Thursday, 9 June 2011

Who are you? on being authentic ........

Who are you?

Before a concept can be measured, it must firstly be accurately defined. This is a problem for authenticity. The Oxford English Dictionary defines authenticity as, “being genuine” or “being real”.

Harter, (2002) in her chapter on Authenticity in the Handbook of Positive Psychology, says that, regarding authenticity, there is “No bedrock of knowledge. Rather, there are unconnected islands of insight”. Like everyone here, different scholars from psychology and philosophy have their own ideas about authenticity and its extistentialist properties. What no-one argues about however, is the importance of being able to express our authentic selves and be accepted by others; inauthentic behaviours ultimately lead to stress and unwellness, mentally and physically.

The origins of authenticity can be traced back to the ancient Greek philosophical injunction, inscribed over the temple at Delphi of, “Know thyself”, which encourages the owning of and responsibility for our personal experience, emotions and thoughts and our daily behaviours. Harter says that historically, more attention has been paid to the notion of a lack of authenticity and to the different ‘faces’ that we might present to the world (and was a key theme of Greek theatre and to Shakepeare's writing as Leanne mentioned), rather than authenticity in itself.

The interesting bit for us is that Harter also suggests that we can remain authentic whilst adjusting our behaviour and acting differently within different relationships and situiations. This may be like trying on a new coat to see how well it fits us and whether we like it or not, or it may be perceived as being inauthentic, - particularly if it is perceived by others to be manipulative or narcissistic.

However, I believe that such adaptations are completely normal as we are continually reconstructing ourselves and our places in the world, “Experimentation or imitation … widens our experience or sense of possibility; it reflects a wish to find ourselves in order to be ourselves” (Harter, 2002).

Here's to being ourselves ..............

However, ‘being oneself’ and of being ‘true to oneself’ assumes accurate self-awareness as compared to a deluded or distorted sense of self, which was Brian's original point. Not many of us have the courage to ask for true feedback. Perhaps we should, as ”The deepest sense of a true-self is continually formed in connection with others and is inextricably tied to growth within the relationship”. (Harter again)

Ultimately, authenticity is all about having the courage to know who we really are - what's important to us, and to live what Aristotle would describe as 'A good Life' in our pro-social relationships with others. (What we can contribute, rather than what we can take)

Possibly rather an academic posting, and for which I apologize! However, I find that Harter's quotes open up possibilities for me to play and experiment with who I am within different relational contexts (wife, mother, sister, colleague, etc) I always feel like I am a 'work in progress', and I wondered whether some of Harter's thoughts might also resonate with anyone else.

My best wishes as always,

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