Karen Wright in Psychology Today:
It starts innocently enough, perhaps the first time you recognize your own reflection.
You’re not yet 2 years old, brushing your teeth, standing on your steppy stool by the bathroom sink, when suddenly it dawns on you: That foam-flecked face beaming back from the mirror is you.
You. Yourself. Your very own self.
It’s a revelation—and an affliction. Human infants have no capacity for self-awareness. Then, between 18 and 24 months of age, they become conscious of their own thoughts, feelings, and sensations—thereby embarking on a quest that will consume much of their lives. For many modern selves, the first shock of self-recognition marks the beginning of a lifelong search for the one “true” self and for a feeling of behaving in accordance with that self that can be called authenticity.
A hunger for authenticity guides us in every age and aspect of life. It drives our explorations of work, relationships, play, and prayer. Teens and twentysomethings try out friends, fashions, hobbies, jobs, lovers, locations, and living arrangements to see what fits and what’s “just not me.” Midlifers deepen commitments to career, community, faith, and family that match their self-images, or feel trapped in existences that seem not their own. Elders regard life choices with regret or satisfaction based largely on whether they were “true” to themselves.
Questions of authenticity determine our regard for others, as well. They dominated the presidential primaries: Was Hillary authentic when she shed a tear in New Hampshire? Was Obama earnest when his speechwriters cribbed lines from a friend’s oration?