Is Authenticity Unnatural?

I didn’t watch any recent Republican debates. This is not because I didn’t¹ think it would be entertaining, or for any political objection to our democracy being made mockery-of; I didn’t watch them because I don’t have cable. Is that an authentic revelation or am I just cheap? I’m certain I missed a lot of zingers and whole lotta intentionally inauthentic behavior and I’m also certain it would have been pretty boring.

While I did have a nightmare that Trump was marrying my wife...

Revealing that I had a dream that Trump married my wife and that it didn’t bother me would have been a pretty authentic revelation, but like most things having to do with Trump, it would have been made up. Photo credits: Ninian Reid – Flickr (for the stock Trump face photo), Peter (for our wedding photos in Copenhagen), and me (for photoshopping Trump’s face on my body to what we all must admit is a pretty accurate scale).

Why is it so hard to be authentic? I think most of us strive to be authentic (i.e. work hard to be as honest with our outward persona as possible and to not hide-things), but isn’t that counterintuitive to authenticity? If you have to work to be authentic, are you?

Why do we as humans try so hard to be what we are not naturally inclined to be? I argue that we as humans are designed to be unauthentic, to be calculating and to maximize the value of every encounter. To shape all of our encounters in our favor in many micro zero-sum scenarios. When we are teaching someone something, our children perhaps, we are trying to educate them on how to get the most value of life.

I’ll give you a real life business example: In the course of promoting a product launch I was a part of, I presented at a local chamber of commerce networking event. Afterwards, a nice guy came up to me to introduce himself and we talked about meeting up for a coffee at his office. He thought he could introduce me to some potential partners. It seemed like a good idea, so we made a plan and met at his office the following week.

He was a financial advisor and started our meeting (after some standard pleasantries, of course) by giving me a little description/pitch on his business and relaying it to story about his family. It included him drawing an intricate diagram of a building.

He began by asking me if I knew about how building foundations worked and, after answering no, he started drawing a building on the whiteboard, “because I’ve always been a more visual person”.

At the end of his speech I was pretty impressed and so I took out my phone and took a phoneto of the whiteboard. I asked him if it’d be ok to write a blog post about it and use the photo of the diagram with a casual questatement, “it’s ok for me to write a blog post about this? don’t worry I’ll attribute everything to you!”.

With this the color drained out of my new friend and he sheepishly had to explain that the diagram and “concept” are actually trademarked to the company and please don’t post that anywhere attributed to him because he’d get fired.

Is that really inauthentic? He insinuates that it’s his story, but it’s really just a story about a building. Sure, it’s designed to get me to invest my money through them, but it’s a pretty inspiring story and he deftly moved from talking about his family construction business to how a building works to why I should diversify financial assets², and I was entertained throughout.

I think he’s authentically doing his job.

Perhaps this is a pretty cynical (some would probably not be wrong to say, “psychopathic”) view of human behaviour³, but I’m trying to be authentic and I appreciate you helping me work this out.

¹ The first of many double negatives.

² The crescendo of which is moot because, HA!, i don’t have any assets

³ Look at how EURO I am!



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