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The quest to know your authenticity, ‘magic’, truthfulness, genuineness of expression.

I call defining our authenticity our personal ‘magic.’ It’s a journey that eventually if we are to be true to ourselves, and define and fulfill our personal purpose, we must make the journey.

Yet often so-called authenticity can be a façade.

Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard says “unauthentic me’ is ‘me’ plus layers of social convention added on the outside, like a coating, to make the outside appearance appealing to others and ourselves.

That fake smile that you put on to greet the colleague you don’t like?

Kierkegaard says this smile corrupts you. That our existential condition reveals itself to us most clearly when our lives have become unmoored, when we come face to face with our vulnerability, our dependence, our limits, the seeming meaninglessness of it all.

If we want to live authentically – properly understood – there’s no wiser guide.

If we don’t take time to reflect on who we are and what we stand for - just make up a narrative we think people might like to hear - is this sustainable?

It takes courage to examine the deepest level of our thoughts, feelings, personality, wishes, dreams and fears, everything that makes us us.

Yet coming home - to ourselves - is such a relief. We become so much stronger and better equipped to deal with life in all its wonder and dauntingness.

When your authenticity is an act, something’s gone wrong

Joseph E Davisis research professor of sociology and chair of the Picturing the Human Colloquy at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. His latest book is Chemically Imbalanced: Everyday Suffering, Medication, and Our Troubled Quest for Self-Mastery (2020).

Edited by Sam Dresser


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