Defining Authenticity

I believe that authenticity is one of the most important concepts for living a meaningful, productive, and happy life. Yet, modern dictionaries only offer cursory definitions of this term. In this essay, I’ll define the term anew, explain its importance and give an outlook on its impact on our lives.

Authenticity, noun

If we look at how modern dictionaries define authenticity we’re left with skeletal definitions that lack depth, clarity, and insight. For example, the Cambridge dictionary defines authenticity as “the quality of being real or true”. It’s difficult to find a more cursory definition of such an important word.

The 1913 Webster’s definition, often a rich source of information about the meaning and use of words, is only slightly more helpful, but offers two definitions: “The quality of being authentic or of established authority for truth and correctness.”, and “Genuineness: the quality of being genuine or not corrupted from the original.” To me, both miss the mark of what authenticity is, too.

Instead, allow me to propose another more practical definition of authenticity: “living a life that is in alignment with your values, believes, and personality.” This is a life that draws on the Cambridge definition of “being real or true” and Webster’s definitions of “truth and correctness” as well as “being genuine or not corrupted from the original.”

Why Authenticity matters

I think this understanding of authenticity is important because living an authentic life is one of the most reliable paths to meaning, joy, and serenity.

Attempting to live that way isn’t easy. It requires tremendous courage, deep self-understanding, and taking on immense responsibility. Yet, it’s an essential quality of living a well-lived life, finding serenity in the modern world, and, maybe above all, living a life without regrets.