I was listening to a story on a podcast the other day where someone was describing a friend of theirs. They kept praising their friend’s authenticity, but all I could think was, “Wow, you have a really rude friend.”
I don’t remember the exact details of the story, but basically, this person and their female friend were at a restaurant and the friend was really crass with the waiter. Not only that, the friend was apparently rather belligerent all the time anyway and was loudly talking like a sailor at the restaurant where families and kids were present.
The person telling this story kept repeating, “I just love her authenticity. She’s so authentic all the time and doesn’t care what others think and is such a strong woman and great role model… I wish I could be that authentic, but I’m much too bashful for that.”
My initial takeaway was that she had a really rude friend. But the more I mulled it over I began to realize that 1) The cult of authenticity is legitimately awful, and 2) Some of the nicest people are the most inauthentic, at least by this new standard.
The cult of authenticity says one needs to be raw and unfiltered all of the time. Why? The basic idea is that to live your best life and find next-level happiness, you need to be real and unfiltered with everybody always so they can see the deep down you all the time.
This kind of belief is usually held by the New Age types who are also into toxic positivity culture and get excited about the next Rachel Hollis book or some other similar emotional pornography.
By this standard, some of the best and nicest people I know would actually be the most inauthentic. They heavily filter themselves and curate how they interact with others based on the setting and who they’re with. It’s not to hide themselves from others, but it’s because they care heavily about what the other person takes away from their interaction and they want to be precise.
Obviously, there’s a difference between being nice and kind and there is definitely a line that needs to be drawn from time to time when things need to be said plainly and boldly. This isn’t that. I’m referring to being abrasive and unfiltered all of the time no matter what under the guise of being “authentic” like it’s a praiseworthy attribute, when really it’s closer to caring so little about others or simply being too lazy to be mindful of how one behaves.
Personally, I’m not convinced that everybody inherently deserves and needs to experience the unfiltered me all the time. Additionally, I don’t think I inherently deserve and need to experience everybody else in that manner, either.
While mulling this over I was reminded of a quote from David McCullough’s biography on John Adams. Really, the whole quote from Adams’ diary would’ve sufficed for this entire post, but if I did that then I wouldn’t be able to ramble or provide context.
“There are persons whom in my heart I despise, others I abhor. Yet I am not obliged to inform the one of my contempt, nor the other of my detestation. This kind of dissimulation … is a necessary branch of wisdom, and so far from being immoral…that it is a duty and a virtue.
…for there are times when the cause of religion, of government, of liberty, the interest of the present age of posterity, render it a necessary duty to make known his sentiments and intentions boldly and publicly.”John Adams