Wednesday, April 6, 2011

How authentic are you?

I came across a discussion recently concerning the authenticity of Oprah Winfrey. The writer thought she was 95% authentic, based on her honesty and so on. Someone else rated her at 75% authentic.

This is an assessment I think we all make with regard to other people, but less frequently with regard to ourselves.

I played golf with a guy last weekend who seemed to be trying to affect a high living, raconteur persona. He was constantly telling wry stories that starred himself as the central character, and usually involved being drunk somewhere and doing something outrageous. Some of the stories were quite amusing, but eventually it all became a bit tedious, not to mention interfering with my own tales of adventure. Authenticity score, 50%.

What is authenticity, anyway?

One definition is the degree to which one is true to one's own personality, spirit, or character, despite the pressures of external forces and influences.

That sounds right to me.

I have observed that most people will suppress or exaggerate certain aspects of their personality in order to conform to the norms of the milieu in which they find themselves. This probably has something to do with our desire for acceptance by peers.

By doing so, have we become inauthentic? Maybe so. I suspect that the truly authentic types are themselves in all situations, and damn the consequences. You have to admire that.

Perhaps my golfing acquaintance was just refusing to accept the norms of golf course conversation, which mostly centres on offering insincere compliments for good shots and hollow commiserations when the ball goes astray.

Up that guy's authenticity score to 75%.

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