Why "Be Yourself" Is Bad Advice, According to Psychology
We are in the midst of a so-called "age of authenticity" in which the only prerequisite for a happy, fulfilling life is to simply be yourself. At a job interview, on a first date or in the midst of virtually any other nerve-wracking situation, we're told to sit back, relax and let our true colors shine. As the New York Times' Adam Grant puts it in his latest op-ed, "we want to live authentic lives, marry authentic partners, work for an authentic boss, [and] vote for an authentic president."
But what happens when your authentic self simply isn't good enough? What if, for example, you're interviewing for a job you really want, but that you're slightly under-qualified for? Grant, a professor of psychology and star of the wildly popular TED Talk, "The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers," argues that people should always strive for sincerity over authenticity, claiming that the latter breeds complacency. For example, he shares that, "As an introvert, I started my career terrified of public speaking, so my authentic self wouldn't have been giving a TED Talk in the first place," he writes. "I spent the next decade learning to do what Dr. Little, the psychologist, calls 'acting out of character'. I decided to be the person I claimed to be, one who is comfortable in the spotlight."
Grant credits his career success to his willingness to venture outside of his comfort zone, to abandon the idea of a "fixed self," and to ultimately make his inner-self match his ideal outer-self, instead of the other way around. When climbing the corporate ladder or pursing a creative passion, those who sidestep authenticity for ambition and sincerity may reap the benefits. In other words, fake it till you make it.
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