The ‘sin’ of NOT being authentic?


by Kenneth Justice

~ ‘Just be yourself’ – Ever hear that before? Chances are that you have heard something along those lines and if you are under the age of 35 there is also a likely chance that it is a motto you live your life by;

–) Just be yourself

–) To hell with what others think

–) Don’t live your life by other people’s standards

–) Be free, Be yourself!

A hundred years ago our great-grandparents had endless rules about public behavior; many of them designed to create a heavy dose of conformity among the younger people; the leaders of society wanted to <gasp> dictate people’s public behavior.

Let’s get something out of the way; I am glad I don’t live in the 19th century! The rules of etiquette in days-of-old often went well beyond common sense, consider just a few;

–) Women were forbidden to laugh or giggle in public

–) Never allow your parents to bring you a chair – (huh?)

–) Only ‘safe’ subjects were permitted in public discourse

–) The goal of women in life was to please men

As Western Culture moved further away from the Victorian era people realized that forbidding women to laugh in public or expecting men to only discuss ‘safe’ subjects did more harm then good; rules of etiquette like those I mentioned have the potential to create a society of fake people.

However, in our culture’s quest toward creating a society of authentic people……have we gone too far?

Let’s be honest, the further we get away from the rules of yesteryear; the more we seem to become overly obsessed with this strange concept of authenticity.

In many ways, authenticity has  become something of a golden calf; if you aren’t being totally authentic than you are somehow less-of-a-person.

When I flip on reality television I see a lot of people acting like dumb-asses. This isn’t to say I hate reality television (I enjoy a couple shows now-and-then)……..but despite the fact that I like certain elements of reality television I have to admit that it seems like a lot of people are making fools of themselves now-a-days.

Take for instance the D-list celebrity tendency toward leaking sex tapes in order to become famous aka Kim Kardashian & Paris Hilton. Would we even know who the two of them are if it weren’t for their sex tapes?

And then when certain types of people become ”famous’, instead of being satisfied with being a public figure; they have to go and ruin things by acting completely foolish in public. Do you recall the song “Stupid Girls” by the singer Pink? Its a interesting observation by Pink toward the foolish behavior of the rich and famous now-a-days.

I’m the last person who would say, “Remember the good-ole-days?”

I’m not one of those types of people.

I’m actually happy about the progress we have made in Western Culture.

–) Women & minorities enjoy more freedom and personal autonomy

–) Art is not censored by the government

–) Writers have a more expansive vocabulary at their disposal

However, in our culture’s quest toward creating a society of authentic people……have we gone too far?

People regularly tell strangers to “F**k Off!”

In fact, a female reader to my blog called another female reader the C-Word last week! What is wrong with people?

Why would you leave a public record of having called another person the C-Word?

In our quest for authenticity have we left behind common sense and human decency?

The brand NIKE has one of the most famous slogans of my lifetime; “JUST DO IT”

For as long as I can remember my generation has been encouraged to ‘Just Do It”

Obviously I am not suggesting that NIKE is responsible for every young adult who acts like a dumb ass in public, but that simple 3-word slogan encompasses quite a bit about our generation….doesn’t it?

Imagine what a different world it would be if people lived by a different kind of motto;

–) Always think about it

–) Think before you act

–) Consider the consequences

–) Don’t be a dumb ass!

Hey, I don’t want to take things too far. I love excitement and I enjoy making spur-of-the-moment decisions at times…..

I also love the fact that people in Western Culture don’t want to be ‘fake’ or ‘in-authentic’.

Call it balance, call it common sense, call it your sister Susie or brother Billy; whatever it is I don’t want my children to sacrifice their dignity at the expense of being authentic.

I don’t want my children to be dumb asses all in the name of being authentic.

At the same time I don’t want them to walk around with fake smiles. I don’t want them to pretend that they are happy when they are mourning; I want them to be real.

Most of all, I want them to enjoy coffee as much as I do. Which reminds me that it is time for another cup.


Categories: Culture & Society

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

22 replies

  1. Very true. I find reality tv serves to bring out the fake in people, they act a certain way as though thing that’s what people want to see. (Then the producers release what they want anyway) and as for calling people the C word. I hate that word, it is disgusting. One of the worst names you could say to someone.
    I find there is a fine line between fake and authentic, like this. I am more likely to put forward my thoughts via the keyboard than in person, but only because I can say everything I want (I am pretty shy most of the time)

  2. Good morning Kenny! Excellent post. “ In our quest for authenticity have we left behind common sense and human decency?” I think the answer is yes. Who we are, our reputation, proceeds us, wherever we go, so to some degree we do have to consider what other people will think of us. I can’t call every single person a bleeping blankety blank on the internet, and then be shocked when a potential employer says No thank you, and searches for a more suitable candidate. I also don’t want my children to be dumbasses in the name of authenticity. We can be authentically ourselves, without acting however we want. I’m up early this morning, I need some coffee!

    • Kristina,

      that is the amazing thing to me; people are 100% dumb asses and then they are shocked when their behavior prevents them from something they want to obtain, like a job.

  3. I so agree with you. I think we’ve gone from one extreme to the other in our quest to “be real.” When I go out to a movie or some other public destination it seems like people are in a contest to see who can be the most rude, loud,foul mouthed and just all around brazen jack ass. I think it is possible to be “real” and well mannered at the same time.

    • Trinity,

      if there is anything that people will come away with from my articles it is that i’m not a big fan of ‘extremes’. It just seems like too much of Western Culture goes from one extreme to the next.

  4. Just written a few paragraphs on precisely this topic for my dissertation… Authenticity as a type of ‘bad faith’. Keep it up 🙂

  5. “Don’t be a dumbass” actually sums it all up quite well.
    I’m impulsive, a risk taker and not afraid to say what’s on my mind… yet… I still try to behave like a “lady”. I love people, I don’t want to offend or repulse (unless it’s absolutely necessary)! What exactly is to be gained from that type of behavior? I don’t get it…
    Your posts make me so jealous, I’m on a chemo medication and coffee tastes vile… I miss it so much!!!!

  6. I don’t even like the word “authentic”, the way people seem to use it. Maybe because I’m too old 🙂 Just seems phony. I prefer “integrity” or “honesty”, even “genuine”. There’s a big uproar in the unschooling world happening right now, over whether or not a self-proclamed guru is “authentic”. Funny that I should read this post this morning, in a non-unschooling forum… I’ve seen this word thrown around a lot over the last week or so.

    • Miriam,

      ‘authentic’ is so overused now-a-days. Thanks in large part to the younger hipster crowd, so i wonder if you the reason you don’t like it as much is connected to their over-use of it.

    • I do have a tendency to dislike things that are trendy, so you’re probably right 🙂 I didn’t even realize that I *never* use this word, until I was reading your post. And then I began to wonder why…

  7. That’s too fun. Teaching 75-100 students a semester gave me a too close-up look at the struggle to achieve some sort of individuality while wearing the same fashion, listening to the same music on the same technological wonder, not even getting into the uniformity of the institution that asked them to absorb the same material and come out being all they can be. So glad I shed my skin and moved to a beach at the end of the busline. But, so many people have done this before me…so, I’m un-authentic in the end.

    • Coyote,

      Ive only heard a little bit about the ‘unschooling’ movement so you’ll have to forgive my ignorance on the subject. I enjoyed your example of students who are trying to achieve individuality while at the same time all listening to the same music; perfect example of the modern hipster if you ask me.

  8. i totally agree kenneth! what i want is for people to be authentic in a way that doesn’t sacrifice respect (self or otherwise). just like i said before… honesty is not the same as BRUTAL honesty which in my eyes is just an excuse to be mean. i think people use “authentic” as an excuse to not care about anything or anyone and that’s not okay. it’s just the pendulum swinging in the other way… maybe eventually it’ll stop swinging all together lol. 🙂

    • Jen,

      I suspect you are right, a lot of people are looking for any kind of excuse to justify their bad behaviors. Perhaps we have progressed to a point in our culture where people just don’t care for others as much as they used to.

      You spend a lot of time volunteering like myself, and when I look at the small percentage of people who volunteer alongside me, compared to the millions of people in any given area….well, it sure seems like people would rather spend their free time watching ALOT of television or playing video games, rather than getting out there and helping others.

    • yeah apathy is a disease that’s become rampant… its depressing. while i can understand at least in part, why people get to that point, it doesn’t help. so here’s to hoping people will get it together and stop being so apathetic.

  9. What is being authentic, I guess your definition in the blog means being able to express how you fell without the need to fake an emotion. My guess is that there would be many definitions and they would all be subjective.

    • Confusedalot,

      correct, I’m using authentic in the context of what popular culture refers to as ‘being ourself’. And you are right, there is definitely an element of subjectivity to the definition, but on the other hand there are some well agreed upon definitions too.

  10. I don’t see why authenticity is assumed to be incompatible with civility. Personally I would like to be authentically polite, authentically kind, authentically compassionate. Maybe I missed the whole point of authenticity.
    Perhaps we must assume that the dumbasses out there are authentically dumbasses.

  11. I only started reading your posts about an hour now and I am hooked. Is it that cup of coffee? Okay, no seriously, I love how you raise topics about what we seemingly forget about or choose to sweep under the carpet once the masses aren’t speaking about it. The crazy thing is that we are choosing to focus on things that camouflage who we are to get away from the real issues. Why are we so drawn to social media etc. (not that it’s bad), but too much of anything is harmful. So when on fb it is easy to create a profile with an “authentic” picture of ourselves behind stories that are far from true, or tweet about things that wouldn’t dream to happen in a lifetime and continue to “pretend” behind the computer screen that things are all good, when we are desperately crying out for help in real life, we stoop to crazy standards to claim authenticity. Someone said you have to fake it until you make it, okay, I understand what they meant, but faking it to suicide because the pressures of social media gone wrong leads to a mound of aches is just wrong. Someone also said that honesty is the best policy and before we can get help for anything, we have to honestly admit that we need help, by doing such it leads us to get what we need and move onto better.

    Great post, I love it!

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