In a world full of ‘phonies,’ as Holden Caufield would say; what defines an authentic person? This subject is slightly difficult to discuss, as so many people have their own definition of authenticity, what is authentic, and whom is authentic. Obviously, none of this may be fact – it’s just one interpretation. Webster’s definitions of the word Authentic are as follows:
1 a :worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact
paints an authentic picture of our society
b :conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features
an authentic reproduction of a colonial farmhouse
c :made or done the same way as an original
authentic Mexican fare
an authentic cockney accent
3 :true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character
is sincere and authentic with no pretensions
5 obsolete :authoritative
The first set of definitions don’t seem to be correct in my view since they mention conformity. While it is true that an object or idea might fit either of those definitions; If someone is truly authentic, do they conform at all? For definition B: “an authentic reproduction of a colonial farmhouse.” This states, bluntly, that, in this scenario, the farmhouse in question is a reproduction or replica, and not the original farmhouse. Originality, is a big piece in true authenticity. This will be explained later. The second definition, also, relates to an object or idea, but not quite for a person. Everyone is real and actual by base definition, but not everyone is authentic.
The fourth definition describes one of two modes used in Gregorian music scales. Clearly, this is not what I’m referring to when I say, “authentic.” The final definition given relates to authority regarding security systems whether for a home, computer, etc. You’ve been authenticated; you’re authentic and have authority to enter.
The third definition describes what I’m meaning when I say, “authentic,” however, it doesn’t fully encompass everything about true authenticity.
Authenticity is everything, in relation to individuality and living freely. The authentic person doesn’t conform to society. They are usually the outcasts either socially, philosophically or by some other factor. Most scientists and philosophers of years past were authentic people. They believed something different and went their own way from the status-quo and, in some cases, were ridiculed. Galileo was ridiculed for believing that the Earth revolved around the Sun. Come to find out, he was right.
Authentic people feel no need to impress others or justify themselves. An authentic person is secure and comfortable in his/her own skin, and doesn’t care what others think. They have their beliefs and don’t force it on anyone else, but are glad to share them with you if only you ask. They have no need to prove someone wrong and have the satisfaction of being right. They know their right, and that is enough satisfaction for them. They prefer deep, intellectual conversations instead of heated arguments, even if the result of the conversation is a difference of opinion. The authentic person will respect that differing opinion and not subject the other person to derision. Authentic people don’t get caught up in the latest trends or petty squabbles. They like what they like and usually stick to it, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t open to new ideas and experiences. Authentic people are just not fickle. They can be introverted or extroverted, what matters is that they are, “true to themselves.”
As children, we are taught to, ‘be ourselves;’ Then we grow older and are told to conform, and to, ‘be a team player.’ The lack of individuality has caused a stagnation in all aspects of our society. The most obvious is the entertainment industry which just keeps re-doing the same idea over and over or takes someone else’s idea. Almost every movie now is either based on a novel, comic book, or a re-make/sequel/prequel of an already established work. Originality is the demonstration of being authentic. Let’s go back to Webster’s ‘farmhouse’ definition; If the farmhouse was built from the ground up to look identical to a colonial farmhouse, then it is not original. It is a replica. However, if the farmhouse was built from the ground up to look similar to the colonial farmhouse, but is updated with modernity (ie, vinyl siding, sliding glass doors, a concrete porch, etc), then the farmhouse would be original. It’s justifiable to take influence from someone else’s work, but it shouldn’t be identical, it should have a touch of you, the individual, in it. That’s what makes it original. Likewise, if the farmhouse were the original farmhouse from colonial times, and you renovated it, but made everything still fit the colonial age, the farmhouse would still be original due to identity. Once an original farmhouse, always an original farmhouse. In this case, you didn’t take someone else’s work, you just upheld and enforced that work. When we lose originality, we lose individuality, as well as authenticity and sub-sequentially ourselves. It is then that life ceases to be our own, or even worth anything at all. All that’s left is a disgusting stasis of growth, of which may as well lead to de-evolution as no more advances would be made in any aspect or field. Everything and everyone would be the same.
It is for this reason that authenticity, individuality, and originality should be celebrated, not ostracized.
“I don’t like ass-kissers, flag wavers, or team players. I like people who buck the system. Individualists. I often warn people: somewhere along the way, someone is going to tell you: ‘There is no “I” in team.’ Maybe not, but there is an “I” in independence, individuality, and integrity.” – George Carlin
“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are.” – Jim Morrison