How important is authenticity to the world, really?

I can see how at first glance the title of this article could be jarring.

We’re often told that it’s always best to be yourself in every situation. Do what feels right, be true to yourself, we all know those phrases. I don’t necessarily disagree with this sentiment because the principle behind it is sound; if you lead with your true self all the time, you never have to put on a show. You can simply exist as you are. You’re more likely to stand out from a crowd because there is, and there will only ever be, one of you. Wearing your heart on your sleeve is something that is most often appreciated.

But is that always the case? I’m noticing more and more circumstances in which the opposite is true.


Looking at things from a wider perspective, humans are social animals. We naturally collect into groups or packs or tribes. We have religions, vast communities of people who actively practice the concept of creating an identical perspective within themselves as that of the collective. We instinctually seek out situations in which we are in the company of people who are similar to ourselves.

The idealistic view of authenticity is often synonymous with individualism. The principle behind it is saying that being an individual is a positive thing; however, this idea conflicts with our human nature.

You might be thinking; “Well yes, people form bonds based on their similarities, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to be identical in every way”, and I agree with that. In a close interpersonal relationship, some degree of polarity is expected, arguably even necessary.


But in the context of how we as humans interact with the world, we need to be able to blend in to a certain extent, in order to have the best chance of being accepted. We need to be capable of practicing compliance in scenarios in which it would be necessary. It’s one of the traits of being, as previously mentioned, a social creature. The antithesis of this behavioural pattern would likely fall into the category of what experts would regard as antisocial behaviour.

But how would this be possible if every person on this planet, all 8 billion of us, were to be living in our own individual honest truth ALL the time? To what degree would the common ground we would have with one another be nothing more than a coincidence? We are after all, incredibly unique creatures.


I’ve been exploring the concept of ego as of late, or in other words, our personal sense of self. Ego tends to have a rather negative connotation, even though everyone has one. Your ego is not necessarily a devil on your shoulder, in fact, it’s actually quite necessary for you to practice the behaviours that generally constitute being a ‘good person’. Without your ego, you would have no self-awareness at all.

The ego tends to seek out situations, or people, that make you feel good about yourself. Our ego exists to protect us, and it wants to feel safe. This means we naturally gravitate towards situations where we feel at ease; we generally try to surround ourselves with people who appeal to the way we want to perceive ourselves. We tend to feel this way in the presence of people who have positive opinions to us, or people who have similar perspectives to our own.

We seek situations that align with the way we feel about ourselves.

There are also a lot of people who are unaware of how much power their ego holds over them. Many people aren’t even certain of how to differentiate between their ego and their true self.

With this in mind, if a person was being ruled by their ego and wasn’t aware of it, they would be very susceptible to influence by anyone who understands the concept of the ego and knows how to play it to their own advantage. In theory, if Person A knew how to appeal to the ego of Person B, Person A would hold a great deal of power over Person B. And depending on the character of Person A, this could put Person B in a very compromised position. This concept is how many people have hopelessly fallen victim to the psychological manipulations of exploitative individuals, and it’s very helpful to become aware of this dynamic sooner rather than later.


Some people naturally understand this concept more than others do. These people are commonly regarded as social chameleons; their character is fluid, and can adapt to different situations depending on the company they’re in. They appeal to the ego of the people in their company and earn positive responses in return. A person leading with authenticity would likely label a social chameleon to be fake, possibly even manipulative. Potentially even sociopathic. This may not necessarily be false, but as disingenuous as the social chameleon may be, there are also distinct advantages to their behavior; people in this category tend to have vast social circles and networks. Connection is important in life, arguably even necessary. Connections breed opportunities.

The trade-off is, of course, the superficiality of the connections. It’s virtually impossible to build relationships with a large amount of people unless those relationships exist solely on a surface level. Once again, we are unique creatures, and it’s not easy to connect with an abundance of people in ways that are more visceral than what someone would relate to as a product of the general human experience. But despite that, a social chameleon with a large network is at an advantage. People who possess this trait, (perhaps it could even be regarded as a ‘skill’), tend to be more successful in social and professional situations.


I feel obligated to clarify that this concept is not something to be applied to your close interpersonal relationships. If you’re entering a relationship with the goal of making somebody like you, you may be successful in gaining that person’s approval, but if you aren’t showing up in your authentic character you won’t be able to sustain it. Nobody can pretend to be someone they’re not, and if you’re hiding behind a facade in a relationship, a genuine person will be able to sense it. Don’t enter relationships with the goal of making them like you to secure benefits. Now THAT is sociopathic. That’s just weird.

This concept is strictly something to be applied to your interactions with the outside world, ideally in a professional context. It would be very wise of you to identify the social chameleons in your life, observe them, and take a few pages from their book. Knowing when to implement their strategies is a very beneficial skill. It will also spare you the pain of having to learn how cruel the world can be if you’re naïve to it; learning this lesson the hard way changes people. Knowing when to keep your guard up is a form of self-preservation.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being soft and innocent, you just need to save your softness and your innocence for the people who love you. Showing up as a sheep all the time will only make you vulnerable to the wolves. The key is learning how, and in which situations, do you need to be the wolf.

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