What is authenticity? For starters, a very nice word. One of these that we love to attach as a command: ‘by the way, be authentic, you have to be authentic’.
So what’s the opposite to being authentic? Being a fake, I suppose. There is the authentic Rolex and the fake Rolex. There you are. Simple.
Do I have several versions of authenticity? It sounds like a silly question. A fragrant contradiction with the fake non-fake categories. But Erving Goffman (1922-1982), a key figure in Sociology and Psychology, told us that we have ‘persona’. As in the old Greek theater concept of mascara (The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life , 1956) We present ourselves with prosopon like the ancient Greek actors wearing different masks (mascara) to express different emotions.
What’s my mascara for today?, we could ask. Is the real me the obviously kind and helpful that morning or the irritated and intolerant the same afternoon. OK, I hear the ‘It’s Both Brigade’ (there is always a ‘It’s Both Brigade’ near you)
And why on earth am I entering in this philosophical discussion? Don’t we have ‘in business’ better things to do?
OK, just finishing here.
If authenticity has to do with truth, I love this line from The New York Times columnist and author (latest great book ‘The Second Mountain’): ‘The hard part of intellectual life is separating what is true from what will get you liked’.
If according to American Justice Potter Stewart ‘you know when you see it’ (he did not know the threshold between obscenity and pornography but claimed he would know when he saw it), then you may know you have been authentic when you have created a bit of restlessness and dislike. Translation, not telling people what they want to hear.
‘Need of being liked’ is a personality treat. It percolates life and you find it all over the place. Certainly in some leaders. But wearing the mascara of being liked all the time is bound to compromise the truth. Being liked may bear a big authenticity cost.
I think that, as many times in human affairs, we are close to the reality when we know or express the negative. We often know more (and are able to express better) of what we don’t want than what we want. Anti-something is easier than pro-something. Maybe, just maybe, we are very authentic when we have found out that people did not like it.
Not that I prescribe being dis-liked.