We hear it the advice to be authentic professionally, but what does that mean on a personal level? What if you think you are being authentic, but you come off as insincere? Adjusting to a new country and the social codes of London, I’m starting to take stock of a of comments on “what is done” and “not done.”
Yesterday I took my French bulldog to a meet-up of over one hundred Frenchies in Regents Park. I realized I had been holding my breathe a little bit socially, and was excited to see another French bulldog and human as we were approaching the park. We began chatting and walked towards the park together. Ah, my people!
That fellow saved me from getting a ticket in the park. There are different rules when it comes to dogs in London – I can take Elle on the tube without being in a bag, but there are sections of the park she is not allowed to even walk on the path. She can come into pubs, but not cafes.
Walking into the meet-up section, my new companion and I came across a couple with their blue French bulldog. One of the men was wearing an adorable t-shirt with a French bulldog. I tried to engage him, but he gave me an icy stare, or as my love interest describes it “he gave no fucks.” I didn’t expect it to be easy, but being part of a community that makes a point of gathering, was taken aback by this person’s behavior. Later, I found out he is well-known actor. That doesn’t give him an excuse.
A friend later commented on my video of the event naming the actor, who had posted a photo on his account, holding up his Frenchie, like baby Simba in The Lion King. The curation of life is something we all do. The actor was positioning himself as part of a warm, friendly community, with himself as part of it- a regular guy who goes to a public event with over 150 people on a Sunday afternoon in the park. It felt inauthentic to me. It felt like marketing, the caveat being, I don’t know him, and our interaction was truncated. It was 2 p.m., not 10 a.m., so the morning hangover explanation doesn’t really work for me, but is plausible.
What is being authentic? In daily life we curate the parts of life we want to show off, while cropping out unappealing elements. Language I take for granted, can be equally viewed as insincere. My New York upbringing is to be effusive, a trait of being a writer in a town where you can toss a coin and hit a writer on every block. My expressions tend to be positive, while the British style seems to be to undervalue things, almost borderline French – “it’s not the worst meal I’ve had,” or “that wasn’t half bad.”
I’m willing to give that actor the benefit of the doubt, that he was sincere in his actions of making the decision to attend the meet-up with his partner, to be part of the community, and I will be myself but mindful of being overly effusive, on that point, I am quite sincere.