Authenticity: A Key Character Strength

Certificate of Authenticity

Photo by dmuth on flickr

Are you really what you claim to be? Are you bold enough to be honest with others and with yourself about your strengths and your weaknesses?

Authenticity is akin to the character strength of integrity. Psychologist Martin Seligman in his research into character strengths sees integrity as an aspect of courage. One characteristic of the courageous hero is honesty with himself and others. The hero is genuine and has integrity. This is a mature strength that is focused on others.

Authenticity is honest and realistic

Authenticity involves first being honest with yourself and then with others.

It means not shying away from self discovery. Though positive thinking has a value and it is right not to dwell on negative thoughts or memories it should not be used to deny the truth by saying something that you know isn’t true. Instead to develop our authenticity we need to gain a healthy understanding of ourselves.

We then need to be secure enough to share that appropriately with friends and family in a positive way. We don’t just need to cope with our problems. We need to see our weaknesses, forgive ourselves and resolve to take positive steps, however small, towards overcoming them. We can then be confident in sharing this without falling into self pity or bitterness.

Authenticity benefits other people

Some character strengths do focus on ourselves such as creativity and curiosity. There is nothing wrong with this focus and it is very important to build ourselves up and to be happy and fulfilled in life. Some character strengths are more self focused some are more focused on other people – kindness, humility and fairness for example. Being bold enough to be honest about our failings and our dealings with them comes into this category.

Perhaps someone can be positive and develop mainly the strengths that focus on themselves but positive psychology also encourages us to develop these strengths that focus on others. To be authentically positive is not just about building up your self but also showing self control and caring for others. Other people matter! Being a positive influence and contributing to the welfare of others is an important key to our own fulfillment.