‘Why talk about authenticity today? It is a question to be posed in the most serious way, a question urged on us.’
— Alessandro Ferrara
"Authentic" is one of those modern-day buzzwords that is often thrown about. Anything from coffee to a sleeping bag can promise an "authentic" experience. But what does this actually mean?
Brand names rely on the promise of authenticity to get customers to value one product over another. Photo: "ITS SPRING! (explored) :)" by OUCHcharlie
Authenticity promises an experience of being oneself which is as close as possible to a true, pure form. To be authentic is to be as ‘real’ as one can possibly be. Authenticity means being completely true to yourself.
When we say a person is ‘being’ authentic, to what are we referring? Often it is a case of their doing an act which appears to align with our perception of their inner or true self. From this we incorrectly infer that the agent is authentic, rather than merely the act.
If a person is generous, it does not follow that all of their acts are ones of generosity. Buying groceries, for example, or planning a garden, may be the actions of a generous person, but it does not logically follow that these are generous acts. To give a reverse example; one generous act may not make a generous person; likewise one authentic act does not make an authentic agent. So how do we become authentic? How do we “do” authenticity?
Philosopher and Professor Brian Braman explains; ‘Through our decisions, choices and the risks taken... we reveal the ideal that informs our way of living; we reveal what we consider to be worthwhile, true, real, and valuable in terms of human living.’
"A smile" by whologwhy
I believe that the promise of authenticity is in an individual’s potential. It is hope. Authentic actions – actions which are central to our most true selves, and of who we want to become – are small, concatenated celebrations of our ability to change, and to choose. By practicing authenticity every day we allow ourselves to become closer to the most true self we can be.