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The one-way mirror of authenticity

The one-way mirror of authenticity by Rob Phayre.

To the outside world, I look successful. But am I authentic?

It’s a persona I have carefully crafted in this image based, internet driven, 6th dimension of public opinion. A million articles have been written on ‘how to be authentic,’ and I am not going to repeat them here.

I feel at times that I have a one-way mirror separating the real me from the outside world. On the shiny public side of the mirror, I reflect my achievements, broadcasting them proudly. A new book here, an award there, a great new job, a picture of my family and I exploring the world.

I carefully craft that imagery. Not I believe in a narcissistic fashion, though there is a bit of that in all of us, I am sure. Somehow, we have become a race of people that needs to show that we are successful to generate self-worth.

What I for one don’t publicise or share, are the inverse events. The things that I live with, in the darkened room on the other side of the mirror from which I watch the world. The failures. The struggles.

  •       A terminally ill child.
  •       Suicidal family members.
  •       Failed promotion attempts.
  •       A rejection letter from yet another large publisher.
  •       Depression.

In many ways, my journey as an author has helped me to flick on the light switch in the darkened room on the other side of the mirror. We have all seen the movies. When you turn on the light, all of a sudden, the outside world can see through the reflective surface to what is really going on.

On the other hand, what is ‘the outside world’ and why should I care for ‘public opinion’? If there is one thing the last few years has taught me, it’s self-reliance. It is family. It is the right relationships. And, it is not seeking validation from the outside world!

Of course, there is self-affirmation that comes from receiving a positive review, or a compliment at work. It is both morale boosting and uplifting. As an author you have to endlessly self-promote and create a buzz around you work if you are going to be sold successfully.

Whilst I didn’t used to be, I am pretty good now at separating constructive criticism from abusive criticism. – You would be amazed what you can receive as soon as you put your work out in public!

In some ways though, all of that ‘stuff’ stays in the room on the reflective side of the mirror. The mirror almost becomes a shield, a defence mechanism. It blocks most of that fluff from the deeper parts of your persona. The odd thrust makes it through and can either be immensely healing, or wounding. It would be far too emotional a roller coaster ride for me to let it all in though.

And so that brings me back to being authentic. I believe I am open, honest, transparent and genuine. Then I remember the one-way mirror, and the light switch on my side which I rarely flick.  

It makes me think. I definitely have a one-way mirror, and not a window.

I look at others, non-judgmentally I hope, and realise that they feel they need to have a one-way mirror too. Everyone for their own reasons.

And that makes me think again.

This article was first published on LinkedIn on the 5th April 2022. About the author. Rob Phayre is a security and crisis manager for a global energy company. He is also the international bestselling, award winning author of The Response Files.