I was listening to my friend Mike Robbins speak to a group about his newest book on authenticity, Be Yourself. Everyone Else is Already Taken: Transform Your Life with the Power of Authenticity. He’d asked the audience a few questions about what value authenticity has in our lives and then he asked why being authentic was so hard.
Several people shared that being authentic meant being vulnerable which wasn’t always optimal, especially in business. There was much agreement that one should be their authentic self, no matter what. Phoniness was not compelling.
I raised my hand and said, “I struggle with strategic phoniness. For example, if I’d shown up for this event without makeup or Spanx, you wouldn’t have wanted to be around me. My authentic self wears neither, but it doesn’t represent the me I want you to know. So when is strategic phoniness acceptable?”
A lively discussion ensued about how looking one’s best wasn’t really phony.
It made me think about dating. We want to put our best selves forward, but where is the line between presenting ourselves in the best possible light and being inauthentic? We think certain elements of our personality are unattractive so we should keep those hidden until we know someone better and feel they won’t reject us for those.
However, a common complaint in dating is that someone didn’t turn out as they represented themselves. He appeared successful, wearing expensive clothes or spending lavishly on dates. Only when you were hooked emotionally to him, did you learn he was deep in debt.
Or he snuggled up next to you during your favorite TV shows or sports, seemingly engaged, but once you are committed (or married!) he shows no interest whatsoever. The new wife of my cousin confided that when they were dating, they would work out together 5 times a week. Now that they are married, she can’t get him to the gym.
Or when dating, they’d have sex regularly. Both seemed to really enjoy it. Now that they are living together, you can count on one hand the number of intimate times they share each month.
So where’s the line between wanting to seem like a good sport and participate in your sweetie’s activities, and when you’re being inauthentic? You fear that if you are truly authentic (“No, I don’t want to hang out with your bratty grandkids this weekend”), you won’t find anyone to date. However, when is “going along” and “being a good sport” turn into pretending something that isn’t true for you?
What’s your take on the distinction between authenticity and strategic phoniness? Have you been disappointed when someone you thought was authentic turned out to be different?
How do you determine if he’s being authentic or a poser? Get your copy of Real Deal or Faux Beau: Should You Keep Seeing Him?