A global problem
We live in an age of authenticity.
We have all been told to be ourselves, urged to express our feelings, and freely voice our opinions. We are encouraged by society to be our authentic selves, unabashed of who we are, and where our core principles lie. In a sense, it all sounds like empowering advice, but in truth, authenticity is quietly distorting our sense of self-value and twisting the ways we view one another.
The concept of authenticity is particularly disconcerting because of what it is intended to describe; the word authentic is defined as “of undisputed origin; genuine.” Believe it or not, this in itself is cause for significant concern. Restaurants market themselves as producers of authentic foods, and companies across the globe label their goods as authentic products. Clearly, the term authentic describes the non-arthropodal quality of originality. However, at the same time, we see “authentic” influencers on social media platforms showcasing their perfect lifestyles to millions of fans, and “authentic” politicians fighting for social justice issues day and night. This dangerous marketing ploy packages people as nothing more than commercialized products, designed to appear flawless. Authenticity has been corrupted because we don’t honestly know what is authentic anymore.
Ironically, it would seem that in this age of authenticity, society has, in fact, surrendered any vestige of genuineness to appeal to the consumerist frenzy over real self-expression. Instead, society has defined authenticity by quixotic concepts of beauty and personal values. This fosters confusion and distrust; we do not know what is genuine.
Luckily, there is a solution that will help us mend this disconnect, and it lies within sincerity. Sincerity, unlike authenticity, is an exclusively human characteristic. You might call your best friend a sincere person; you would probably not describe your Chinese takeout as a sincere dish. (You would, however, be able to describe your Chinese takeout as an authentic dish.) Sincerity is defined as “the quality of being free from pretense, deceit, or hypocrisy.” Unlike authenticity, sincerity is distinguished by honesty and candidness. Humans constantly contradict themselves and change how they think daily. Reflective of our human nature, sincerity is about who we are in the moment, and our ability to be honest. Authenticity is absolute. You either are or are not authentic. Sincerity, however, is reflected in degrees and changes with each situation. For example, if I were to be in a relationship, I would have sincerely loved my partner. However, if I broke up with that person, I would still have sincerely loved her at one point in time although I no longer love her. Hence, it is a difficult word and concept to commercialize.
We should all strive to be sincere, not authentic. We, as humans, cannot operate in absolutes. We are all dynamic individuals, and thus we should aspire to develop traits that grow with us rather than adjectives that commercialize us.