I’ve been contemplating this concept of superficiality versus authenticity for some time now, because it feels like lately I’ve found myself in situations that highlight just how many or how few folks that I interact with, fit into one of these categories:
superficial: existing or occurring at or on the surface; apparent rather than real; shallow; not profound or thorough.
authentic: of undisputed origin; genuine; representing one’s true nature or beliefs; true to oneself or to the person identified.
What does it mean to be authentic? It means to be really comfortable in your own skin. It means that when you’re around other folks, you’re giving off a “real” and “natural” vibe. You appreciate the deeper meaning of speaking your truth; of saying it ‘how it is’, yet with compassion and awareness. Living authentically is all about being present in the moment. It’s about the experience of being human and getting out of your head and allowing your true spirit to shine through.
Authenticity is when you are being You, from your core.
How many folks do you know like that? Why is this not the norm? Isn’t this what it means in essence, to be human? What is so scary about being real? I get needing to be “politically correct” in certain situations and circumstances, and please understand that I am one who truly believes in being tactful and not saying anything out of spite or uttering words that sting and are hurtful, simply because I didn’t take the time to choose other words that would get my meaning across a bit less bitingly.
But when being politically correct comes at the expense of having a real dialogue or an authentic interaction full of meaning and depth, what is the point? After years of working in the social justice field, of having meetings with people who seemingly share the same values and passion for working with and for the community, and talk of working together and collaborating and sharing resources comes up, it’s inevitable that at some point things fall through and the ball is dropped and all of the good, positive, motivating, inspiring “real and authentic” energy that was created is just…gone. And you’re left wondering, wth? Was that real? Authentic? Or was that a superficial feeling of realness and authenticity?
What vexes me is why it appears easier for some folks to operate on a superficial level than on a real talk level. For some folks it’s more comfortable keeping everything on the surface rather than taking it to a deeper level where one can witness what’s truly inside. So instead, it’s easier to become so fixated on other people’s lives (and on celebrities) that more value is placed on their lives more than our own…the cars folks drive, their style, beauty, fashion, etc… we’re all guilty of it in some form or fashion. Too many of us seem to get caught up in superficial labels and physical attributes: job titles, class status and achievements – valuing the superficial over the deep.
But doesn’t that get tiring?
Now, I just don’t know that many folks who are comfortable with being real and authentic! Don’t get me wrong, I know a few, and when I do happen to meet new folks, I’m usually like, “Hey!!! there you are! I knew there were more folks out here in the world! Thank you! Let’s talk and dialogue and try to make sense out of this society we’re living in right now. Let’s try to figure out where in the hell all these superficial people came from and why they feel alright existing in that reality.
I understand life can be messy and complicated. Sometimes the less we know, the better, because if we get too involved we may find ourselves feeling semi-obligated to help unpack other people’s baggage, and all this time we’ve been trying to avoid our own. If we get too invested we just might have to step outside our comfort zones and take responsibility for something bigger than ourselves. And as long as we don’t do periodic reality checks on ourselves, and continue to surround ourselves with other folks who like to exist on the surface, then hey, we’re all good! We can talk about all the things we’re “gonna do”, but none of us are gonna hold each other accountable so we can feel good, without the added responsibility for actually doing anything. When we have this mindset, we tend to stifle our authentic selves without even realizing it. And this in turn suppresses our creativity, ingenuity, and self-awareness.
Being authentic means that we observe what is appropriate for each given moment. We are cognizant and aware and try not to allow our actions to be dictated by conditioning induced by oppression, racism, homophobia, misogyny, classism, irrational fears or unrealistic expectations. It’s not about expressing your opinions all the time without filters—it’s about confidently knowing what those opinions are, and knowing that every moment is unique and cannot be predicted, nor can the outcome of our actions. It’s about understanding that the journey to living an authentic life is an individual path, since each of us has our own way of being human, and consequently what is authentic will be different for each individual.
We all must acknowledge that personal authenticity is highly contextual, and depends on various social, political, religious and cultural characteristics. Being authentic means respecting that the unique nature of each of us is best seen not only in who we are currently, but in who we are becoming; and trust me, becoming our authentic self is a continuous process, not an event! But it is one to be embraced and if it’s approached with the awareness of others and the wider world, then it can be a worthwhile goal.
Just think what we could actually accomplish if we truly, genuinely, and authentically came together as a community, pooled our resources, put our egos and biases aside, acknowledged one another’s skills and trades, and just did what needs to be done to allow every one of us to walk our individual paths to an authentic society…