This week, I’ve really been pondering the idea of authenticity. To be honest, this is a topic I often ponder. My generation has definitely had its struggles with authenticity. I come from a generation that was continually praised—I call us the “special snowflake generation”—but authenticity was rarely encouraged as a goal in life for many of us, though my generation desperately yearns for it. Is it even attainable in this day and age, with the pressures we feel pulling us continually in the direction of inauthenticity?
In existentialist philosophy, authenticity is the extent to which we are true to our personalities, character, and values, despite external pressures. When we act in inauthentic ways, when we disown our values, these actions are said to be made in bad faith and we engage in self-deception to rationalize them (please look into the work of Jean-Paul Sartre for more on bad faith). The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says this about authenticity:
Authenticity thus indicates a certain kind of integrity—not that of a pre-given whole, an identity waiting to be discovered, but that of a project to which I can either commit myself (and thus “become” what it entails) or else simply occupy for a time, inauthentically drifting in and out of various affairs.
Simply defined, inauthenticity is being fake, disingenuous, or what my generation often calls “a poseur.” As I’ve grown older and witnessed the ends of relationships, professional and personal, inauthenticity has taken on an even deeper significance for me because I’ve seen the damage it can do. It is often detrimental to relationships because it demonstrates a lack of self-awareness and hinders trust-building efforts. You can’t trust someone if they lack sincerity and you can’t trust yourself if you aren’t being true to your own values.
Authenticity and integrity are inextricably linked. Nowhere is the struggle for integrity more real for most of us than in our jobs. This can lead to moral dilemmas and dissatisfaction because we feel that we must choose between integrity/authenticity and financial security. It can be difficult to know how to act in a situation like this. Do we opt for financial survival or do we risk our security to do what we feel is the morally right thing to do?
This week at SGR, we’ve spent some time together discussing what authenticity means for us as an organization and how it helps us build and maintain relationships, not just with our customers, but with each other, as a team. Integrity is one of SGR’s core values, an asset that should not be sacrificed for any reason whatsoever, even if the very survival of the business is at risk. But what does this mean, in real life, when put into practice?
It means that you don’t always take the easiest path. It means that you sometimes make decisions (sometimes difficult ones) that go against the crowd. It means that you consider the greater good in all that you do. It means that you know there is a difference between disowning your values to follow the crowd and growing real relationships that change you for the better.