I’ve been thinking about sincerity and authenticity lately, particularly after watching the recent Tiger Woods monologue. Before he came on I wondered how I would feel as he offered his mea culpa. When he spoke, I watched him closely, listening and hoping to be moved. (I see Tiger on what Joseph Campbell, the great mythologist and author, calls the Hero’s Journey. The Hero’s Journey is the archetypal story of what happens after someone falls into crisis and begins the process of recovery, learning and redemption.) I wanted to be moved because I felt if Tiger leads with his heart then healing is possible, for all parties involved.
I heard what he had to say and I wasn’t moved at all. It felt staged, scripted, and controlled. He had the right words, with little behind them. Maybe his emotion was buried beneath the embarrassment of having to stand before his friends and the world and admit he had a problem. (The only visible emotion that I did see was anger he directed at the media.) It really left me questioning his sincerity and authenticity.
What is authenticity? I spent some time researching it. In psychology, authenticity refers to the attempt to live one’s life in alignment with the needs of one’s inner being, rather than the expectations of others and society. In light of his comment about a return to Buddhism, perhaps Tiger is discovering what his inner needs really are right now and is more focused on discovering his own personal truth than being able to fully express it.
The dictionary defines authenticity as the “quality of being genuine or trustworthy”. Genuine means sincerely felt or expressed. Sincerity means being open and truthful.
Who judges sincerity, authenticity or genuineness? If I am looking for a leather jacket for example, I can feel the leather and perhaps look for the label that says “Genuine Leather”. I judge for myself if I believe it’s real. If it is, then I think I have found the “real McCoy”, the real thing.
So, was Tiger the “real McCoy” for me? No. Was Tiger the “real McCoy” in his own mind? Only he knows. I believe he is on his own Hero’s Journey where he has to come to terms with his own inner demons before he can really face the world with full authenticity. I’m hoping he digs really deep and is able to understand what he needs to do to emerge a truly authentic man.