Authenticity – Just How Authentic Is It?

Hell yeah

Flowers styled by Martine Cook at The Whistle

When you work in the ‘online’ world, the concept of authenticity is always amongst the chatter. To succeed as an online writer, you have to be ‘authentic’, prove your authenticity. It’s overuse is becoming somewhat tiresome to me, and when I hear someone spouting how authentic they are, I struggle to stop the sneer from ruining my happy-selfie face.

The thing is, by virtue of working online you must orchestrate, curate and create in order to find your place. And you must convince. This is why it is also known as the ‘virtual’. So why bang on about being ‘authentic’ when the concept of online authenticity is an oxymoron? It automatically leaves me skeptical.

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” – Hamlet, Act III, Scene II

I recently read an article in Flow magazine on why imitation is a good thing, and that no person is ever truly original. It is in the emulation of others that we find our true voice, or talent or new ideas.

Yet, the cliche ‘fake it till you make it’ rings true in a sense, because you can’t be an artist or a writer or entrepreneur (or what ever you are trying to be) unless you embody it – and that comes with practice. One of the barriers for creative people is publicly naming themselves – “I am an artist” or “I am a writer” – we feel fraudulent and self-conscious. But if you don’t name yourself – who will?

No wonder we’re all a bit tormented – we are told to ‘fake it till you make it’, but balance that with being authentic, please. We want to see authenticity!

The rise of the selfie is something I find really uncomfortable. I don’t do selfies of just me  (only of myself with others, only occasionally and only ever after too much champagne!) I find it weird that so many people happily take pictures of themselves, alone, and then share them. And I think that this is all part of the ‘authenticity’ race – the race to try and convince. “Look at me, I am real…I am authentic”. But the thing is, it’s not – it curated and contrived, and dare I say it, it’s a bit narcissistic.

I have a real interest in identity. More and more, in the virtual world that we all inhabit, people are portraying their identity as something fixed, something concrete and the selfie seems to be a vehicle for this. But identity is fluid; it’s ever-changing and evolving and I think true authenticity reflects this dynamic self. And this is why I just don’t buy it – the whole “I’m real, this is me – see, here is my picture, me at my computer, with my coffee and my pen…”.

So I’m battling with the conflict of this modern obsession with ‘authenticity’. I really feel that it has no substance. The idea of ‘personal brand’ is somehow gaining traction. There are some poor sods out there who have been duped in to believing that this is necessary to succeed. Its pursuit is hollow, and the end result is just a collection of flat, 2D images that say nothing but ‘sucker’. As harsh as this sounds, I really feel it’s true.

When people do their ‘thing’ with commitment and honesty, the truth of themselves emerges without effort – this is what creates authenticity – and this is what will convince others.

Peacock feather

Image by Dee @ Star Studios

Authenticity is a feeling, not a statement.

There is no need to curate. In Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project one of the rules she keeps coming back to in her pursuit of happiness is ‘Be Gretchen’ – so she has to keep reminding herself to be who she is – who she really is. She is open about wanting things to be a certain way – she wants to like classical music and fine art, but actually she doesn’t really enjoy either. She knows that by being honest, she will be happy (or happier).

While I’m certainly no expert, I’d say abandoning this idea that you can prove to people that you are the real deal,  just being you will prove more than any perfectly curated selfie. It will prove that you are the real deal – just by virtue of being yourself – not some manufactured version of yourself.

By being honest and true to your purpose, you won’t need to convince anyone of anything.

What are your thoughts on authenticity? 

Trees and sky

 

Comments

  1. says

    You are making me think, Collette! It is tricky in the online world if we are trying to attract readers, ‘likes’ followers to not be tempted to curate, to give people what we think they want, rather than actually just putting ourselves out there. I know sometimes when I am writing my blog posts that I find myself writing in someone else’s voice – the voice which I perceive others may be attracted to. Then, along the lines of what Gretchen says, I have to pull myself back; remind myself to write as if I am talking to a friend – because that is me, that is my voice. And then it is tricky when we are an aspirational society. Is that ‘faking it til you make it’ authenticity if that is genuinely how you see yourself/want to be or is it simply more ‘curation’? Does it depend upon our motivation? Are we trying to ‘hoodwink’ our audience? I think maybe so.

    • collette says

      Yes, it’s a tough one. The online world requires us to do it to an extent. What prompted this post though, was at the end of last year I published a couple of posts that made me feel like I was selling out. I felt I needed to get something out there and just wrote what I thought people wanted to see. It unsettled me for an extended period, so much so that I didn’t blog for six weeks – the longest I’ve ever gone. But in this hiatus I made a pact with myself to only write about what I was interested in because publishing something that I felt was contrived, and that I wasn’t proud of was worse than not posting anything at all. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. x

  2. says

    An interesting topic here – everything we post online, whether on a blog or social media, is curated to a certain extent (selfies being the pinnacle of curated image-content!). I definitely feel the (increasing) need to retreat a bit and find the more people ‘reveal’ or profess to being ‘authentic’ makes me want to reclaim my thoughts and words for myself, perhaps because it has felt in the past like it’s OK to give everything about yourself away in the pursuit of authenticity (esp online). It wouldn’t feel the same to start a conversation with a stranger and tell them your deepest, darkest thoughts would it? Thanks for putting this out there, and I particularly like your thoughts on the increase of the personal brand…x

    • collette says

      It’s a tough one – and you have to buy into to an extent if you are putting stuff out there, but it unsettles me so much that I’m going to try to ignore it – and stay in my bubble!

What are you thoughts?