One of the things a lot of people are clamoring for nowadays is authenticity. Folks expect and desire transparency and authenticity from employers, employees, colleagues, peers, celebrities, personalities, politicians, everyone.
Over the past few years, the world saw an increase in people’s desire for authenticity over the need to belong.
Innate Need to Belong
Depending on the wearer and the occasion, masks serve different purposes. During Halloween or a masquerade, they give a person an alter-ego to hide behind. Robbers and thieves, on the other hand, use them to conceal their identities and avoid capture. Medical practitioners wear surgical masks for protection and hygienic purposes.
Similarly, many people put on masks to give people an impression of something they’re not. The goal is to mislead and manipulate people into forming an opinion of them that they find favorable. Ultimately, people want to fit in and be accepted.
The notion of revealing your true self can be off-putting because most people don’t see enough value in themselves. They believe that if they reveal who they truly are—if they become authentic—they will disappoint and repel those around them.
The need to belong is natural for everyone. Many want to feel significant, accepted, and valued. And the solution to meeting those needs is to cover up your iniquities and shortcomings.
Going against the Flow
The thing is, people want to fit in because standing out challenges the status quo. It creates ripples in a peaceful pond that shakes everyone. And while many want some form of attention, they don’t want to get the negative type it brings.
For instance, when it comes to style, most young people go for fashion over comfort. No matter how uncomfortable a certain fashion trend might be, if it’s what’s popular among youngsters, that’s what they will go for.
In a day where modesty is no longer a standard, those who are conservative and dress modestly find it difficult to mingle with the cool kids and not get ridiculed by them. On the flip side, someone who’s into gothic fashion might not blend in a school that upholds certain societal standards, including maintaining a specific physical appearance.
Specific workplaces also have to maintain a level of professionalism that requires employees to comply with a particular dress code. You might be working for a British school admissions office and find that most of them are dressed to the nines and ready to face any client, parent, board member, and member of the academy even in the most unexpected times. If they were to come dressed for a baseball game or glammed up, they stick out like a sore thumb and negatively impact them.
The thing is, people don’t want to be the odd man out. If they stand out, they want people to recognize them as a positive example of individualism and uniqueness, not as weird and bizarre.
So where does this leave you where authenticity is concerned?
Embracing the Real You
The truth of the matter is, authenticity goes beyond physical appearances. It has more to do with upholding your values and pursuing your desires regardless of the external pressures you get to conform to what everyone is doing.
For example, if everyone is cheating in class, do you follow suit or stand up for what is right, regardless of how it makes you look? The values you hold dear to your heart will manifest in your decisions—how you act, think, and speak. If your values go against the grain, will you be willing to stick by them or, in your desire to fit in and belong, will you compromise?
Authenticity is learning to stand up for your values, morals, tastes, preferences, and desires. Anytime you sacrifice them to please others reduces your authenticity. Does it make you a sell-out? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Only you can know.
At the end of the day, only you can answer that question. You know the reason why you make certain decisions. You know why you’re copying someone else’s lifestyle, speech, mannerism, or fashion style.
If you’re pretending to be someone you’re not just so you get to be with the cool crowd, you’re not being authentic. If you want a glorious wedding to make a good impression but you know you will end up in debt, you might want to rethink your priorities. If you like making up stories where you’re always the star of the show but in reality you’re not, then you’re only fooling yourself.
It’s a very superficial world right now where everyone is out to show people how well they’re doing. This is pretty evident whenever you go through your Instagram or Facebook news feed. The thing is, most of the stuff posted is curated. It means people post the best pics and delete the worst ones. There is almost zero authenticity. They’re out to impress because they need to be celebrated by others through likes, comments, subscriptions, and shares.
In this kind of world, truly authentic people are a breath of fresh air. They stand out among the rest for keeping things real. They have embraced who they truly are—both good and bad—and have come to terms with it knowing they are supposed to be unique and not copycats.
In a world full of superficiality and falseness, be different. Be authentic.