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Be fearlessly authentic

| Friday, October 16, 2020

Kerry Schneeman | The Observer

Dubbed one of the greatest forgers of all time, Han van Meegeren sold $60 million worth of fake Vermeers to everyone from high-ranking Nazi officer Hermann Göring to the government of the Netherlands. Dutch artist Han van Meegeren didn’t start out as a forger. He simply wanted to be recognized as an artist. For a while he got away with selling the detailed forgeries for astounding prices, reaching the equivalent of $60 million for six fake Vermeers sold on the Dutch market, according to The Telegraph.

Researchers Newman and Bloom conducted an experiment on 180 participants to try and understand why people cared so much about the authenticity of artwork. The participants were asked to evaluate two paintings they had never seen before — “Son of a Covered Bridge” and “A Covered Bridge” — both of which portray the same scenery. Half of the participants were told that the paintings were created by two different artists and that their similarity is a pure coincidence. The other half was told that one art piece was painted as an original work while the other piece was made as a copy of the first piece, by an artist inspired by the first painting. When asked to estimate the artworks’ value, the first group attributed a similar value to both paintings while the second group valued the piece they considered to be a copy much lower than the one they considered to be an original. 

So, why do art enthusiasts care so much for originals? It’s because our appreciativeness of an artwork doesn’t depend only on the appearance of the piece but also on the originality of the artist’s idea and his/her personal involvement in the actual creative process. “It’s almost like we humans believe that artists somehow infuse the essence of themselves into their work simply by touching it,” writes the Art Acacia Gallery. “By looking at works by Paul Gauguin or Vermeer we feel connected to them as if somehow we are looking into their minds. And that’s a feeling that forgery, no matter how close to the original, can never evoke.”

The conclusions attained by this study pushed me to go a step further and ask: Why does authenticity matter so much? 

Think of someone who has inspired you and motivated you. Now, I want you to think of why you thought of this person first. Most likely, your first thought wasn’t related to how quickly they could code or simply how many awards they won. Your first thought encompasses how this individual has made you feel. You probably associate them with feelings of trustworthiness and sincerity and authenticity.

The true leaders within our communities are authentic when their outer behavior is congruent with their inner values. Alignment is what we experience when in the presence of an authentic leader. They also have high emotional intelligence because they understand the impact of their words, actions, behaviors and even their moods. 

As Brene Brown says, “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” Being authentic means you know who you are. You stand for something. And by being true to that something, no one ever questions the truth about you.

Authenticity is fundamental to relationships and communication. As Mike Robbins preaches in his book, “Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken,” “being real, honest and even vulnerable are key elements to individual and group success and engagement.” Mike Robbins, former pro baseball player, writer and motivational speaker, discussed in a TEDxYouth talk about the power of authenticity and how the Iceberg Theory can also be a metaphor for authenticity. Also known as a writing technique coined by Ernest Hemingway, “The Iceberg Theory is the idea that the deeper meaning of a story should not be evident on the surface. Think about the tip of the iceberg and that being what you visibly show to people. … Getting past your fears and being vulnerable takes trust and courage to make that waterline recede and show more of what you want to convey and your feelings behind it … letting people see you as you are and also understanding and accepting who you are as a person.”

With that said, I leave you with Michelle Obama’s words, “There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice.” So go out there and be fearlessly authentic.

Krista Akiki is a sophomore at Notre Dame majoring in Business Analytics. Coming from Beirut, Lebanon, she always enjoys trying out new things and is an avid travel-lover. She hopes to take her readers on her journey as she navigates college life and stands up for the issues she believes. She can be reached at [email protected] or via Twitter @kristalourdesakiki. 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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