Authenticity: Most want it, few give and receive it — hence its value.
Fantasy is easier than reality, because we can control and morph it. It’s why religion is also so powerful, and dangerous, because it can be any and all things to whoever so pleases. It can make black white and white black, or as is in recent times gray is the new cool.
That dangerous power doesn’t negate it’s authentic and truth-bearing nature, however. Religion and fantasy are like mirrors: a reflection of who we really are and what we really crave.
That isn’t the focus of our attention here though. Let’s talk about authenticity, and why it’s so valuable and necessary.
What is Authenticity?
The quality of being authentic; genuine, sincere, honest, true, accurate, real.
In street language: it’s called being real.
In a world full of cruelty and danger, people seek safety. Nobody wants to starve, nobody wants to be in prison, nobody wants to be left alone or with nothing. Everyone wants some form of peace, joy, and fulfillment in life. In the years of our existence on this earth, humanity has learned that social connections with others and building community is a necessity to find peace, joy, and fulfillment in life. As such, people have found that certain behaviors and beliefs alienate others away from them and create an unpleasant gap in the road towards those pleasant things. In response to this alienation, many people change their behaviors and beliefs in order to be accepted back into “the tribe” or circle they were once a part of, even if those behaviors and beliefs represent who they really are.
People cannot live without affirmation and are afraid of rejection. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and all forms of social media showcase this reality.
People are like this so much that they’re willing to lie about their own lives and desires, or portray a certain image, in order to be accepted by others. Most people find it hard to be themselves, they think its better to be fake and accepted rather than be real and rejected.
“How do you know that? Isn’t that a huge generalization to make?”
No. I know that because I’m a person who has seen through the veil of this false phenomenon in my own life and now see it in the lives of all the people around me. I see it on social media and in real life. Whether its at work, on the streets, at a bar, even in someone’s own home: people put on a face for other people. Kiss up to the boss and be nice to your coworkers. Look busy and avoid conversation with people on the bus or in the street. Act cool and fun at the bars (have a beer to help you do that). Put on a smile for people when they come to your home.
What if you don’t want to do those things? What if your boss is a controlling incompetent selfish tool and your coworkers are lazy? What if you want to go talk to that lady or dude who is standing on that side of the bus but is minding their own business? What if you don’t give a shit about being cool and talking about shallow meaningless things, but you crave a good time by having meaningful connecting conversations and dancing like a fool with strangers or friends? What if you prefer not having X person or Y family in the intimacy of your home because of their toxic and negative nature?
Simply: What if you don’t want to hide who you really are and how you really feel?
This isn’t a rare thing, this is a normal everyday phenomenon. We have external factors (laws, societal norms, other people’s opinions, etc) telling us that we cannot be who we really are and say or do what we really feel because otherwise we will be judged and face negative consequences. People feel like they can’t be real with others, and therefore they feel restrained.
Now, it should be mentioned here that not all those external factors restraining us are bad and not all internal feelings we have are good. There is a law against theft for a reason, no matter how much you feel like you deserve that new iPhone (or Blackberry) you can’t just take one from the store without paying. No matter how passionate you feel towards your lover you can’t just drop pants and screw each other’s brains out in public where people can watch. And even if you think your friend shouldn’t care about what other people think, it’s not right to talk about their private lives (or secrets) out in the open without their permission. As with everything in life there are boundaries, most of which are set by moral beliefs, and therefore some things are better left unexpressed.
Aside from those, however, people have been programmed since they were young to value being accepted into society rather than expressing what they really think or how they really feel. This is a form of slavery and psychological torture that leads to negative consequences on an individual level and on a community level.
Why Authenticity is Valuable
In general, what makes something valuable? Where does value derive from?
There is a short and great explanation of value on this Quora forum (click here). And in my opinion, value is derived from three things:
Scarcity, belief and utility.
Gold is valuable because its hard to retrieve and not available to everyone. The U.S dollar is valuable because the US and other countries in the world believe it to be, and act on that belief through monetary exchanges. Air is valuable because without it we would die, we need and have use for it.
So why is authenticity valuable?
Scarcity: Because fakeness is glorified, as seen in the predominate culture that craves fame, power and fortune. People will risk their existing relationships, health and financial well-being to achieve those not-yet-existing things. Why be loyal to one person in love, sickness, health, poverty and riches when you can have a bunch of people for mutual pleasure at any time or circumstance?
Belief: Because it’s not cool to care about things that matter. Only people in categories abc, def, and ghi are counted as cool and all others are not. It’s honorable to volunteer and do good in your community, but its not as cool as being a world famous and wealthy rapper that sells music which hits quadruple platinum certifications. Who doesn’t want to be cool (i.e., accepted by the majority)?
Utility: Because being truthful can be dangerous, useless, or both. You can lose your job (your source of income) for suggesting that your boss is incompetent or lazy, regardless of how true it is. You can be disowned by your family for questioning their traditions and values. You can never be trusted by those who are not trustworthy, and at times those kind of people are the majority. What good is it to be truthful if it costs you your own safety and security?
Authenticity is valuable because not many practice it. They want and respect it, but they won’t become and give it.
Why Authenticity is Necessary
“What if people don’t really care about loyalty, health, relationships, financial well-being, honor, volunteering, doing good, and being honest, curious, and trustworthy? What if people just want to go with the flow and be like everyone else and enjoy life’s pleasures?”
Did you hear what you just said? Seriously, take a second and repeat that again to yourself.
If you don’t care about those things, the things that are valuable, then you don’t care about order and chaos, about what is right and wrong, about people and about being useful in this world. Ultimately you don’t care about yourself, and therefore you are a danger to society.
You are a lost individual, and a society of lost individuals is a lost society; where the blind lead the blind. There is no rule of law, no order, no right, no justice, no use and no hope for the future.
The fact of the matter is, you do care about those values, because thankfully there are just enough people who do live those values out that support this engine we call life. Without them and those values, you would cease to find pleasure and live without a hope for tomorrow. The problem is that you take them for granted and ignore them even though they are the very thing that support you.
You are living a lie, based on what you incorrectly think and believe to be important.
Ray Dalio is the founder and CEO of one of the world’s largest hedge funds (basically, a basket of investable money worth billions of dollars). He is 68 years old, a successful businessman, a family man, a philanthropist, and a practitioner of meditation. He’s been around the block both as a commoner and as an elitist because of his wealth, and he’s a pretty smart guy.
In April 2017 he delivered a Ted Talk in which he talks about radical transparency and radical truthfulness (you can find that Ted Talk here). In it he discusses how his company uses computers and algorithms to capture, analyze, and encourage radical transparency and truthfulness. He ends with this powerful statement:
“We really do this. We do it because it eliminates what I believe to be one of the greatest tragedies of mankind. And that is people arrogantly naively holding opinions in their minds that are wrong and acting on them and not putting them out there to stress test them. And it elevates ourselves above our own opinions, so that we start to see things through everybody’s eyes and we see things collectively.
Imagine if you knew what [people] were really thinking, and what they were really like [and vise versa]. It would certainly clear things up a lot.”
That is why authenticity is necessary, because it leads to the end of your lies and the beginning of truth and the common good. If we were all real with each other we would learn how to understand and better communicate with each other, which leads to us having more patience with each other, and allows us the opportunity to find truth and love in peace without lies and corrupt pleasure through war.
The more inauthenticity exists, the more lies, corrupt pleasure, and war will rule our lives. The more people will get hurt, the more inequality, more hate and destruction. No matter your beliefs or lack there of someday there will be that one final war that will end it all, whether that be our existence as a physical species or all that is evil.
“This is a fanatical over-exaggeration, you’re connecting something so macro as evil and corruption with something so micro as the individual lifestyle choices of a person.”
You’re a blind fool if you don’t see the connection. Everything in life is connected. Your actions, or choice of inaction, has a historical effect that bleeds into the next seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years of our existence.
You play a part in this theatrical play called “Life”, whether you like it or not. As such it is your duty to play the part as best you can, which involves a curious soul, self reflection, and a willingness to repent (i.e., change the way you think). None of that happens if you throw away the script handed to you by the Director and do Him, the other actors, and the audience a dis-service by improvising where improvisation is not necessary (and actively discouraged).
Don’t worry, there is room for improv where you can be yourself and still be part of His play. The role you have was made just for you, and He kept that in mind when He gave you that role. Its when you disagree with and hide yourself from truth, love, and correction that you ruin the play for Him, yourself, and others. Don’t be a selfish coward, expose yourself to the light and be open to correction.
This is my personal principle for authenticity: “I have nothing to hide.”
Not in my history, nor with friends, family, strangers, coworkers, or anyone else. What you see is what you get. I am who I am, imperfections and all. I don’t accept my imperfections as my identity or something to boast about, but instead as things to let go of and as a testimony (meaning, in the past) of what makes me different and how I grew up into my own man. I also don’t see my strengths and talents as my right to good things, but rather as a gift to others to serve, love, and share truth with them which leads to a real abundant life.
We all need love and truth, so lets not hide it from each other, even if we get hurt. Lets be real. Let’s be authentic.
It can get messy at first, but its so worth it in the end. We have that promise.