Sunday, 8 November 2015

The Loneliness of Authenticity

I'm currently re-reading a book that I've read countless times, and every time I read it I get something new from it. Wow, that must a deep, serious book, eh? Actually, on the face of it, it's anything but. It's a children's book, albeit for "older readers."

It's call "A Hat Full Of Sky" and it's by Terry Pratchett, one of my favourite authors. Ostensibly it's a fantasy story about a young witch called Tiffany, her relationship with the Nac Mac Feegles, a race of tiny people, and an invisible antagonist, a "hiver". It's in the detail that Pratchett gets to you, and this time round at least, I'm inspired to write by a seemingly rather dull character, Petulia Gristle. She's a witch of Tiffany's age, with a lack of self-esteem, which causes her to agree with everyone. This can cause contortions in her mind, and a lot of spoken back-peddling.

It's an extreme, a caricature, but at the same time we all know people who are too polite or weak (which is it?) to express themselves fully and honestly, and most of us do it at least sometimes to avoid an argument. Petulia takes it to the nth, and does a complete about turn in her opinions, in order to please.

I've watched people do this. It fascinates me. Obviously, it's a good thing when people change their minds after they learn something, but sometimes you see it happen in real time, when the only thing they have actually learned is that their opinion was unpopular.

It's not easy having a very different opinion to those around you, especially if they are being forceful about it. If you are a true free-thinker, this can happen a lot. In fact, if you are fully authentic in your opinions, it can mean that there is nobody you are in full agreement with. There'll be bits obviously, but not enough. And so, there will always be "difficult" discussions. You'll be talking about something quite merrily, and suddenly the agreement comes to a full stop.

It's an extremely uncomfortable place to be. It can be temporarily awkward, or it can be a way of life. If you know your own mind well, and you don't capitulate to the ideas of others, it can feel like you are completely and utterly alone.

Not only that, it never gets any better. As you learn more about yourself, you naturally become less able to just "go along" with the crowd.

I therefore invite you today to make yourself more uncomfortable. Some people will resist. Some won't even take this test. Most of those who take it will not like the results, and many will dismiss it. In other words, expect denial. This isn't going to be fun.

I expect discussion, but I'll understand if you don't.

I'll return to the topic of authenticity later in the week.


  1. Interesting and timely. I've been turning over in my mind whether to "unfriend" someone on Facebook who clearly has no understanding of the experiences I share with a great many people of trying to live in a gender role that made me feel isolated, and with a body that felt painfully wrong even though I learned to live with it.

    My decision, for now, is to let that person remain in my friends list in the hope of learning why they think the way they do, and perhaps seeing them change their mind.

    Or perhaps I will decide to agree with those before me who dismissed the majority of Flemings as "uncultured brutes, good mercenaries but good for little else."

  2. I did the Gay/Straight one and this is the extremely unsurprising response:

    Your data suggest little to no automatic preference between Straight People and Gay People.