Travel with me back to early March — a period pre-social distancing— to a situation that many of us experienced:
We’re in a group of peers and someone asks us how we’re doing. No one wants to answer. The person brave enough to speak first actually isn’t so brave: they utter “I’m fine” as if the world isn’t unraveling before our eyes, as if thousands of people aren’t dying from an invisible enemy we know nothing about — as if the normalcy isn’t eroding.
Mostly everyone in your group is not fine. Maybe they’re not scared but upset by a perceived ubiquity of fear-mongering from the media and others.
At that moment, what was your response? Were you more likely to echo the first “brave” soul and wear a mask of nonchalance? Or did you feel encouraged to speak your truth? I don’t know your answer, but here’s what I do know:
Fakery is an invitation, one we all have unwittingly accepted at some point.
As a resident of Los Angeles, fakery is an inevitable lived experience of mine. Hollywood culture breeds superficiality and plasticity. Botox beauty produces plastic smiles which breed a contagion of pseudo happiness.
The inviting nature of fakery isn’t relegated to Hollywood; social media is the vessel carrying it into nearly every community. Lonely people post group photos, people with no self-worth smile in front of Teslas and yachts, people screaming for attention post captions purporting a desire to be left alone, and those without an ability to self-validate posture and imitate confidence, believing extrinsic validation will fill their emptiness. I’ve been guilty of some form of every example I just offered.
The damage of fakery is two-fold : we follow a dead end path that shuns our true selves and unwittingly encourage others to do the same. Humans naturally disguise ourselves based on social cues; if we see others shun authenticity for superficiality, we’ll do the same. Ignoring our authentic selves should never be encouraged, especially not during a global pandemic that has forced us all to slow down and take a look within.
Authenticity is an invitation, one we all have unwittingly accepted at some point.
The scenario I shared at the top of this article was inspired by someone who told me that in March she was in a group with her co-workers and a manager asked them how they were doing. No one dared to speak their truth. When she expressed how the onset of this pandemic was negatively affecting her, suddenly a floodgate of similar sentiments opened. Mostly everyone felt the same way she did but they needed an invitation to be authentic.
We may have different interpretations of what authenticity looks like. For the sake of these articles I offer these:
“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are” — Brene Brown
“Authenticity is the alignment of head, heart, mouth, and feet — thinking saying, doing the same thing — consistently” — Lance Secretan
When we’re in a dark room we instinctively reach out: we seek something that connects us to reassurance or safety. Whether we realize it or not, authenticity is the illumination we seek in dark times. Authenticity will LEAD us to the connection we otherwise would not have.
As social beings, we thrive on connection. A real connection can not exist without authenticity. Sure, we may think we connect with celebrities or social media influencers who flaunt a fuck bitches get money nihilism that purports happiness — but deep down that makes neither person happy.
Think about a sad movie or song that you’ve connected with: the connection stems from an artist who dared to authentically share their experience. The connection humans yearn for won’t exist until someone steps up to the plate to express their real selves.
That’s why I capitalized “lead” earlier concerning authenticity: it takes leadership and courage to be our true selves in a world teeming with alluring fakery; fakery that influences people to desperately imitate something they aren’t.
Authenticity sets the tone for interactions and how we express ourselves. It’s worth noting that fakery also sets the tone, but that’s inherently an act of following.
Fakery feebly follows arbitrary guidelines of what’s okay to feel, what’s cool, what’s accepted, what’s “normal.” Authenticity says fuck that: this is how I feel, this is what I accept, this is who I am. Consequently, others are invited to shed their masks and join in to say “well shit, now that you said it, this is how I truly feel…”
Figuratively speaking, authenticity is like a smile: it invites people to come closer to us… to walk a path to our true selves and true connections. Fakery is the frown that invites people to take a hike…a detour from our true selves and true connection.
Literally speaking, authenticity can be a frown we allow ourselves to have when a friend asks: “How are you?” … rather than a fake smile that masks who we truly are in that moment. Ask me how I’m doing and I’ll be authentic about my struggles. My desire if for this to invite the person asking me to do the same. Maybe we each have the answer we’re looking for, maybe not. But how else can we know unless we’re authentic?
In depressingly dark times — for example, a global pandemic coupled with a starkly divided nation — courage and leadership are of the utmost importance. We must understand that we all can choose to be leaders. Sometimes that leadership is as simple as shunning the allure of fakery. We must have the courage to be authentic, thereby, implicitly inviting others to do the same and creating real connections despite social distancing.