Personal Authenticity Part 8: when no-one’s looking

Aletheia: the state of not being hidden; unconcealed; truth as that which is revealed

The word Aletheia means ‘unconcealment’ – the opposite of being hidden.  When we are aware of being alone or unwatched, we tend to reveal behaviours normally hidden from the public view; behaviours that might attract criticism, shame or rejection, for example.

When we speak, we reveal only some of what we are thinking or feeling; concealing the remainder; choosing our words according to the meaning we wish the other to hear or see of who we are, and who we want the other to think we are.  When we lie, we reveal the truth of who we are in the act of concealment.

This process of partial revealing and partial concealing is an instrinsic feature of being.  We can never reveal everything about ourselves, partly due to the fact that we are not objects – like a machine that can be stripped down to its components and base materials.  We are beings; an unfolding process of connections, meanings, inter-connections, memories, experiences that are ineffable.  We can, however, retain a willingness to be open; to disclose the truth of who we are freely.  Or to craft a more guarded self, revealed in smaller, more calculated measure.

iPhone God

What I choose to reveal of myself to others and what I choose to reveal to myself are not always the same. 

What I choose to reveal to myself and what I am willing to admit to myself are not always the same. 

Who I am and what I can live with are not always the same.

Sometimes who I am and what I feel or remember can be so at odds with who I think I should be that I deliberately forget who I am.

Sometimes, when you see the me that I am that I don’t want to be I stop seeing you as you are so that I don’t need to see the me that you see of me.  It is easier to reject you as you are than it is to accept me as I am.

If ‘God is dead’, then no-one is watching.  I become a version of me that lives for the camera lens.  When no-one is watching I become no-one rehearsing the someone I want you to see.

Am I someone for you?  If not for you, then who?

In a culture where the individual’s sense of alienation – from herself, from others, from nature, from the existential ground – has cut deeper and deeper into the psyche with each passing decade, many individuals exist in a kind of suspended animation; lost from themselves when they are alone.  This inauthentic state of being is the result of our forgetting how to be.  The increasing hyper-focus on the shallow world of a ‘self’ contructed out of appearances and role-playing, and the simultaneous loss of contact with our inner world of values, meaning and integrity, leaves many of us facing the void and the existential angst we feel in response.  Anxiety, depression and the complicating secondary processes that can accompany them are hidden from view in a world that only seems to value or notice our best dressed performances.  Meanwhile, for many, an uglier hidden truth accumulates in the psyche, like a room that stores everything we fear the world rejects.  This spiral of inauthenticity shapes the self and the culture we are in in unconscious ways until alienation from self and other become inevitable. We allow ourselves to be defined according to the criteria shaping an amorphous social pantomime rather than hard-won values and our courage to live them in full awareness.

Who are you when no-one is looking?

On a cold night an anonymous man leaves food and money beside a homeless man curled up in a sleeping bag in a doorway.  He leaves quietly so as not to awaken the man.

Someone who lives down the road from us throws his litter in our garden every week.  He stuffs empty cans and packets in our hedge as he passes.  Every week we collect the litter and put it in the bin a few feet away on the same pavement.

A conscious examination of who we are when we are alone or when no-one is watching, is always revealing of who we hide in the midst of our performance for our audience: our true values; another side of our persona.  It is an opportunity to ask ourselves who we are, by what we do. Our public and private faces and behaviours are features of the many manifestations of our chosen way of being, and any journey along the path of personal authenticity must include an honest acceptance and appraisal of the truth that we reveal and that we attempt to conceal from ourselves and others, including our destructive or ‘shadow’ sides.

In an increasingly false social world, any commitment to personal authenticity (unless it is the variety that is used as a fashion accessory to enhance our performance) becomes a feat of personal bravery carried out in public and in private.  As such, genuinely risking revealing who I am to both myself and others is necessarily marked by courage and faith.  Authenticity is our willingness to remember who we are, and to be who we are.  It is how we stop playing games and become fully human.

Video: animation by Steve Cutts.  Not the official version.

Featured image credit

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. LovingSummer says:

    The whole being truthful with yourself is a really interesting one. As someone who gets described as “Ronseal” meaning ‘does what it says on the tin’ (you might have to be a certain age to remember that advert!) I have seen recently some areas I’ve unconsciously managed to trick even myself about my true self. A good article to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Stephen says:

      Thanks you LS. Ronseal – good one.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this post. It is so well-written and thought-provoking. Thank you for sharing it here with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Stephen says:

      Very welcome. Thank you for dropping by.

      Liked by 1 person

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