Last Monday, I joined Bobby Umar’s leadership discussion, The Power of Connection Chat, on Twitter, for a conversation on authenticity. In answer to Umar’s question, “What is authenticity?” there was a wide range of response:
A3 False promises. The inability to LISTEN. #PoCchat
— Noreen M. (@nuhreeine) July 22, 2013
Too wide, really. Is authenticity really about selfishness, listening skills, or work ethic? What about being true to others as well as yourself? I’d say, “probably not.” But is this really the case—that “faking it til you make it” is inauthentic?
In Pedro Almodovar’s “Todo Sobre Mi Madre,” (“All About My Mother”) Agrado, a trans woman and sex worker, entertains a crowd of theater goers with a story of authenticity and transformation. She points to one body part after another, names the feminizing medical procedure performed and its cost. Most expenses are given in dollars, but the other prices she has paid are made clear. “It costs a lot to be truly authentic,” says Agrado, in the conclusion of her speech. “And one can’t be stingy with these things because you are more authentic the more you resemble what you’ve dreamed of being.”
Further complicating the question of “What is authentic?” is that we are authentically complex. We are quantum, wave forms of consciousness and particles of identity. If you try to pin us down with labels, we defy them with our individuality. Walt Whitman wrote in “Song of Myself,” “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large—I contain multitudes.”
While we are largely a product of our environments and genetics, forces beyond our control, we also have at least the illusion of will and self-determination: we have drives beyond survival, to become something more than we are. Which are you, your values or the raw materials? Aren’t we both?
Agrado’s description of authenticity contains within it an argument for its selfishness. To prioritize resembling our dreams for ourselves is expensive, and as the story of “Todo Sobre Mi Madre” makes clear, it takes years or whole lifetimes to achieve. To devote most of one’s lifetime and resources to achieving a dream of self-actualization is either heroic or very selfish, and likely, both.
Don’t equate “fake it til you make it” with inauthenticity. Projecting confidence and belief with sincerity is a plus! #PoCChat
— Lois Martin (@LoisMarketing) July 22, 2013
— Justin Cascio (@likethewatch) July 22, 2013
How do you express your authentic self?