I am amazed at how people can just disappear. They assume a new identity and remain hidden and “off the grid” for decades. Family, friends and the authorities are at a loss to locate them. They must live in dread that one day they may hear the words, “Are you really who you say you are?
How do we answer that question? Not that we have assumed a false identity or hidden away, but how do we represent ourselves to the world? Do our friends and family really know who we are? In other words I am asking, are we authentic?
Do people recognize us as being sincere? Are we real? Are we genuine? Or do we wear masks? Putting on a face to obtain acceptance is common place. Laughing on the surface when we hurt or are distressed inside is masking the real you. At some time we have all probably displayed the face which we believe was expected of us.
We think we know someone because they have always been civil, pleasant, friendly and appeared good hearted. Then one day their actions belie our perception. We discover we didn’t know them at all. Our conception of them was dashed. In the marriage context how many times have you heard that the husband apparently changed overnight? Pre-marriage he could not have been a nicer guy. After the wedding it was a different story. He became domineering and controlling. Prior to getting married he was obviously wearing a mask.
So we ask the hard question. When we display such an image are we presenting a false or fake picture as to who we really are? If our friends are real friends, who accept us for who we are, then our artificial demeanor does not respect their friendship. How can others show concern and support if the cause for concern is deliberately hidden. It is usually for the sake of “not making a fuss” but it is not the honest answer to “How are you today?”
Do we ever consider whether our public image is our private self? Are we the same person inside and outside the home? Which persona conveys our true identity? Is being true to yourself the same as being authentic? If we ever wear a mask are we not then being true to ourselves as well as to others?
What is the basis for authenticity? I assume it has to be our belief system. Belief and confidence in ourselves. Belief and confidence in our friends. Belief that we are accepted for who we are and not for the face we put on. Belief precedes action and behavior so if that belief is strong enough then we should have the confidence to be genuine at all times, regardless of circumstance.
However, there can be a cost to being authentic and true to oneself. It may cost a friendship or perhaps a job. Integrity plays an important part in authenticity. In a job interview I was once asked if I would lie as that was part of the job requirement. When I indicated that I would not lie and suggested that perhaps the job was not for me, they hastily backtracked and made the observation that “maybe you might become known as the honest broker.” I was not sure whether that was genuine or just a cryptic comment. Anyway, I got the job and was able to be successful in the work without lying. To remain true to your principles will not always bring the same result as it did for me.
I believe we should live a genuine and honest life. We should display an authentic image. If we are sad over something, so be it. If we have been disappointed with a particular scenario then why should it be hidden – unless by our demeanor it is hurtful or denigrates other people? We have to avoid the “poor me” syndrome at all costs. People do not warm to self-pity. They do warm however, to genuine concern and rightful disappointment. It boils down to being oneself. Be yourself at all times. It pays off in the long run.