Authenticity: Trendy or Transformational? Part 1
Authenticity has become one of the biggest buzzwords lately. Like all of a sudden there's this new thing called being yourself!
The fact that this has turned into a "trend" tells me one scary thing: as a society we have gotten so used to pretending to be something/someone we're not that it's a fresh idea to actually show up as we are. That is not ideal.
How did it come to be that revealing our real selves is a novel concept?
I have a few theories. As Americans (or members of any capitalist nation) we live in the middle of a very frustrating paradox.
On one hand we are expected to have no problems - not in ourselves and not in our lives. We've been taught to put our best foot forward and never display our dirty laundry. Social media has propelled this to the extreme with people spending hours getting just the right photo to post to show how amazing their lives are.
Now on the other hand, we are inundated daily with messages that we are not ok as we are, where we are or with what we have. So much of advertising is focused on telling us that we are not good enough. We don't have enough. We are not enough.
Other media does this indirectly as well through the fake people they create and the lives they fake live. For example, how many movies/shows have you seen where someone goes to the airport at the last minute, buys a ticket just to get through the gate to profess their love? If you're like me, you'd need more than two hands to count them. In reality, do you know how much a last minute ticket costs? Not to mention the time it takes at the counter and getting through security! And wait, you have no luggage with you?!?! TSA red flag - extra security screening for you! No regular person with average means could ever make such a grand gesture.
This is just a silly example of the gap that exists between those we see in the media and those we see in the mirror. And sure, when we break it down here we understand that it is not reality nor is it meant to be, but think about how much media you've consumed in your lifetime. Now add that to the amount of media those you've encountered in your lifetime have consumed. The messages, whether direct or indirect, sink in and get reinforced by those around us constantly, and it starts at a very early age.
Too many of us have grown up with different versions of the same message, "You're not good enough as you are."
Is this some evil plan to lower our collective self esteem and isolate us from one another? Evil, no. Intentional, yes. But why would anyone want to do that? You likely already know the answer - because it's good for business, which is "good for the country". Living in a capitalist nation definitely has its perks, and it sure beats the alternative; however, living in an EXTREME capitalist nation is actually quite harmful.
Reading this, you may think I am being hyperbolic, but let me explain.
Here is another silly little example. Think about the average American neighborhood block. Let's say there are 20 houses on it, each with a front yard and a backyard. Each yard has a beautiful lawn (showing the rest of the world that our life is fine and we've got our shit together, of course).
If your neighborhood is anything like mine, every single house on that block has a lawnmower. In actuality, how many lawnmowers does each block need? Truthfully, just one, maybe two. There has never been a time in my life where I've been out mowing my yard and every single person on my block is doing the same thing at that same time. In fact, I can't recall a time when anyone was doing the same thing at the exact same time.
If you're an apartment dweller, just replace lawn mower with vacuum.
Really it would be easy to share one or two lawnmowers between the block since everyone mows at a different time anyway, and we don't need to mow every day. But we couldn't all share the same lawnmower! "What if Mark three houses down breaks it? Who will pay for it? Mark certainly isn't going to. And I'll tell you one thing, there is NO WAY I am paying for Mark's neglect! Or you know Jan won't remember to return it to the storage space, so when I desperately need it RIGHT NOW (which is my favorite time) I won't be able to mow my lawn because of her irresponsibility. This could never work!"
Call me a conspiracy theorist if you'd like, but it seems clear to me that it is of great benefit to the Sellers of Stuff to put the consumer in a place of fear, distrust and isolation. It has been ingrained in us gradually over time that we each must have our own toys. That we have a RIGHT to have whatever we want right now. That it is not safe to trust other people. It is a weakness to rely on others.
Getting even more real about our current times, this conversation wouldn't even happen because most of us don't even know Mark and Jan or anyone else on our block for that matter. I see this only as further proof of this idea that we are taught to fear others and only look out for "our own kind".
Bottom line is, community and self worth are very bad for the capitalist bottom line.
So what in the F am I supposed to do if I am constantly told I'm not good enough but also that I have to project to the world that everything is fine!?!?!?
See ya soon,
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