Are we able to behave today in a way that will increase our level of happiness and decrease our level of stress in years to come? Is there a specific trait that we can embody to foster this growth? A recent 2014 study by Boyraz, Waits, and Felix examined whether or not authenticity is linked to future measures of life satisfaction or distress. Authenticity has been linked to well-being, general mood, and positive psychological behaviours. When someone has inconsistencies between their self-concept and real world experiences, they are likely to encounter increased distress and personal intolerance. While past research has shown that authenticity can play a role in ratings of distress and life-satisfaction, a directional effect has yet to be demonstrated.
The current study examined whether or not authenticity is linked to future measures of life satisfaction or distress. The authors defined authenticity as having three main components:
- Self-alienation – which refers to the level of incongruence between lived experiences of emotions, thoughts, moods, and internalized beliefs
- Authentic living – the level of congruence between thoughts and behaviours
- Accepting external influence – being able to accept the views of others while concurrently honouring one’s own
University students from South-eastern USA completed surveys examining life satisfaction, distress, and authenticity at two time points. Results showed that students rating high in authenticity at time 1 had increased levels of life satisfaction at time 2. However, high ratings of life satisfaction at time 1 did not correlate with increased ratings of authenticity at time 2. Further, high life satisfaction ratings at time 1 were not correlated to ratings of life satisfaction at time 2. The authors also found that levels of distress at time 1 were negatively correlated with authenticity ratings at time 2, while authenticity at time 1 was correlated with lower levels of distress at time 2.
The authors concluded that these “results underlined the importance of authenticity in positive psychological functioning” (p.503). Further, authenticity can be seen as a catalyst to building self-awareness, positive self-regard, and fostering openness to new experiences. This study was able to demonstrate that increased life satisfaction and decreased levels of distress can be attributable to higher levels of authenticity throughout life. The results of this study can help direct treatment approaches between counsellors and therapists, as well as future research on life satisfaction. By making choices and engaging in behaviours that align with our personal beliefs on a daily basis we can create internal congruence, foster positive growth, and promote personal authenticity.
Boyraz, J., Waits, B., Felix, V.A. (2014). Authenticity, life satisfaction, and distress: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 61, 498-505