Theses Doctoral

From the Outside-In: Applying a Social View to State Authenticity

Bailey, Erica Rose

From Plato to present, the directional narrative of authenticity has been from the “inside out.” In this view, authenticity is the result of unearthing a core, inner self through introspection and reflection and expressing that self to others. Embedded in this framework is the assumption that there is one true self within us, and that society’s demands consistently pull us away from that fixed point. In contrast, I argue that the construct of authenticity is better understood from the “outside in,” where authenticity is not the pinnacle of self-actualization, but the experience of a socially constructed self-concept in a particular time and place. By situating authenticity in the context of a social self, I make unique predictions about when and how authenticity is accessed.

In three chapters, I reconsider the foundation of authenticity with a social lens. I begin by asking what self is at the center of authenticity. By grounding authenticity in the social self-concept, I make unique predictions about how positivity, rather than unbiased self-processing increases authenticity. If the social self sits at the center of authenticity, this makes a distinct prediction regarding the way others intersect with our self-expression.

Thus, in Chapter 2, I theorize that status, the social arm of social hierarchy, will matter more for authenticity than power. In Chapter 3, I propose a novel function for the experience of authenticity—proposing that state authenticity leads to self-definition. Specifically, I examine how authenticity increases self-awareness, not the other way around. Taken together, my dissertation begins to pour a new theoretical framework for the study of authenticity.


This item is currently under embargo. It will be available starting 2028-05-05.

More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Iyengar, Sheena Sethi
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 10, 2023