The Cult of the Authentic – St. Norbert Times


In times of transition, fear roots itself in the questioning of our identity. How does my personal growth reflect my being? How authentic am I if I am constantly being influenced by factors outside of myself? Those of us who are less genuine, are spat at by the authentic few who spout mass produced tidbits such as “be yourself” or “ dance like nobody’s watching.” They print these words on t-shirts, needlepoint them onto dish towels, and brand them on the inside of our eyelids, hoping that we would never forget the need to be our “true selves.” Society tends to buy into these philosophy, and so we wander: physically and mentally, generations upon generations, soul searching until the soul they did have is sucked dry. The search for “authenticity” is not only cryptic,  but it propels us into an individualistic mindset that hat the  potential to damage opportunities to engage in personal growth through the connections and influence of the world outside of ourselves.

Merriam Webster defines authenticity as, “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.” The problem with this mentality occurs when we ponder the idea of “own.” What is a person’s “own character?” Does this idea exclude the influence of others? When we become too concerned with searching for our “own” we lose sight of the opportunities for personal growth that allow people to extend beyond themselves. Ultimately, being “authentic” doesn’t encourage humanity to value ourselves, the people around us, and our potential for growth. I thought about reworking the definition, but I soon realized I was only feeding into the ambiguity of it all. The search for authenticity merely propels us into a fruitless debate of nature versus nurture. It pressures us to forgo the voices of others for an individualistic outlook. And while the individual is valuable, there is also a significant value to be found in the way individuals are shaped by others.

Rather than finding and expressing an individual self, one must use their autonomy to decide how they will let others influence them. Rather than searching for authenticity, I will strive to achieve a balance between valuing my present self and desiring personal growth.  I find the search for my “true self” to be exhausting and ultimately unrewarding. Instead I will focus on how my being affects others and how others affect me. I choose to find value in connections to the world around me rather than in some abstract idea of “myself” that I’m not sure I’ll ever find. I’ll forgo soul searching journeys in favor of serving the community, long philosophical discussions with my peers, and reflective journal entries. I don’t need to be my “true self,” I only need to be who I am in the present moment.


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