When will I be me? Why a sense of authenticity takes its time
What does it mean to live authentically and to be your authentic self? Most importantly, how long does it take to get there?
- Authenticity means embracing who you are.
- People change and so does their perception of their true selves.
- Some believe their future selves will be more authentic versions of their current selves.
It is a common exhortation: live authentically. But what does authenticity actually mean? As a psychological concept, authenticity simply means embracing who you really are, at your very core, and acting in accordance to your own values and beliefs. Many social psychologists, such as myself, also take a layperson's approach to the definition. In other words, authenticity is a subjective judgment. Only we ourselves are privy to when we are behaving authentically or not.
Do people judge themselves to be more or less authentic over time? My inclination is that people believe they are becoming more of their true self as time passes. After all, most of us would like to think that we are growing and changing in positive ways. And the constant bombardment of messages to be 'true to ourselves' can suggest that some force prevents us from fully expressing who we really are. As we get older, perhaps we experience more freedom to be the real us – the freedom to overcome whatever it is that compels us to hide behind a façade and to become more of the true self we see ourselves to be.
In our recent research, my colleague Rebecca Schlegel and I set out to test whether people believe their sense of authenticity changes over the course of their lives. Driven by the intuition that finding and expressing one's true self is a common goal, we predicted a positive progression of authenticity across time. People would see themselves as becoming closer to their true selves over their lifespan.
There are also different forms that changes in authenticity might take. One possibility is a simple linear progression of authenticity in which people perceive themselves as becoming more their true self as each day, week, month, year and decade passes. This is based on our tendency as humans to self-enhance: we have a strong and natural desire to view ourselves positively. Alternatively, it is possible that people perceive an authentic progression and then a subsequent plateau. This is what researchers refer to as the 'end of history' illusion where people believe they have become more authentic from the past to the present, and at a certain point will change relatively little in the future. They will reach a point of 'peak authenticity' in their lifetime. We tested these competing possibilities in a set of studies published in the journal Self and Identity.
In our first study, participants from a large university were asked to think about how their true selves relate to three temporal self-concepts: past self (who they were when they graduated from high school), current self (who they are right now), and future self (who they will be at the end of the academic semester). They were then presented with pictorial representations that consisted of eight pairs of Venn diagrams that displayed an increasing amount of overlap between their 'true self' and the temporal self-concepts. The greater the overlap between the two circles, the greater each temporal self-concept encompassed one's true self-concept.
Participants reported the least true self overlap with their past self, followed by the current self and future self. In other words, people believe they are becoming more authentic over time and will continue to do so in the future. This is particularly remarkable, from our vantage point, given that these self-evaluations were made over a short period of time in people's lives (ie, five to six months).
In our second study, we examined whether people perceive increasing feelings of authenticity across the entire life span. We recruited a diverse age-range of participants from Amazon Mechanical Turk, and asked them to think about their life as if it were a book or a novel, organising periods in their life story into chapters like a book, and completing true-self and authenticity measures for each chapter of their life story. Following this task, we asked participants to contemplate what comes next in their life story: the future chapters in their life story. They completed the same true-self and authenticity measures for their future chapters.
Time turned out to be associated with greater perceptions of authenticity. The pattern was cubic in nature, meaning that perceptions of authenticity sharply increased in the few chapters preceding the current chapter and continued to increase through the first few future chapters. Although this trend was somewhat unexpected, I personally suspect that this reflects a period of self-exploration where people are searching and perhaps succeeding at 'finding themselves'. Similar to findings in our first study, people tend to believe that they are getting closer to their true selves over the course of their lives. Evidence from both studies favours the self-enhancement explanation of perceived authenticity across time.
Given that authenticity is a subjective judgment about how closely one's everyday actions mirror the true self's values and beliefs, these studies suggest that our perceived sense of authenticity is continually changing. We do not think of ourselves as stagnant beings. Moreover, people hold positive expectations that they are constantly moving towards becoming their true self, and they place immense value on knowing and expressing who they really are, so much so that they believe their future selves will be a more authentic version of their current selves, and their current selves are more genuine than their past selves. Finally, it is important to note that our sample consisted only of participants from the United States. While authenticity might be thought of as a uniquely Western notion, previous research has shown that the experience of state authenticity (and state inauthenticity) are similar in both Western and Eastern cultures. This means that it is likely that these feelings of authentic progression over time are universal.
Authenticity will continue to be a buzzword for centuries to come, and people will never stop promoting the importance of being one's true, authentic self. The only possibility of this happening is perhaps when our subjective review of authenticity finally tells us that we are the closest to who we see ourselves to be.
This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.
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Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live.
Having been exposed to mavericks in the French culinary world at a young age, three-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn made it her mission to cook in a way that is not only delicious and elegant, but also expressive, memorable, and true to her experience.
Controversial physics theory says reality around us behaves like a computer neural network.
- Physicist proposes that the universe behaves like an artificial neural network.
- The scientist's new paper seeks to reconcile classical physics and quantum mechanics.
- The theory claims that natural selection produces both atoms and "observers".
Vanchurin interview:<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="539759cbfd8fcd5b6ebf14a3b597b3f9"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bmyRy2-UhEE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Vanchurin on “Hidden Phenomena”:<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="18886ffd5e5840bb19d4494212f88d82"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/2NDVdNwsHCo?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>Vitaly Vanchurin speaking at the 6th International FQXi Conference, "Mind Matters: Intelligence and Agency in the Physical World." The Foundational Questions...
43% of people think they can get a sense of someone's personality by their picture.
If you've used a dating app, you'll know the importance of choosing good profile pics.
Quarantine rule breakers in 17th-century Italy partied all night – and some clergy condemned the feasting
17th-century outbreaks of plague in Italy reveal both tensions between religious and public health authorities.