“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.” –E.E. Cummings
“She has no filter.” This has been said of women for years upon years and comes with a deeply negative connotation. It immediately conjures up an image in our minds of an outspoken, loudmouth who will tell you like it is. I automatically think of Fran Drescher in The Nanny.
But, dang, in a world with Photoshop, Etsy presets, auto-correct, Snapchat filters, and perfect Instagram feeds—pretty, pretty, please let me be her. Let me be the girl with no filter. The girl who not only has the guts to say what she means and mean what she says, but the girl who is who she is, unapologetically.
Let me be the girl who not only has the guts to say what she means and mean what she says, but the girl who is who she is, unapologetically.
What Is Authenticity?
Authenticity is a lost art among humanity. No one truly knows what’s real or what’s fake anymore. Is your bedroom really that crisp and white?! Or, is it “Bright & Airy,” the most popular Etsy preset? Is your waist that snatched from a thousand straight days of sit-ups, or was it your fingers that did the fast work on the Photoshop app that gives you the instant results of a Kardashian body? Are your kids really always smiling or was that pic number 314, taken in between 27 temper tantrums that also flood your camera roll? Is your 20-plus-year marriage really all bliss, or was it just one halfway decent day amidst 17 straight hard ones? Or, could it be the obligatory anniversary post we wrestled so hard to write, in hopes that publishing it into the world of social media might make the words come true in real life?
It’s crazy, though, right? That we all feel this immense pressure to be perfect; that the very same world that once demanded women to be seen in the kitchen, but not heard at the dinner table, now makes us feel bad if we aren’t rioting weekly for women’s rights. We have allowed ourselves to be dictated by this ever-changing influence of pop culture. The same mass of influencers that once told us to be naturally beautiful like the girl next door decided one day that it was no longer the look we were going for. These same exact people now have us racing into Sephora to purchase two pounds of makeup that will take two hours to apply in hopes that we’ll become the newest version of beautiful. Society pressures young ladies into being a size two, while making the older ones think that taping back their cheekbones for the perfect picture is totally normal.
Why I Decided to Live Authentically
And, I’m totally guilty. I’ve fallen into the trap of perfectionism. There were so many times that I traded in my authenticity in hopes to gain a temporary feeling of acceptance.
But then my child died. A tragic car accident took him out of my world and rocked me at my core. And, during the first few days of agonizing grief and denial, as I desperately scrolled through my camera roll for all the pictures of my boy, the uncut, raw, unposted ones seemed to comfort me the most. The candid moments, the blurry action shots of pitching on the mound at little league or the opening up of Christmas presents in holiday PJs, and all the other never-before-seen photos were the ones that blessed me the most. Not good enough for a picture-perfect Pinterest board, but the most amazing dose of medicine to my shattered heart. (Hear more of my story on This Grit and Grace Life podcast here: What I Learned From Making the Hardest Choice with Shannon Barbosa – 110)
It was the authentic moments and memories of the messiest days that soothed my heart the most and reached the deepest parts of my soul.
I’m not saying I don’t like a good portrait session or family photoshoot, with matching outfits, pretty bows, and the wide smiles that make your cheeks hurt by just looking at them. I’m not at all claiming to have arrived in being the most authentic version of myself. I just know this: when life hits you hard, you learn a thing or two in this department. At least, I sure did.
What I Learned About Authenticity
I learned that I would never, ever, make it by faking it. So many of us miss this. We think that painting a smile on our faces, while our hearts are bleeding out is somehow brave. We confuse faithing it with faking it. We believe that God is shaming us when we lack faith, when we learn in the Bible that we can be so real with him that we can say to Jesus, just like the dead girl’s father, “I do believe, Lord. But, help me with my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
I learned that we must be our true selves to experience true growth—not true to a parent, a spouse, a pastor, a friend, or anyone else. While all of these matter, not one of them holds the personal willpower to change you. Just as you cannot be anyone else’s savior, not one of the above can be yours. Jesus came to save, and He holds the key to unlocking the person you were destined to be.
I learned that we will always be misunderstood by the people who love us most and by people who don’t even know us. So be you. It is OK to be on different pages, to have different views, and to be you, boo. Those who mind won’t matter, and those who matter won’t mind.
Authenticity Is the Beginning of Growth
Authenticity is a lost art, and I am still guilty of losing it over and over again. But, I am determined to keep finding it—this hidden, invaluable treasure of authenticity must be salvaged. And, it starts with us—from being real and allowing others to do the same.
Because at the end of every day, authenticity is all we really want from one another. We all want to know we aren’t alone, each of us longing to find that flawed friend who says “me, too” when the bathtub hasn’t been cleaned in weeks, or you’ve gone to the drive-thru more days than you can count. When your laundry basket of unfolded clean clothes could pass for an overflowing Goodwill bin drop-off because of its surmountable size and you’ve had to throw a T-shirt or two in the dryer because the wrinkles are just way too set in for the shake-out method, you just need someone to say “me, too.” And, you need them for all the bigger things, too—the untouchables like marital issues, wayward sons, addictions, and past mistakes.
Isolation breeds dysfunction. It produces fear, doubt, and so much shame. Fear of how others might see us, doubt in our ability to ever overcome, and shame. And friend, shame is a nightmare. It causes us to hide. It tells us to fake it. It robs us of our joy and messes with our minds. It screams at each of us as our fingers type real, authentic words. It silences us when we open our mouths to share some of our hardest battles. It stops us dead in our tracks and makes our knees too shaky to walk out the hard stuff with a friend. It shuts the door in the face of the ones we need the most. Shame is a liar. Together we must join forces and authentically scare the living daylights out of shame and expose it for the perverted weapon that is.
How can we do this? By being real. By sharing our losses along with our wins. By talking about the scary things. By looking those scary things right in the face instead of turning away at the sight of something unfiltered. Life is hard for all of us. We all face challenges along the way, but what could happen if we were just honest? If we stopped hiding? If we took our lives back by sharing it freely?
I’m all in, and I hope you are too. I hope you know your authenticity is valuable. It is beautiful. And, it will change the world if you let it.
This hidden, invaluable treasure of authenticity must be salvaged. And, it starts with us—from being real and allowing others to do the same.
Looking for more encouragement on self-worth? Start here:
What Every Woman Needs to Know About Body Image
When Bearing Their Burden Breaks You
A Love So Deep, It Covers All Your Shame
Bible Verses From the Grit and Grace Team on Self-Worth
How to Conquer the “I’m Not Enough” Syndrome
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You’ll love this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: New Year, Strong You! How to Reflect on Your Year in a Helpful Way – 114!