Authentic Identity Enactment and Concealment
The present study examined the consequences of identity enactment and concealment for motive fulfillment and felt authenticity. Drawing from motivated identity construction theory, self-determination theory, and self-affirmation theory, we hypothesized that enacting an element comprising one's subjective identity should enable an individual to derive a sense of belonging, efficacy, self-esteem, meaning, continuity and distinctiveness from the enacted element. Where other studies have found relations between these variables, this study addressed three gaps in the literature focusing on (a) the motivational implications of identity concealment (b) the implications of identity enactment and concealment for felt authenticity, and (c) interactions between identity enactments and concealments. 343 students listed 12 identity elements, and then reported the extent to which they enacted or concealed each element in the 3 days prior to their study session. Participants also provided ratings of motive fulfillment and authenticity with respect to these 12 identities. Using multilevel modeling, we found that identity enactment positively predicted satisfaction of each of the aforementioned motives, while concealment negatively predicted each motive, except distinctiveness. Furthermore, motive fulfillment mediated the effects of identity enactment and concealment on felt authenticity, though concealment also had an additional negative direct effect on felt authenticity. Finally, this study examined whether identity enactment might buffer the adverse effects of identity concealment on motive fulfillment and felt authenticity. Although this hypothesis was not supported, supplemental analyses provided limited evidence of an alternative buffering effect. Thus, consistent with the three theoretical frameworks described previously, the current study found that individuals considered the identity elements that were relatively central to their self-definition, highly enacted, and minimally concealed to be the most authentic and motivationally fulfilling elements comprising their subjective identity structures. Unexpectedly, this study did not find evidence to indicate that identity enactment acted to affirm the self against the motivational threat of concealment. Nevertheless, this study did evince preliminary evidence to suggest identity enactment acted instead as a form of symbolic self-completion for elements within individuals' subjective identity structures that were otherwise concealed. Our findings have important implications for understanding the processes and mechanisms underlying authentic identity construction and management. In particular, this study can inform research designed to examine how within-person variability in self-perceptions impact individuals' well-being and health.