The benefits and pitfalls of originality

As the Oscars Awards ceremonies approach, there is much talk about the hostless show and the lack of diversity. The real message to take away, from a school-based psychologist’s perspective however, is originality pays.

For instance, since its inception, there have only been two sequels to win Best Picture, The Godfather Part II in 1974 and The Lord of the Rings, Return of the King in 2003.

Only in the entertainment industry, you might retort. We beg to differ.

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It looks like originality is a characteristic valued in the corporate world too. A Fast Company article, says that when you reveal your true self, your real views, and interests and personality, you are then “freed from the struggle to maintain the illusion of another person, you’ll lose the discomfort that lies bring and release the energy once committed to the disguise.”

These views are further supported by research undertaken by Ms. Abigail Mengers, University of Pennsylvania. She found the following:

  • the expression of the uniqueness of you relates positively to your well-being “even when doing so sets a person apart from others”
  • “humans have a desire to be authentic and doing so correlated with higher levels of life satisfaction and well-being”, and
  • competing needs arise to both belong and to be unique which can be “jointly fulfilled by joining distinctive groups.”

Are there dangers of revealing your true self and being too original and too authentic in the workplace, universities and diverse social settings? Particularly in a era of conformity, group think, cultural wars and virtue signaling?

As we empower ourselves to remove our masks to expose our innermost beliefs and values to the public, our colleagues and family; we must first have stood in the mirror (urghh… bad grammar I know) and made sure that :

  • I am indeed exposing my truest self,
  • I have the fortitude to withstand the kickback and negative reactions, and
  • I am accepting of others with opposing views who are also expressing their truest self.

So, let’s go back to the Fast Company article. It seems like the true benefits of originality and authenticity are obtained when we focus inwardly. Meaning being true to yourself first before self righteously imposing your views on to others. To express authenticity, uniqueness, originality, and one’s own concept of morality, one must bear the burden and added responsibility for greater self reflection.

When one looks back to all of the entertainers who have expressed their originality and unique views only to be ostracized; one finds train wrecks all over. Even contemplation of suicide and deteriorated mental health.

In closing, Ms. Abigail Mengers, University of Pennsylvania had it right. Expressing (a) one’s truest self, and/or (b) the imagined self maybe too much for anyone to bear without also connecting with a group of like-minded individuals for support and evidence of connection to this world’s reality.

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You might like my other articles on Moral Integrity