How to play too many roles

Last fall I devoted a column to trying to answer a reader’s question: Do today’s young people lack modesty? I thought that this “letter to the reader” was an isolated exercise, a simple reference to the reflections that I sometimes discover with joy in my inbox… I was wrong.

Posted April 10

Since this column was published, I have received so many new questions about young people that it has become obvious: I should now take the time to answer questions from readers of The print, at least a couple of times a year … for several years. (See how I subtly place the tokens to renew my contract?)

Among the e-mails that caught my attention, that of a certain Mélanie, on authenticity. I summarize the main points: if young people are so comfortable with transparency, they will favor politicians who seem authentic to them, right? If so, will we see a transformation in politics? Are we ready to live with such transparency?

I tend to leave politics to Paul Journet, but this email hid social issues that I wanted to investigate, on the eve of the by-election in Marie-Victorin. Why are we looking for so much authenticity today? And is the integrity of a person – political or not – verified? As often, I went looking for answers from more experienced women than me …

The age of consistency

“When Al Gore and George W. Bush collided [pour la présidence américaine], in 2000, we conducted a survey whose question was: which one would you prefer to have a beer with? Bush won. For strategists, this is a crucial moment! Now we had to make politicians more accessible … ”

Communications strategist Martine St-Victor believes that authenticity has always been important to voters; however, you believe the “beer test” embodies a notable change in our relationship with elected officials. Since then they have been presented to us as particularly accessible people… People like us (even if they are former billionaires sometimes).


Martine St-Victor, communications strategist

“The more we advance in time, the more platforms there are promoting photography and video, the more we feel like we know politicians,” he explains. In the end, it’s not authenticity that matters, it’s ours perception of authenticity. Because after all, what does it mean, to be true ? ”

The general manager of Edelman’s Montreal office puts his finger on the big question. Who can tell REAL ?

“In terms of psychology, authenticity is the coherence between what we do, what we say and what we are,” replies essayist Rachida Azdouz. “It is a commitment that we make with ourselves: we must be faithful to our values ​​and our principles. ”

This is clear. (Not easy, but clear.)

According to the psychologist who specializes in intercultural relations, it is safe to assume that authenticity is particularly important these days. For any generation. And not just in politics! As proof, it reminds me that when you buy a dozen eggs, you can sometimes see the photo of the poultry farmer you owe them to, on the box (!). We want to know the origin of what we eat, we look for ethical products, we want to “live with the locals” when we travel …

Ok, but where does this search for authenticity come from?


Rachida Azdouz, a psychologist specializing in intercultural relations at the University of Montreal

From what Rachida Azdouz describes as “a tiredness of not being oneself”.

“We play roles at work and in our social life. No matter how authentic we want to be, there are things we keep to ourselves because we try to protect ourselves. Opting for authenticity means running the risk of being vulnerable or judged … However, people increasingly run the risk of being themselves, as it is less than that inherent in playing multiple roles. ”

Let us try to calm this impression that we sometimes have of being fragmented. Having more than one personality, even a collection of masks. Lie to yourself.

And we transpose this search for authenticity to those in power… Whether they are politicians or entrepreneurs, Martine St-Victor points out to me.

“At Apple, we went from Steve Jobs – who was brilliant but out of touch with his emotions – to Tim Cook, who is very emotional. Microsoft today is led by Satya Nadella, who talks a lot about empathy. Employees and consumers want CEOs to react, take a stand, express how they feel … ”

However, we can talk about emotions without actually feeling them! So how do you know if a person is real or not?

Well, it’s impossible, says Rachida Azdouz, before moving on to one of those comparisons that make me love him so much …

“In the field of the arts there are experts dedicated to certifying the authenticity of the works. Counterfeiting specialists rely on very concrete evaluation criteria, but jurisprudence still recognizes the notion of “serious doubts” and “errors of certainty”. If the same law recognizes that you are never sure of the authenticity of a work … imagine the authenticity of a person! ”

Pitfalls to avoid

Both an intimate quest and a power play source, authenticity is a hard value to pin down. We can therefore understand why Mélanie wonders if we are ready to live with all this transparency, in her email …

Martine St-Victor is also concerned: “It worries me, because the perception of authenticity must not overshadow the content. Our role as voters is to see beyond the image, even if it is important. The image fascinates us, but it is the substance that must hook us. ”

Rachida Azdouz, for her part, notes the good and the bad in our daily thirst for truth: “The good news is that we are collectively looking for a life in which we wear a single mask, a mask that would be the synthesis of all our roles. The bad news is that authenticity can fall into the trap that lurks in every fashion: turning into an industry. ”

Imagine the success of the guides that teach us how to become authentic in three steps!

“Authenticity could be commercialized, while, by definition, it is in the depths of oneself that one finds it, concludes Rachida. It is in our inner silence that we can discover our voice. ”

This, I hope, answers some of your questions.

Can’t wait to read you.

(And to conduct a new survey of people smarter than me, on your behalf.)

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