for it. Erica responded that she always tried to live her life authentically. Uh, Oh!
Then I was at a wedding reception recently where of 10 people at the table, I knew 2. I’m not very outgoing unless I know people and am comfortable in a situation. This was not one of those times. I’m almost 60 and I was the youngest person at the table by about 10 years. The woman sitting next to me was from Scotland and only wanted to talk about golf. When she learned I play golf infrequently – last time was about 5 years ago – she quickly turned to the person on her other side.
I engaged in some conversations, smiled, ate, and got the hell out of there as soon as appropriate. As I was getting ready to leave the table, the woman on the other side of golf lady (who was in the loo) smiled at me and asked, “Are you authentic?”
I must have looked puzzled because she said, “You’ve been sitting here for almost 2 hours, smiling, laughing, nodding and talking, but I don’t think you’ve really been here. Was your participation authentic?”
Wow! I hesitated for a moment unsure of how to respond. I said, “I hope I haven’t offended you. I’m not very good at social interactions with strangers. This isn’t my forte. Am I authentic? I’m not sure. You’ve given me a lot to think about.”
She said, “The fact that you didn’t have a ready answer means you’re probably more authentic than many people. At least you’re willing to consider it.”
Am I authentic? With my friends and in most areas of my everyday life, I am. I’m very honest and straightforward – tactfully so (usually). I like the truth and believe being true to myself is as important as being truthful with others.
However, in social situations I’m an actress. The truth is I’d rather be home or with close friends, but that isn’t always possible so I pretend. Normally I’m a very good actress. The lady at the reception is the first person to ever question me. It was odd because I’m the one who is usually accused of being hyper aware – of practically being able to read people’s minds.
So, the answer to her question is yes and no. Yes about 80% of the time and no the rest.
Are you authentic?