Typically, most have abdicated leadership in the home, community, and workplace to experts, and their infatuation with technical, quick-fix solutions means they favour skills over real education. Complexity and information-overload promote uncertainty, insecurity, and greatly reduced attention spans, and the loss of a sense of history has led to short-termism and the waning of vision and strategy in all areas of life. The postmodern attitude to suffering rejects the principle of ‘no pain, no gain’, and unrealistic expectations and a sense of entitlement inevitably engender persistent disappointment and cynicism.
The consequences are impossible to ignore in the third decade of the third millennium, as growing numbers of people, young and not so young, embrace the myth of plastic reality, and choose to ‘identify’ as something they are not. Not too long ago, this was professionally defined as a mental disorder, and ‘identify’ is a postmodern weasel-word that sacrifices reason on the altar of emotion.
To ‘identify’ as something you are not, is to tell a lie, and if you actually believe your own lies, you are flirting with mental illness. In fact, the pastiche personality reveals a widespread propensity for self-delusion, and probably goes a long way to account for the mental health crisis in the western world. If I ‘identify’ as a man 25 years younger than I actually am, any ridicule that greets my self-delusion will be entirely justified, unless people are moved to compassion by my geriatric fantasies.
Establishment politicians obviously encourage the confusion, concupiscence, and conflict because selfish, insecure people are far easier to control, and much less capable of resisting tyranny. How many seemingly responsible and level-headed citizens do nothing to challenge the lies because they are clinging to the false utopia of promiscuity, pornography, abortion, divorce, transgenderism, drug-use, and more, that are plainly antithetical to human flourishing?
What is authenticity in real terms? To be authentic is to be real, genuine, or true, as opposed to imaginary, fake, or false.
When you ask, “Who am I?”, anything other than honesty will, by definition, be inauthentic, that is, imaginary, fake, or false. And before you address the complex issues of worldview, personality, character, commitments, hopes, fears, aspirations, obsessions, and possible neuroses, you must first affirm that you are a human being, a rational, relational animal, from a particular family, religion (and, yes, atheism is a religion), culture, and nation.
Self-leadership is infinitely more than concealing your temper behind a screen of trite weasel words, like ‘appropriate’ and ‘tolerant’. Self-leadership, the daily task of building character, must focus on the existential realities of everyday life. Any pretence that they are other than what they actually are, will do what lies typically do, that is, stifle your personal growth and undermine your relationships.
The implications of those existential realities are far-reaching indeed. They are obviously complex, but the basics can be stated briefly with real benefit: the purpose of your rational mind is to seek truth, about yourself, other people, and the world; that enables you to know with certainty that practical wisdom, courage, rational self-development, justice, faith, hope, and love are fundamental to a properly formed character; your rational mind orients your relational nature to build community at all levels on truth and trust; your free will empowers you to seek and choose those things that promote the flourishing of all in the community, ensuring justice; and all this necessarily presupposes a responsible stewardship of the environment.
Standing on these objective realities, you will from the start be less likely to be afflicted by the flaws, addictions, phobias, and neuroses all too common in the postmodern West. It is a simple reality that you are not free to follow your animal urges, because that is enslavement to things that will destroy you. As a rational animal, you are free to choose a life of virtue that enables you to be the person you are intended to be, your authentic self, fulfilling your innate potential.
As Heraclitus told us in Fragments, more than 2000 years ago, “Character is destiny.” He saw what the sages have seen from the earliest times, that character is where our free will comes into play. It is in terms of character, our self-chosen moral identity, that we are what we choose to be. Either we choose the life of virtue in pursuit of human flourishing, or we spurn virtue in favour of self-gratification, and perpetuate the miseries of postmodern secular society.
Self-leadership, like leadership in any sphere, has to have a vision. Who am I? And what sort of person do I want to be? Modernism and postmodernism exult in power, pleasure, possessions, and status, and never find fulfilment. Sound character seeks wisdom, service, justice, and true community, and finds fulfilment in families, schools, small businesses, and communities that never make the headlines, but seldom fail to make people happy.
Authenticity is alive and well, but it is defined by reality, not the individual. Leadership demands a realistic assessment of resources in crafting a vision, recognising weaknesses as well as strengths, and acting accordingly. Self-leadership is no different. Each of us has abundant personal resources, but they have to be developed, disciplined, and deployed according to what is objectively good for all human beings, namely, truth, freedom, justice, community, and compassion.