Saturday, February 8, 2020

Walking the Tightrope of Authenticity

"Authenticity" really shouldn't be that complicated. With definitions that range from "being genuine" to being "based on facts," it seems like being authentic should be pretty simple: be consistent, act according to your genuine nature (in appropriate ways), and letting people experience the "real" you, not some fake demeanor you crafted on a whim. Pretty straightforward, right?

Maybe...and maybe not.

I've found that many times, when people say "I wish that person was more authentic," it means that they want to see more of another person's imperfections on display. How many times have we looked at a picture of a beautiful home and think to ourselves: Wow, I cannot believe how good her living room looks-and she has small kids! Clearly, she staged this; I want to see photos of her kitchen sink overflowing with dishes! For some reason, we can't seem to accept the sight of a well-decorated home or a well-dressed mom of young kids without internalizing it as an attack on our own homes or appearance.

So, some of us, seeing (and perhaps experiencing) this challenge decide that we will be "authentic" by making sure that everyone is well aware that our lives aren't as perfect or beautiful as they seem. Compliments on our homes, appearance, or accomplishments are met with responses by us that thanks, but REALLY I am so bad at x, y, and z. Sometimes, we can go so far as to overwhelm conversations with our personal failures and laments so that people can see just how not put-together we are. I have done this a tremendous amount in the past several weeks of pregnancy, and it makes me crazy. 

I've been told that I look energized and put-together on many days, but just because I may look that way on the outside does not mean I feel great on the inside. While I'm grateful that I don't spend nine months puking up my guts, I still spend hours each day feeling miserable because of persistent nausea and fatigue. I want to be honest with people, and when they ask how pregnancy is going, to truly tell them that it's challenging to be stuck in a seemingly-endless cycle of feeling gross most of the time.

At the same time, though, I've found myself complaining a lot. I'll bemoan just how nauseous I am, and try to make myself and my miseries the center of everything. I want to share genuine struggles that I'm dealing with right now so I can be honest, be "authentic"-but I also am realizing that complaining over and over again is not the answer. 

I guess this is why living "authentically" feels so much like teetering on a tightrope right now. I don't want to lean too far in the direction of ignoring my challenges, but I also don't want to fall off the edge of wallowing in my misery and making everything about me and my problems. As I've thought about this more, a word has come to me a couple of times: thankful. 

Perhaps I can truly embrace authenticity if I am living in a spirit of gratitude, continually thanking God for his guidance and consolation in times of difficulty. 

Perhaps I can "be authentic" if I bring thankfulness and the joy that perseveres through an acceptance of suffering into my conversations. 

Perhaps I can act according to my genuine identity as a daughter of God if I intentionally seek ways to center my life around Him. 

Perhaps if I worry less about myself and steer my eyes back onto my Crucified Savior, I'll be able to reframe my sufferings in light of His Redemption. 

And perhaps, I can learn to accept beauty at face value, without seeing someone else's accomplishments as a personal attack on my own hopes and dreams.


  1. I feel a little convicted after writing such a ranty post yesterday 😂 though I hope it came off more lighthearted than that. Anyway! I fully agree with you. I think about this balance constantly. We’re in a difficult yet still good season of life right now. Some days I feel like I can’t cope, and other days I’m overwhelmed by our blessings. I’m all over the place, but I always try to remember it’s all God who has brought us to this place. Pregnancy especially has me thinking of this. This pregnancy has been difficult in many ways, but I am still overcome with gratitude for it. It’s hard to feel both feelings at once and appropriately express them.

  2. Thank you for being so open and honest about this. I, too, find myself trying to figure out the right balance between being honest about my struggles and not just focusing in that even though that's what has been my main focus. I recently heard that a good antidote for it was to focus on others so we can get out of our heads; a priest recommended this for those dealing with depression and anxiety. It's not always easy to do because, let's face it, when you feel awful, it's hard to focus on anything else. Still, it's worth a try. In our case, focusing on God and how we can help bring others to Him can be the perfect antidote.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing that, Melissa! I love that advice. It kind of makes me think about how the devil will distort something good and present it to us-it's GOOD to be in tune with how we are and recognize our feelings and struggles, but when we go so far to ignore God and others, that's probably when big problems ensue. I will try that priest's advice out sometime!

  3. "I've found that many times, when people say "I wish that person was more authentic," it means that they want to see more of another person's imperfections on display."

    I think this is very true! Complaining and wallowing in the hard things is a too-easy pit to fall into...when I find myself leaning in that way I have to give a firm, "No. Don't go down that road" to myself. Sharing about hard situations and feelings is one thing...but it's different from getting to the point where you make all the hardships into the biggest part of your identity. I also think it's crucial what you point out--not seeing other people's accomplishments as a personal attack. We're all good at different things...that's the beauty of the uniqueness throughout Creation!

  4. Amen. It's a fine line for sure, and kudos to you for really considering and approaching it intentionally. Also, hope you are feeling a bit better!!