This election is about authenticity.
Michelle Obama’s speech resonated with so many people because she was the most authentic person on stage.
There seems to be a great need in the world for people to be authentic, to be honest about their needs and desires, hopes and dreams.
His word is his bond.
What you see is what you get.
I work every day to be an honest practitioner of me, and yet, it continues to be a struggle if only because I do not yet know who I am.
In my defense, however, I never had a fighting chance, because from our earliest days, Western society impels us to fit into molds.
In school, we are taught to behave in a specific manner; to sit in regimented rows and speak only when spoken to. Our excellence is constantly measured against that of our peers on a scale that doesn’t really seem to prepare us for anything except more of same.
When we find employment, we are slotted into roles beyond which it is counterproductive to stray. We are hemmed in by job descriptions and told not to get above our station. To strive for something bigger is to earn the threatened enmity of our “superiors”, as well as our supposed equals.
More often than not, to break from our confines and achieve improvement let alone greatness is to go it alone; to be ostracized from our fellows. And even in achieving something, there is a vast pool of people waiting for you to fail, snapping at your heels, if only to validate their decisions not to strive.
And while I find that sad—and admit to having wallowed in that group myself—I cannot blame these people for feeling, thinking and behaving in this manner. They, like I, bought the lie that if we behaved ourselves, if we followed the rules, if we lay our souls down to society, to industry, to community, we would be taken care of, we would be protected.
The lie is crumbling, however. It is becoming more difficult to not see beyond the façade. To remain blind is becoming increasingly difficult even for the most determined.
Children are graduating from school to find nothing awaiting them. Get your high school diploma; get your Bachelor’s degree; get a graduate degree. The bar keeps moving if only to delay arrival at the precipice, an abyss that grows deeper with every tuition payment.
Middle-aged and older employees who remained bound to a company, addicted to seniority, pensions and steady salary, are suddenly finding themselves cut loose after 15, 20, 25 years and staring back at a ravenous pack of un- and underemployed juniors—local and international—willing to work for lower wages.
In many ways, these poor souls are the victims of the very investment portfolios and pension funds they fought so hard to build, stakeholder groups that demand increasing returns with little concern for how companies achieve those returns.
And so the cry goes up for politicians and administrators and executives to be more authentic, to be more honest with those they oversee, to live up to their promises.
We point vehemently to the walls of the molds into which we poured our lives as though they were legally, morally and ethically binding contracts, and implore others to save our lives.
And as has happened in every decade that preceded this one, we will fail and we will fall as institutions redefine and reconstruct themselves on the old models.
The same hue and cry that triggered the Reformation and the Renaissance also triggered the Inquisition and Fascist Europe.
What I have come to believe is that I cannot change the world. Rather, I can only change me or perhaps more correctly, stop changing me. The person who needs to be authentic, to be honest, to live up to promises is the one I see in the mirror; he is me.
Rather than distort myself to fit boxes constructed by society and its micro-collectives in the mistaken belief that this will keep me safe, I need to risk all and not only discover who I am, but also express that person to the world.
My first steps to do just this have been awkward and timorous. It is uncharted territory and demands a certain amount of trial-and-error.
But as I continue to move toward authenticity, I am finding the footing firmer. Dirt-grasping shuffles are becoming steps, and will hopefully one day be strides.
And whereas society is not always welcoming of my decision, I have been lucky enough to find that the people in my life have been almost universally supportive.
It is unlikely that I will change the world, but it is a certainty that I will change my world.
And if I am authentic, that is enough.