I have come to believe that sincerity is sort of a superpower if you can harness and use it well.
But before I come around to my justification for that statement, I want to talk about what sincerity isn't.
Sincerity obviously isn't deceit or lying or BS or deliberate aloofness, but it's also not the same thing as honesty.
Let me be clear: sincere actions are also honest, but if I say to you you should be sincere, I expect you'll get a different message than if I suggested you always be honest. Honesty can be a sort of brute force 2 by 4 you whack people with. It's not dishonest to go up to someone and tell them their suit doesn't fit. If you feel it's the truth, that's honesty. But is it sincere? Does it forge a connection with that person to share your thoughts on their attire? Or does it just get something off your chest?
Being sincere doesn't necessarily make you right. It can indeed make you very wrong. Look no further than the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, where people literally don't want to be kind to groups they don't approve of due to sincerely held beliefs.
What sincerity does, though, is it lets you exhale. It lets you stop beating your chest and sticking it out to impress others (or yourself). When you are sincere, you can connect on a deeper level, and there are very few jobs or relationships where that isn't crucial to success.
I have at times battled a reputation of being smarmy, when what I was trying to do, as ever, was be accepted by some group that I thought would only want me if I played up certain qualities I may or may not have had. I've also been seen as less than kind, when those failures to be accepted curdled into a stubborn commitment to honesty at a time when most of my thoughts were angry or despondent.
As time wears on and I learn more, though, I think about my very first class, March 5th 2008. I had planned an entire presentation to my new students, people who were, for some reason, actually impressed by my presence. Yet they weren't interested in much I had to say, and I ended up having to kill time because I ran out of material. I started padding it, and the only time I connected with that first group was when I talked about how bad I was at baseball. They loved it! And I thought, incorrectly, that making fun of myself was what caught their attention. But no. I realize now it was the authenticity and sincerity in my voice as I reached that section.
The funny thing is, as I said above, you can be sincere and wrong. It turns out I am actually pretty athletic (though I'm still bad at baseball). At the moment, though, it was entirely sincere to say and feel that sports had sort of passed me by.
And being sincere involves vulnerability, so it can hurt a lot more than a stiff upper lip. I won't come out here and tell people who have suffered much more than I have to live inside their trauma. But if you need to communicate with anyone (and you probably do), don't try to be the smartest person ever to exist, even if you are (and I sure do think I'm smart a lot of the time).
Exhale. Deflate. And be sincere. You might be able to "win" by being insincere, or supercilious, or sarcastic, but will you truly succeed? I think not.