Authentically inauthentic

by Jeremy Evans

I’ve been wondering if it is inauthentic to be inauthentic? Or to put it another way, is it authentic to be inauthentic?

I was wondering this because I am getting older and part of getting older is changing. Well, it is for me. I am very different to how I was twenty or thirty years ago. I want to know where the authenticity lies. Is it in the mellowed version, the more ‘whatever’ version that is accepting because it is hard work to not accept or is it in the still partially unaccepting because that is who I am?

If I do something for someone because it is to my benefit, say, they will like me and that will make me feel good. Is the authenticity in the act of doing something for someone or satiating the need to be liked? If being authentic is generally considered a good thing for society and the self then the authenticity perhaps lies in the inauthentic act of doing good for someone. Either that or it is in the not socially beneficial act of doing something selfishly to be liked to feel better about myself.

Or can I only be authentic when I feel good about myself and I am know to myself. Which of course begs as many questions.

When do I know myself?

How long does knowing oneself last?

When I change do I no longer know myself?

Authenticity is much in demand these days. Brands have been authentic for a few years, consumers are searching for authenticity from brands and so it is being delivered to them. But what is authenticity? Let’s think about a local cafe, of the greasy spoon variety, the full English, focussing on quantity than quality. You go into the spoon, you order the full English, you expect tinned beans, tinned tomatoes, probably some old fashioned sausages that are more bread than meat and that sausage skin that feels more like plastic than guts. That is what you have gone in for and that is exactly what you get. That, I would suggest is authenticity.

It is suggested that Authenticity is about being aligned with your beliefs and values and acting in a way that is coherent with them. Reading around the subject this seems to be regarded unquestioningly as a good thing. There also seems to be an assumption that values and beliefs are somehow good. Or perhaps it is only those that have ‘good’ values and beliefs and act accordingly are being authentic.

But what if you look deep into your heart, do a lot of self-introspection, as Authenticity seems to require of us, and find only a selfish, mean, money-grabbing individual that places little value on the lives and happiness of others. And when you’ve found that out, you align your behaviours and spend your entire life looking after number one, trying to earn as much as possible with no care as to who you tread on and who you hurt. Does that count?

What I’m wondering is can you ever act outside of yourself? Can you be inauthentic?

If I decide to sell someone out because I am more afraid of the consequences to myself if I don’t, even though I am normally quite a giving, generous, caring person am I being inauthentic? Perhaps it is more authentic to sell that person out, perhaps that reveals a deeper authenticity that I have been masking all my life and that I wasn’t aware of. If I look into myself and find a person that would be happy to sell someone else out but then, when in that position, decide that I can go against my true nature and do the better thing of accepting the hardship of not selling someone else out, is that authentic?

This entry was amended on 23 August to make it better.