Authenticity and Psychological Well-Being

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In the present study, the role of authenticity was explored in multiracial psychological well-being. Findings suggest that an important factor in multiracial psychological well-being is the concept of self-alienation. Self-alienation is defined as “the subjective experience of not knowing oneself, or feeling out of touch with the true self” (Wood et al., 2008, p. 386). For this multiracial sample, self-alienation had a positive significant relationship with perceived stress, such that the more self-alienation participants reported, the more perceived stress they reported. Further, participants indicated a decrease in life satisfaction. These findings suggest that the relationship between racial malleability and negative aspects of psychological well-being is almost nonexistent; rather, it is whether the individual feels they know themselves that has a significant effect on their psychological well-being. Therefore, regardless of how racially malleable participants are, feeling in touch with oneself relates to positive psychological well-being. Given the relationship between self-alienation and psychological well-being, it appears that overall feeling connected and knowing oneself may be a significant buffer for stress and impact life satisfaction for multiracial people. This is consistent with the literature on self-concept and the importance of authenticity in self-complexity, such that stress may be buffered if individuals are authentic in the components of self they affirm in a given situation (Ryan, LaGuardia, & Rawsthorne, 2005). Though authenticity has been explored qualitatively with multiracial individuals (Romo, 2011), this study adds quantitative support for the role of authenticity, especially self-alienation, in multiracial well-being. 81 Interestingly, though racially malleability was not related to perceived stress, accepting external influences was significantly correlated with both racial malleability and perceived stress. Accepting external influence is an aspect of authenticity (Wood et al, 2008), which accounts for the role of the social environment in one’s sense of self. This finding further supports research that cultural identity and self-understanding are influenced by one’s social environment (English & Chen, 2007). Though racial malleability and perceived stress did not have a significant relationship for this sample, the significant correlation with accepting external influence may indicate an alternative explanation for previous findings that racial malleability was related to lower psychological well-being. It is possible that the degree to which participants accept external influences impacts their racial malleability, but that alone may not impact their psychological well-being. Rather it may depend on the type of external influences that participants accept that impacts their psychological well-being. For example, in an environment where negative messages about being multiracial are conveyed, participants who accept external influences and are racially malleable may have lower psychological well-being. Thus, the degree to which the individual can filter the information from their social environment through their own self-knowledge may be essential in understanding the relationships between racial malleability and psychological well-being. Additionally, authentic living, which is defined as the congruence between the way one feels internally and their behaviors, is significantly negatively correlated with perceived stress. Therefore, the more congruence individuals feel between their internal sense of self and their behaviors, the less perceived stress they report. Though authentic living was not significant in the hierarchical linear regression model, the correlation indicates that authentic living may play a role in multiracial well-being. For example, it may be that authentic living is context-specific rather than an overall sense of authenticity. Recent research on acculturation has indicated that individuals may use different acculturation strategies depending upon the behavioral or value domain, such that someone may be more assimilating in their approach to language while bicultural when it comes social interactions (Miller et al., 2013). It is possible that multiracial people employ a similar approach and feel that they are authentically living in that context.

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