Alison Whitmire



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What does it mean to be authentic?

Authenticity has an illusive quality. It's like 'Blink", you know it when you see it, but can you describe it? How is it you know when someone is being authentic? Is it because of how they are being or because of how they are NOT being? Is there such as thing as being too authentic? If not, what's meant by TMI, too much information?

Is authenticity showing up with no filters? Is that wise? Don't we need our filters? Is it OK to always be authentic? Is it always safe to be?

As you can see, I'm all questions and no answers. I look forward to yours. :)

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    Feb 18 2011: Being authentic means showing up as 'unprotected presence'. By being deliberately intentional in our choice of where we come from -- will we choose to use our defense mechanisms that protect us, or will we allow ourselves to be our imperfectly perfect selves?

    I think there is a question to be made about what vulnerability and authenticity are. Friends of mine have said they aren't comfortable and/or don't have the time to be vulnerable with everyone they meet. In my mind, they have the idea of "TMI" and complete trust collapsed with authenticity and vulnerability. You do not need to tell a stranger your life story to be vulnerable or authentic. You just have to be. Be with things you can't be with. Love yourself. Unconditionally. Love others. Unconditionally. Detach yourself from the outcome of everything you do. Be committed to yourself and to the process, but let go of what could, should, would, must, needs to happen. Trust yourself. Show up. Take risks. Reflect. Keep on trying.

    You are right though, you know it when you see it. And isn't it one of the most attractive qualities out there?
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      jag .

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      Feb 18 2011: Vulnerability would be more if emotional pain is coming up, and having the courage to feel the emotion instead of suppressing it with music, TV, alcohol, etc

      Authenticity is more like a state of being, if you have little/no inner conflicts, then your emotions and thoughts will be healthy and happy>this translates into the behaviours.

      Also a very important point is the meaning of authenticity in regards to a human. We regard children and babies as authentic as they act of whatever emotion they are feeling. But when an adult is angry or spiteful, we say this isn't authentic, but if a child where to get angry, we would say this is authentic. So maybe another answer would be that everyone is authentic all the time.

      But, of course when we talk of being authentic it’s a kind of spiritual state associated with being happy, feeling contented and being kind and compassionate to others.
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      Feb 20 2011: Roxanne, your really hit the nail on the head, thank you..... You made me rethink my answer, and now in simple terms. It means to be truly present and connected to life in a caring way.
    • Feb 20 2011: The reflexivity of the phenomenon of authenticity requires, then, that we be always committed to the continuous process of honest Self-discovery. The danger when our true Self (a momentary thing at best, as the Buddha reminded us), is hidden from us by denial. Often this denial is the result of the fact that we want to be as honest as possible, yet we are acting under the influence of a commitment to some group, nation, religion, football team. So we must hide from ourselves the fact that we are speaking or acting in a way that is actually in conflict with the things we think we believe in. Denial rescues us from the cognitive dissonance, but renders us no longer an impartial judge.
      Thus, as the Oracle related, we must be on a continuous and courageous quest to know ourselves better, for the Self is an open system and in continual evolution. So I must strive to be authentic with respect to my Self at this moment, realizing it may be different from my Self of 5 years ago, or 5minutes ago, or 5 nanoseconds ago.
      Like it or not, it seems that a reasonable Dharma requires that we learn to juggle while walking this tightrope.
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    Feb 24 2011: I've often been told that I am authentic, and when I started getting this feedback years ago, I thought "what the heck does that mean"? I realized that the compliment was often coming after knowing someone for awhile, and they often seemed surprised that I say what I mean, mean what I say, and walk my talk. I know who and what I am and like to be fully in the moment with any interaction. I think it means truely knowing ourself, and willing to share ourself honestly with others. It doesn't mean being vulnerable all the time without filters. It means knowing how and when to use the filters, and knowing with whom we can be vulnerable or not. It means knowing there is strength in vulnerability. It means coming from a place of genuine love and respect, and leaving the ego in the background most of the time:>) I am an adventurer and explorer in this earth school, and would not deprive myself the opportunity to continue to learn, grow and evolve authentically:>)
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    Feb 15 2011: Part of the answer comes from my observations of young children and babies. They are transparent in their motives, feelings, and actions. Another answer comes from my observation of some very old people who no longer care to impress others or conform to the expectations of others. Again, they are transparent. Neither of these two examples imply that authenticity necessarily needs to be blunt or inconsiderate. Authenticity can be compatible with graciousness and kindness.
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    Feb 15 2011: In its best and most functional sense, authenticity is to know yourself, feel comfortable in your own skin, and show parts of yourself that are appropriate to the situation. To be genuine and sincere and not lie even for the sake of social nicety. Of course that can be risky. We all know authentic people who aren't the most insightful, or are not at peace with who they are in the world, or over-share/ transgress social conventions. In my work as a service provider, I can't tell you how useful it is to have a background in acting. I will end with a question lobbed back at you :-) How does it feel when you are at your most authentic with non-intimates and is that a state you want to further cultivate in your professional milieu?
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    Feb 20 2011: "Creativity is knowing how to hide your sources." - Albert Einstein

    I think authenticity is strongly proportional to creativity.
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      Feb 20 2011: I think that would define cunning. Creativity requires singular originality ( 0 determinants ).
  • Feb 28 2011: Being authentic is directly linked to the level a person self relects and how honest that conversation is with ourselves. The more we are aware who we are, what we think and how we feel the more real we are. It is the opposite of acting a certain way and it involves "becoming".
  • Feb 24 2011: Authenticity to me is not something you present to others. It is something you reach inside yourself.It is not agreed upon or validated by your observers. Brutal honesty and lack of filters do not make you authentic. They might just as likl make you narcissitic. Authnticity is something you have with yourself and when you bring that self into an interaction you are open to experiencig,giving,or receivng whatever presents itself there. Its not about you or your TMI.When you understand authenticity you know its about the moment and what everyone in it can create there when egos,agendas,and filters are acknowledged and moved beyond so the possibility might be born.
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    Feb 20 2011: Being authentic, to me means, my actions and words are not influenced by what I think other parties are expecting. In the extreme, I do and act the way I want without any thought of consequence. I am not living in seclusion so i must take the stimuli of what surrounds me and the social environment into account when i act. Can i be authentic while influenced by others? I can, but i may have to temper my actions to an appropriate action within social norms. It is a matter of choice on doing what is right. I say this because a serial killer maybe acting authentically but it's not socially acceptible behavior.

    I choose to be authentic by expressing my true feelings; at times, i choose not to if it will hurt someone. Does that choice make me less authentic because i act in a way that doesn't hurt someone when i don't want to hurt them.

    Definitely a very hard concept to put into words and and even harder one to put into actions.
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    Feb 18 2011: Maybe authenticity measures the alignment of our actions in the physical world and our inner, personal, worldview.

    Authenticity in my view does not mean lack of filters. It means that matching actions of word and deed to the current state of our inner world. Authenticity should not be judged as "good". Mass murders are authentic if their violent actions are representative of their inner perspective.

    It is not possible to be too authentic. It is possible to lack sophistication and good manners while being authentic.
  • Feb 28 2011: I also think we tell on ourselves. Who we are is THE CONDITION OF OUR HEART.
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    Feb 23 2011: Great question alison...not long ago I was asked by one of my staff why I seemed to be so happy all the immediate response was that my job allows me to be who I am. they looked at me oddly and walked away. Like blink and moments of truth...I didnt stop to think about my response it just felt honest and authentic - a state of being perhaps
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    Feb 22 2011: For me it's a genuine state of being when what one truly thinks, says and does are aligned. As integrity, authenticity doesn't necessarily have a positive connotation and we have daily proof all around the world with wars, mass murderers, etc. So, the question "is it ok to always be authentic?" should maybe be rephrased to "Are the actions executed from one's authenticity always ok? No

    The filters will always be there, some of them were there before we were even born, it's part of being human and living in community. Showing up with no filters is impossible however one can simply recognise those filters for what they are and act accordingly. As human beings we are designed to react automatically to whatever stimulus, it's all about fixed patterns and neurones firing in our brain. On the other hand, as human beings we are also consequently able to reason and therefore change our minds, change our behaviour, rectify if "erred", take responsibility of our actions. The problem is, the majority of the time, we take hand of righteousness but that's a whole different subject.

    There is no such thing as being too authentic however, out of order brutal honesty and lack of manners are possible. Telling the truth isn't being authentic, not even honest, it's just sincerity. There is a huge difference between them.
  • Feb 20 2011: great question!I veiw authenticity as living your inner greatness, meaning that you are honest with yourself and you know what works for you what doesn't, who you apire to be, your moral values and you know what is important in your life.... Also you understand your strengths and weaknesses accept them for what they are, and let others see your talents and appreciate them.To be authentic is to know yourself completly, without any limitations or exeptions.
  • Feb 20 2011: Not looking around at others to take your cues for behavior.
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    Feb 20 2011: I would start by saying it's never ''safe'' to be authentic. Authenticity is always a risk. Sometimes even more so, depending on who we speak with and the means (direct or indirect) that we speak through. And that is how we know someone is being authentic - it's because authenticity is never easy nor comes naturally. It's the emotional effort people make when being authentic that proves the authenticity of it.

    I also think authenticity doesn't necessarily mean showing up with no filters. I might mean letting some of them go, or speaking to the ''audience'' through some of them. Sometimes you are authentic, but people don't perceive that as authenticity because they cannot comprehend how vulnerable you are in the moment - maybe they haven't had a similar experience to yours, or they find you open up too easily. That is, they do not relate to what you are saying as much.

    With practice. you can get to a higher frequency of authenticity, which means, in my experience, 2 things: you connect deeper with people that you connect with, but you also attract more opposition from the people that aren't used to or ready for authenticity. Speaking your mind always, authentically (and by that I don't mean being rude or hurting people, just saying things as they are from your perspective) might be too much to bear for a society that has been used to superficiality. It's a game of feeling how deep in the other person is and trying to be authentic without giving TMI.

    The best way I can explain it is when you fall in love, and know the other person isn't ready to hear the words ''I love you'' and/or to reciprocate. Thus you give them more time, space, etc, without being inauthentic. You don't pretend being something that you're not, but you do not pressure them with an ''I love you'' just for the sake of saying it, even if it is true for you.

    There's also authenticity towards yourself, which is the most important kind. You have to be aware of what you feel/want and accept it.
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    Feb 20 2011: . I guess being authentic is a mixture of properly expressing your feelings, thoughts and matching them with the corresponding actions.However I think authenticity can and should only be given as a quality by yourself to yourself.
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    Feb 20 2011: Authenticity, like charity, begins "at home", with developing mindful practice within oneself in any singular moment of what one is "SIFT-ing"; i.e., SENSING (hearing, seeing, feeling, tasting, smelling); IMAGING (mental pictures or memories); FEELING (emotions experiencing); and THINKING (what one is thinking or valuing) in that moment.

    Dr. Eric Berne's construct of Ego States["E.S."]*, once one is able to distinguish them, can be useful in deepening one's awareness, first of self, then of others and "where they are coming from" at any moment. Whether just musing or interacting with others, one can focus on her "self-talk" or the other's talk and notice the comfort level of each.

    The Nurturing Parent and Adult E.S.s can be used to process interactions and help one respond appropriately to both one's internal thoughts and her dialog with others. This helps us to have awareness and compassion for both self and other and to respond congruently to what is being experienced by each at the moment.

    When one learns and practices mindfulness in this way, it can become integrated into our processing and become a part of us--not in a navel-gazing fashion--but in awareness and compassion toward ourselves and others as a result of our deeper understanding of the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors of self and others.

    TMI indicates a difference in what individuals are comfortable sharing. We have the option of changing or breaking off the dialog using the Adult E.S.. It is being authentic to confront another in a direct, noncritical way and set appropriate limits on behaviors that may violate our sense of personal integrity or physical or emotional safety. It's the "job" of the NP/A/andFC E.S.s to non-aggressively assert ourselves so that we can set our "default mode" to feeling contented and safe.

    CP or AC E.S .= reactive/inauthentic
    NP/A or FC E.S = responsive/authentic

    *CriticalParent/NurturingParent/Adult/AdaptedChild/FreeChild ("CP/NP/A/AC/F"
  • Feb 17 2011: I see authentic people as those who believe, focus, think, feel and act in integrity with their deepest values, passions and strengths. Since people have widely varied values, passions and strengths, what shows up as authentic also varies. As a person evolves, I see his or her authenticity reflect characteristics such as self-awareness, empathy, intentional, free / at choice, less imprisoned by protective states and fear-based reactions, and a spirit of positive contribution beyond their own self-interest. I also see that authentic does not mean perfect and I appreciate the vulnerability, admission of mistakes or not knowing, and curiosity about and openness to other perspectives that authentic people bring to conversations. The authentic leaders I know are ones who bring the whole range of who they are -- body, mind, heart, and spirit / soul -- to what they do. Many authentic people I know have that wide-awake look and twinkle in their eye.
  • Feb 24 2011: living an authentic life is something a lot of people are saying currently. I believe being authentic
    is living in real time, not past or future. Sometimes very difficult to do. I also believe it's a continous refining
  • Feb 24 2011: It's WYSIWYG. But it's a bit more complicated. What you see is at a point in time; situational. It's affected by circumstances. If there's a hungry tiger in the mix with a conflicting agenda to yours, one may decide that it is unwise to be in a WYSIWYG mode. It's a choice. The perception of risk/reward balance drives the choice. As a general philosophy, some prefer the benefits of simply being, some adopt a different modus operandi. Some prefer not to have a general philosophy and be situationally astute. Who is rewarded more? Hard to say.
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    Feb 22 2011: While in college i began signing my art work ...rasa...for my initials...i remember the moment i saw the word for the first time in a Rudolf Steiner, my name was a word, kinda excitement....forty years later i am still learning the meaning of Indian word meaning, the essential nature of oneself...Coomarasaway, a curator of art working in Boston from India taught me a has taught me more....i still feel i am on the first steps of a long journey of knowing rasa...that authentic beingness that just naturally emanates from the soul or integral intuitiveness of our combined multiple intelligences .... rasa is that blissful state of just being oneself, no more no less....
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    Feb 20 2011: For me being authentic is simply a matter of the absence of any intention to deceive at any level.

    Sometimes people can be open on one level, and deceptive at another.

    Often times we deceive ourselves as to our actual motives (games theory requires that we have the capacity to do this).

    How we "know" is via the mechanism of "holographic association" (the mechanism that powers the "blink" phenomenon that Malcolm Gladwell so eloquently describes). It is the power of the brain to form linkages via the mechanism of storing and retrieving information as interference patterns. We learn what is normally associated with deception and what is not. Actors, poker players, deceivers of all realms, learn how to imitate these patterns that our subconscious can recognise, and thence deceive most of us.
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    Feb 20 2011: I see authenticity as a dance between me and the other person:

    To be "authentic" I do have to "know" myself to the extent where I am aware of what I think I know, what I know (that I probably don't know), and my preferences and biases and - to be willing to share these and be vulnerable.

    But I've found that most opportunities for authenticity happen when both the other person and I enter new territory or uncharted grounds.

    For example, it may be a question that takes me aback and I have to gather myself and examine why I'm prone to responding a certain way, and being willing to share this with the other person.

    In this case, part of authenticity can also be a willingness to be open to self-discovery in the presence of another person who provided the opportunity.
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    Feb 20 2011: it is difficult to be authentic if you don't know your true north in the first place.
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    Feb 20 2011: It's about connection. When you're in love and it is pure it generates synergy. It generates a unique energy that spreads and evolves seemingly by itself.
  • Feb 20 2011: "What you see is what you get."
  • Feb 20 2011: Thank you for posting such a thought-provoking question, Alison. I think that people can be authentic, but that this is not the same as removing our filters. Removing our filters all the time, speaking from the attitude of “I’ll speak my mind and if someone gets hurt by what I say, then that’s their problem”, is not authentic. It’s narcissistic.

    For people to be authentic is to be honest with themselves and others. This can happen on a variety of levels because, after all, how many people are truly aware of all the factors that contribute to what they think, feel, and do at all times?

    Then there are situations that can be authentic rather than individual people. This is when all the dynamics and forces of a situation gel together in a way that is unplanned, unexpected, and works for everyone on a level that is difficult to articulate. This is perhaps why a joke repeated to someone else in a different context falls flat and leads one to say “You had to be there”. It’s not the joke or the person per se, but the entire context in which everything happens that is authentic.

    I also think that “trying” to be authentic is an oxymoron. Being authentic is being who you are. All we can do to contribute to an authentic situation is to be ourselves while at the same time being aware of the situation and its needs. If dealing with someone who is negative, lies, cheats, puts on a front, etc., then we can be authentic all we want…it still won’t result in an authentic situation.
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    Feb 20 2011: I love this question!

    The word authentic points directly at genuine authorship. It is a quality that is unique and original- a subjective outflow of identity. It can be circumscribed by our understanding; however, it cannot be precisely located. Like an electron- we know the parameters of its presence, but we do not know exactly where it is.

    It's probably best not to think of authenticity in terms of "being", rather as a medium through which we think and subsequently act. Fixation is paralysis. Over-thinking it seems (to me) like staring at the Sun... it's really not going to assist the understanding.

    Authenticity is NOT safe. It's terrifyingly dangerous! But what greatness has ever risen (and lasted) from "safe" living? Impractical? Oh yeah! Worth it? Well, it depends on how much you're willing to sacrifice to be transparent. To me, it's essential. My life owes it's richness to authentic action that flows from honest thought. I have lost many friends and opportunities for this silly cause of mine... but I'd do it again.

    Thoreau says it best:
    "Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn."
  • Feb 20 2011: Many of the responses fit in with my interpretation of what it means to be authentic. The most succinct way to say it is that my inside matches my outside. As in all things human, it is a complex negotiation of being true and honest with yourself while allowing others to be the same while at the same time contributing to a mutually respectful and civil society.
  • Feb 20 2011: To establish the credibility of...The captain of a nuclear submarine receives an order to fire one of his missiles. His XO has a code or certain info to authenticate the order. I suppose that to know when an individual is being authentic his record must be transparent and someone else beyond impeachment must confirm his credibility. Authenticity then, I suppose, would be the chain made up of all those links, hopefully strong, that the individual has put together in a lifetime. There is no way to filter your decisions taken with a strong sense of duty and appreciation for the privileges that certain rights allow to stand upright for.
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    Feb 20 2011: Interesting topic. I'm not sure how many people are authentic, but my guess would be, not many.
    The moment you try to "fit in", you lose authenticity.
    In our society, I think, you can be too authentic. I would call that "not being political correct" or "undiplomatic".
    "Is it ok to be always authentic ?": difficult question....maybe it feels good to yourself, but most likely you'll end up with not that many friends ;-)
  • Feb 20 2011: As you grow older(i`m 60) you have an urge to become more authentic. For me it has translated into doing what I want or feel like doing, it`s telling your friends, family, wife, "this is not for me". It also means being more true with your feelings about your friends, of course you have to say things in an artful way which takes away some authenticity. So in your questions you`ll find answers, like using filters. Yes you need to use them. You have to remenber the movie with Tom Cruise (navy lawyer) were he is demanding from Gene Hackman to say the truth and Gene Hackman answers "you can`t handle the truth". So that`s were you have to be carefull with your authenticity, not everyone will be able to handle it.
    I`ve been tempted to be 100% authentic. If I decide to move forward at work, I`m sure I`ll be out of a job in a matter of seconds, so you also have to choose with whom you want to be authentic, there will be people that will end the relationship and maybe it will be worth it. I think 100% authenticity is not possible. Unless you`re willing to go all the way and loose whatever you have then, yes it`s possible.
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    Feb 19 2011: My 12-step journey suggests a deceptively simple response, Alison: I am authentic to the degree that my insides match my outsides. Being authentic is very challenging and typically only possible around people you trust without reservation.
  • Feb 19 2011: I think the way you are using "Authentic" you mean honest or specifically referring to the attribute of honesty, as Authentic and Honest are both adjectives and Honesty is a noun. That being said, if you ever met a person that displayed honesty 100% of the time you would not like them. You may think that you would but people rely on a certain level of deception from other people and without that we have a hard time figuring them out.

    TMI is an interesting concept because the amount and type of information you share with someone depends on a number of factors, for instance, you wouldn't tell your father about a wild night with an attractive man; whereas, you would probably gush to your closest girlfriend all about it. in that instance your father would most likely say TMI where your closest girlfriend would consider it an acceptable topic of conversation. So really TMI is just a quick way of saying that this is a topic that is socially unacceptable to the type of relationship with another person.

    "Filters" as you refer to them, are a method of protecting ourselves and others and are mutually beneficial to both parties in any relationship. Typically you want to keep conversations topically relevant and it is considered normal not to be 100% honest with another person, as an example, you have a new business client and you had a recent death in the family, you wouldn't preface your business conversation with "My aunt just died" even though that may be on the forefront of your thoughts and in that circumstance revealing that piece of information would be displaying honesty to your new business client; albeit, completely irrelevant to most business conversations. In addition I would say that in most circumstances it is not safe to be 100% honest.

    An interesting movie that partially addresses this is "the invention of lying" and some of the situations caused by 100% honesty are quite amusing.
  • Feb 19 2011: How is "being authentic" differ from "being sincere"?
  • Feb 19 2011: Being authentic means being willing to take the risk of disclosing who you are. There are five primary challenges with this notion—the first is that to be authentic/disclosive of the self I am, I have to know that self. The second is finding ways to express to the essential spirit that lives within the self I bring to the playing field. Next, to be authentic, I have to be courageous in order to give voice to expression. Finally, there is the ever present hurdle of acceptance—this is who I am, and I am willing to put myself forward in ways that may well evoke negative judgement in some. Finally, there is the willingness to simply let go of the outcomes of having been authentic.

    Self knowledge, disclosure, expression, acceptance, willingness, letting go...
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    Feb 18 2011: I've been starting to respect Derrida's philosophy lately. However I'm still not sure where I stand with regard to authenticity. I change my philosophy like a I change my socks (I have more than one pair).
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    Feb 17 2011: As an actor I was encouraged to be authentic. To define this in acting terms it meant simply 'Living truthfully, moment to moment, within the given circumstances.' I am not sure that this is not the case for living authentically in our lives. If we are honest with ourselves and truthful to our nature would that not show up as being authentic?
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    Feb 16 2011: Authenticity is in acknowledging that we (not only us but also others) are not perfect, only God is. However, in this imperfect state, we can still get better because we have been thought 'worthy' of it. This can only bring us humility and openness to let others confide in us their real selves.
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    Feb 16 2011: wiki says:
    Authenticity refers to the truthfulness of origins, attributions, commitments, sincerity, devotion, and intentions.
    This relates directly to this talk:

    If I look at your comment below, I think I'd take neurological and game-theorethical approach to find an explanation.
    As a social creature, and having the possibility to deceive and enter negative or zero sum games, and profit from others... We want to know some-ones true intentions to detect if one is not decieving us...
    So we evolved to be good detectors (and decievers) in our social environment. We have this pre-wired in our brain. That's why we are able to detect it almost in a snap (unless we are decieved ;-) )

    Does this give you an answer?
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    Feb 15 2011: Maybe authenticity is actually the product of the mind of the perceiver. When we see somebody showing the emotions we expect them to have in that situation, we see them as authentic. On the other hand, if we expected somebody to cry for example, and they don't, we think they are fake, not showing their feelings. While actually, it might just be that they are simply different from us. Why some people appear authentic to more people than others? Perhaps, because they behave in a way that appeals to more people. (Which might not actually be the behavior that is expected from people as a norm, but something that is appeals to them. Something that they would also do if they hadn't been taught away from it.)

    Well, this was just this kind of theory invented after a minute of thinking. Perhaps not worth going deeper into.