Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Genuine Self

Erving Goffman introduced the idea of dramaturgy. In dramaturgy, Goffman presented the idea that social interaction is much like the theater. There is a front, backstage, setting, audience, performance, performer and character (Appelrouth & Edles, 2008). In this concept, people are seen as performers who are primarily concerned with their performance and the presentation of their character to the audience (Allan, 2008). Everything that the audience sees of the character is prepared in the backstage while the performance takes place in the front (Appelrouth & Edles, 2008). Through these steps, the individual presents themselves to their audience and the audience is then assumed to rely on how the individual performs his character to determine what is true of the individual’s self.
In the introduction to Goffman’s “Presentation of Self in Everyday Life,” Appelrouth and Edles (2008, pp. 491), state “In a sense, his book is an analysis of the familiar saying ‘actions speak louder than words,’ but after reading Goffman you will never be able to adjust the volume again.” I found this statement to be as profound as it was true. As I read Goffman, I found it very easy to picture situations in which I could clearly define each step in the process of presenting my character to a particular audience. However, I felt that Goffman left little room for the individual to be genuine. He, instead, places more emphasis on the “convincing performance” over the genuine sincerity of the individual performer (Appelrouth & Edles, 2008). I also have difficulty agreeing with his idea that, in order for a performance to work, the individual is expected to “…suppress his immediate heartfelt feelings, conveying a view of the situation which he feels the others will be able to find at least temporarily acceptable.” (Goffman, 1959 as cited in Appelrouth & Edles, 2008, pp. 496). It has been my experience that genuine, honest “performance” in a social setting is valued over being agreeable.

Are there any situations where you feel as if you are portraying your genuine self? How are these situations different from the one's in which you perceive yourself to be portraying a self that is not genuine? Can you tell the difference?


  1. I've been experiencing a lot of situations when I feel as portaying a genuine self and I feel very relaxed and capable to speak my mind. These situations give me a lot of confidence.On the other hand the ones I dont portray my genuine self make me feel unconfortable and stressed sometimes I get nervous and afraid that something might go wrong

  2. I believe I have been my genuine self in most cases or at least in stuff that are in regards of my personal interests which would embrace the idea of me having an individual will which helps me to be genuine to a certain extent. I believe that in most cases we do not want to look dumb in front of others, but not only because of the fact that they will probably think bad about us but because of the fact that we want to be efficient, and being efficient basically means we do stuff the right way which also embraces the idea of there being an individual will, I believe we can all tell the difference if we account the factors that Goffman has taught us.

  3. I agree with the idea that sometimes I have been my genuine self most of the time. I believe in Goffman's theory of dramaturgy were we are always acting in everything that we do. We sometimes act in order to protect our "identity" but are we really always who we think we are. It must be an uncouncious set of mind that guides our acts into reality.