When Authenticity is a BIG Mistake

Authenticity can sometimes be a terrible mistake - and it has nothing to do with embarrassment.

It all started when I asked human voice expert, Julian Treasure a question about my Boston accent:

His answer got me thinking about authenticity.

There’s a justifiable authenticity movement happening in our culture. The advice is flowing like wine, and everyone seems to be drinking it in.

  • “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”

  • “You do you.”

  • “I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.”

  • “Stand in your truth.”

  • “Don’t worry about what other people think. Haters gonna hate.”

  • “Keep it real.”

  • “Whoever you are, own it!”

Has this gone a bit too far?

Is there a time to be authentic and a time to be fake?

Frog and Scorpion.jpg

Remember the story of the Frog and the Scorpion?

The scorpion asks the frog for a ride across the river, but the frog is afraid of being stung.

“Relax,” said the scorpion. “If I sting you, then we will BOTH sink and drown.”

That seemed reasonable, so the frog takes the scorpion on his back and begins swimming. Halfway across, the scorpion stings the frog. As they are drowning, the frog asks, “Why did you sting me?”

“Because it is my nature.”

In other words, the scorpion was just being himself. He was standing in his truth. He was keeping it real.

The Major Problem with “Be Yourself” is that We Have TWO Selves.

You want the slice of cake, but you also want the girlish figure.

You want to retire early, but you also want that expensive vacation now.

You want to tell her how the jeans really make her look, but you also don’t want her to slap you.

You are who you are, but you are also who you hope to become.

The scorpion didn’t have a choice, but we humans do. At any given time we possess BOTH the frog’s capacity for help and the scorpion’s capacity for harm. Authenticity isn’t just a matter of our nature, it’s also a matter of our choice.

Two bad things happen when we are true to the WRONG SELF…

  1. We sacrifice opportunities for personal improvement.
    If “I yam who I yam and dat’s what I yam,” then why even bother to work on my shortcomings? We fail to grow if our only goal is to remain true to our feelings in the moment. In Julian’s words, “This is a question of enhancing yourself…”

  2. We fail to consider others.
    Have you ever been a victim of someone else’s authenticity? If I’m from the North and you’re from the South, then my authentic speech pattern is much faster than yours. If I just blabber on while you struggle to decipher my “natural” and “authentic” accent, then my authentic self isn’t serving anyone. But is it “inauthentic” or “phony” of me to adopt a different pace? To Julian, this is a not a question of being inauthentic. It’s a question of “being realistic.”

“When You’re Being Authentic, You’re Shooting Yourself In the Foot - IF that Authenticity is MISPLACED.”

Here’s a video where I explain the idea of misplaced authenticity…