I have a confession for you all: I don’t think we can be authentic.
Even when we try to say we’re “being real” by swearing or being a total douche, our real self is buried deep under layer upon layer of choices, culture, and other environmental factors. I would argue that people who still claim to be authentic are not because they brush their teeth, comb their hair, and don’t shout out every single thought that comes to their mind. Well most people, anyways.
As Seth Godin wrote last month,
“Perhaps the only truly authentic version of you is just a few days old, lying in a crib, pooping in your pants.
“Ever since then, there’s been a cultural overlay, a series of choices, strategies from you and others about what it takes to succeed in this world (in your world).
“And so it’s all invented.
“When you tell me that it would be authentic for you to do x, y or z, my first reaction is that nothing you do is truly authentic, it’s all part of a long-term strategy for how you’ll make an impact in the world.
“I’ll grant you that it’s essential to be consistent, that people can tell when you shift your story and your work in response to whatever is happening around you, and particularly when you say whatever you need to say to get through the next cycle. But consistency is easier to talk about and measure than authenticity is.
“The question, then, is what’s the impact you seek to make, what are the changes you are working for? And how can you achieve that and still do work you’re proud of?”
It’s OK if you’re not authentic: just be honest.