For all of my interest in both motivation and authenticity, I was stunned to realize in reading a book about con artists (of all things) that the two have lived side-by-side in psychology for decades. It’s something I should have realized–I was familiar with the work in question–but hadn’t pulled back my perspective in so long that I missed the link. It turns out that Abraham Maslow, best known for the hierarchy of needs that continues to inform work on motivation and engagement, saw an important place for authenticity at the top of the hierarchy, self-actualization.
Maria Konnikova describes it thusly:
Maslow . . . argued that the fully realized, or “self-actualized,” human being must perceive reality “efficiently” and accept herself, with all her quirks and ways, no matter how much that reality might deviate from her ideal vision of herself. Only then will she reach her fullest potential as a person.
So there you have it. The father of motivational psychology himself believed that authenticity and knowing yourself were the pinnacle of flourishing.