To Thine Own Self Be True? an Exploration of Authenticity
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What does it mean to be authentic? Is authenticity an attribute of the individual, or do certain environmental factors facilitate or inhibit the enactment of the authentic self? This research proposes that authentic behavior is the subjective perception that one is behaving in a way that is in accordance with his or her core being. As such, sense of authenticity is considered an important component of the self. I present a theoretical model of the relationship between authenticity and the need for social approval. I analyze the reports of 194 survey respondents and interview data from 21 interviews. These quantitative and qualitative analyses suggest that individuals engage in authentic and inauthentic behavior for a variety of reasons. Specifically, three different behavioral motivations have been identified: (1) behavior motivated by pursuit of the greater social good or for purposes of social cohesion, (2) behavior motivated by pursuit of instrumental gains, and (3) behavior motivated by an internal standard of integrity. Demographic variables and psychological variables were also found to be important determinants of authentic behavior. Blacks reported lower need for social approval than whites, and subsequently higher reports of authentic behavior. Self-esteem emerged in the analyses as a powerful predictor of authentic behavior. In tandem, these results suggest that it may not be one's level of social power that determines his or her ability to behave in ways deemed authentic, but rather one's sense of freedom and confidence in oneself.
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