What does being authentic mean in a world that values material goods, wealth, and beauty. Can a person be happy if they don’t follow the latest trends or social norms? Many people wake up every morning, put on their armor, mask up, and face what they see as a cruel and unforgiving world. Others don’t prescribe to such habits, and walk out their front door just as they are, with open hearts, open minds, offering themselves to the world just as they are, and unapologetically, I would add.
In the TEDx Toronto talk, The Importance of Being Inauthentic, Mark Bowden speaks the importance of connection with others; suggesting that people be inauthentic, and follow a list of facial expressions to create the illusion of friendship with another person, rather than being indifferent (2013). He states that this is the only way to not miss out on brilliant opportunities with one another.
On the other hand, in The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown states in her guidepost #1 that one of the ways to living a whole-hearted life is through cultivating authenticity and letting go of what people think (2010). So, which is the correct way to live? Let’s explore what happens to the human experience when you choose one over the other
Authenticity is a choice, it is not innate. Whether we choose to put our real selves out there and be vulnerable to the ridicule of others is our choice. We can go through life pretending to be what each person we come into contact with wants us to be or we can be our true selves. Most people fall on a continuum between being inauthentic or authentic. According to Dr. Brown, “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are” (2010, pp. 50).
Furthermore, Brown suggests that when we choose authenticity, we find the courage to be imperfect, be vulnerable, and set boundaries. We also exercise compassion toward ourselves because we know that we are all hardwired for struggle as well as being strong (2010). Lastly, we nurture the sense of belonging and connection that only comes when we believe we are enough. Without these things, we are simply living our lives with armor on, not really experiencing what it is to connect with someone authentically, without changing ourselves to fit the mold.
That is how we make a true connection with another person. If we are always pretending to be what others want, we simply lose ourselves, become stressed out and unhappy. Authenticity invites joy, grace, and gratitude into our lives, even when it is difficult or intense, so we just have to let go, let it consume us and be ourselves.
According to Mark Bowden we need to put on a “face” and pretend to be someone’s “friend” in order for them to listen to you. This includes smiling a full smile, with narrowed eyes, building it and then holding it for at least 3 seconds, making eye contact to induce a return smile, and then showing empty hands as to not create fear in others. These are all great things, and by doing it you make another person feel comfortable around you.
But why does this have to be inauthentic? If you have a public speaking job and you don’t look forward to sharing your experiences and knowledge with others (even though it may be a little nerve wracking), then why do it. Are you truly happy and living whole-heartedly or are you just following the drive to make money? Living like this causes stress, anxiety, and the belief that we are not truly good enough.
Why would one want to live as a fake and a fraud? Putting your authentic-self out there and being vulnerable will sometimes end in heartbreak and struggle, but by doing so you are living whole-heartedly and learning from your mistakes. This way, the next time you will more easily find the courage to stand in the arena, all marred and tattered, and be brave. Having the courage to be ourselves is what counts.
Bowden, M. (Writer). (2013, September). The Importance of Being Inauthentic [Video file].
Retrieved May 11, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzpf84_Dd40
Brown, B., & Fortgang, L. (2015). The Gifts of Imperfection. Tullamarine, Victoria: Bolinda