WordPress Daily Prompt  —  Authentic

The Daily Prompt is “authentic“.  I should leave this one alone, but I’m afraid I can’t help myself.  I’ve got a blog so I might as well use it.  Authentic seems to be more than just the le mot du jour; it’s everywhere and has been for a few years now.  It has crept into every-day conversation.  We all want to be authentic.

Of course, because I am such a cynic, the ubiquity of the word “authentic” and the homage we pay it, makes me immediately suspicious.  Yes, I know that authenticity has been a favourite subject of philosophers for some time – to thine own self be true, and all that.  But is it just me, or do others also think that the sudden deference to authenticity in popular culture, is too convenient or even slightly sinister?  It smacks of management-speak to me.  I’m guessing that some management guru has been making a zillion bucks advising our world leaders, or anyone else who wants to be a leader of any sort, on the art of being authentic and how this can make them a better leader.  To test the theory, I googled “authentic” and sure enough there were many references to authenticity in business journals going back at least five years, thus confirming my suspicion.  Authenticity is the new black dogma.  Authenticity has become the trademark of some world leaders in particular.  So long as you are authentic in your racism and misogyny, then you can go far.  But you have to own it.  You can’t, for example, prevaricate about being crooked and expect people to follow you.

When you can get authentic Italian gelato and Hyderabadi chicken from the local (mainstream) supermarket or fast-food franchise, then you know business-driven authenticity has reached its zenith.  Are we there yet?

Optics are very important, especially if you are going to reach out to the common man or woman, and land authenticity as something they can grasp on to, giving them hope, while also profiting you, and thereby increasing the span of control going forward.  Got that?

Personally, I think it is more important to be kind than authentic.

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22 thoughts on “To Thine Own Self Be True, Especially If You Want to Make a Zillion Bucks

  1. When I hear, “To thine ownself be true” I remember who said it — who was more ludicrous than Polonius reeling off a list of clichés to Horatio as the kid headed off to school? I mean, it’s good to be true to yourself, but…

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  2. A powerful post! Glad you didn’t hold it in :). The tagline on my blog is “to thine own self be true” and it is a reminder to me to grow into the person I am rather than being a people pleaser or trying to be something I am not. 🙂
    I like your comment about kindness too – too often overlooked!

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    1. Thank you, Lorraine. I’m glad it meant something to you. There are so many forces at work that undermine one’s self-confidence, so having a motto is helpful. If you can hold onto that faith in yourself and still be kind, then that’s a great place to be in. Thanks for your comments and support.

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  3. The thing I find interesting about Polonius’s string of cliches is that ‘to thine own self be true’ was already a truism in 1600. We think it’s modern. I suppose it’s Greek in origin.

    And yes, kindness always. The world doesn’t need any more authentic deadshits.

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    1. Thank you, GW. I am very touched by your comment. I was feeling particularly vulnerable about taking this rather unorthodox approach to ‘authentic’. It worried me that people might take it the wrong way, perhaps feeling like I was attacking their very hard efforts to be true to themselves, which is not easy, given society’s expectations. I just wanted to share a different point of view. So thank you again.


  4. I’m trying to reply to Martha, but I’m not sure it will go under her comment. Yes, indeed, Aristotle. But I suppose for most of human history it hasn’t done people, particularly women, much good to be true to themselves. This way to the bonfire, heretics and bewhiskered ladies. It might not be a new idea theoretically — it does of course presume a certain notion of the individual, which would be alien to many cultures — but I think the ‘authentic’ self is largely a luxury of modern Western societies, which is why it figures in the novel. (The phrase ‘bourgeois individualism’ is bubbling up from yore. Yikes!) Maybe we should recast the aphorism: be true to the best in yourself. Here’s hoping we all know what that is!

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  5. Love the essay. I’ve known a couple people that take being “honest” as a license to be mean. I think being yourself, being authentic is not a license to every bad impulse you’ve ever had. “I’m just being me”. Uh-huh, pffft. Grow up. That applies to businesses too.

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