Authenticity is a very difficult term to use when we live in a world of everyone's "highlight" reels. Instagram, generally, isn't filled with pictures of the average every day messes, dirty kids, dirty us (unless it's on purpose), or what we truly deal with each day. I have been guilty of the screen surf though. Just scrolling and scrolling through peoples feeds thinking I will never be good enough to display those kind of pictures. Those amazing vacations, homes, gardens, clothes, etc.
I am guilty of the mask. The one we show to those around us, because god forbid we should be struggling in our lives or be having a bad day or days. I think that we can see people who do go out of the norm and decide to show their true self. But often, when they do, we are so blind sided by their bluntness or forwardness, etc. we tend to draw away from them and fracture the relationship. I have been both. The receiver of the authentic person and I have also been the authentic person.
To be honest, when I was the authentic person, telling everyone that would listen my issues and how my week had really been going, I could see the discomfort in others. They really just wanted to say "hi" and move on. But emotionally, I was no longer in a place to filter my emotions. I was so overwhelmed and tired through my daughters illnesses that I couldn't help but "word-vomit" all over them. The thing was, I wasn't doing this from a healthy place. I was doing in from a place a severe depression. A place of loss. A place a hurt. A place of wanting the people around to validate me and my existence. So, doing authenticity from a severe dark place can be scary for the person on the receiving end because it's a lot and has not been the norm for their level relationship with you.
Let's just ask the question though, what would this world be like if we had authentic relationships and taught our children what real authentic relationships are like? That they don't always have to be perfect, pretty and smiling to be blessed and wonderful. Hard things can either draw people together or tare them apart. They can build or crush, depending on how we as the receivers receive. We need to stop being so afraid, as a society, of imperfection.
I know, this concept doesn't come naturally for us as humans. (Hard things always make me want to run in fear. But what if I stayed.) What if it was okay to not have the answers. What if we just sat with that person in their time of sorrow or hurt. What if we just gave them our ear. A hug. A prayer. We don't have to know them super well or have all the answers to create a safe place for authentic kindness and love.
Now let's talk a minute about the opposite end of this idea of authenticity. I believe that this is a large part of where our world is at right now. We live edited lives. Lives where we don't talk on the phone, or really have conversations in person anymore. Pictures are perfectly staged, texts are deleted and rewritten more than a handful of times before pressing send. Posts are critiqued with the greatest scrutiny so that we can't say what we want without offending someone. And what is this message of "reality" we have created? That term needs to be thrown out. Reality TV isn't reality-it's edited, dramatized, and created. It may be bits and pieces of real. And created by real people. But real life? These things are not authentic!
We need to stop comparing our lives to the "reality" that others show us on social media. I need to stop doing this. Because if I keep comparing my life to what media shows me to be peoples "real" lives, there will be nothing left. I don't believe we are meant to know all that we can know by the press of a few buttons. (I also don't think we are meant to be dumb.) But I do think that we were all created to be good at different things and to not constantly have the option to direct compare our own lives to the people everywhere. I know that when I surf peoples feeds on Instagram, and all I ever see is "perfection", my life looks like a hot mess of garbage. I look like garbage. I feel terrible. And you guys, this is not the life that God has given us to live. It is not His way. But if we stay in the constant place of not enough, we will never be capable of knowing what we are all here for and what we are capable of. Our personal calling for life. Our personal symphony.
I have spent most of my life playing the cards of comparison, always discontent as I have lived a life of looking down instead of upward and inward. And please, don't get me wrong, I still get sucked into the social media rut so deeply when I don't keep tabs on myself.
Here are a few nuggets I have learned along my authentic living journey to keep things healthy on the social media front:
- Making sure to engage with what you see and not just passively take it in. E.g. in taking the time to like or comment in a positive way.
- Unfollowing any accounts that always leave you feeling negative.
- Following a variety of people. (Different body sizes is my big one. I am a curvy woman and if all I see is women of a much smaller build than myself, I can feel extremely bad about myself if I am not careful. So being sure to add body positive activists and other beautiful women with curves helps me to be sure my view of the world around me in healthy.)
- Monitoring your time spent on media. I get having to be on media more as part of a profession. But I still try to take big parts of my day where my phone is not in hand. There is so much more world out there than that screen.
Let's bring things back to true authenticity in life. The authentic life is one where people in a perfect world would be able to share and to listen in perfect harmony. One that I believe was how we were created by God in the very beginning. But through the corruption of sin, we live a life so separated from the origin of God's desires for us, that often we cannot even begin to see the path back to having beautiful authentic relationships with those around us. God's authentic self, the image we were originally created in, perfectly balances the characters of love, joy, mercy, grace, kindness, gentleness, self-control, and faithfulness. And speaking from experience, through the overwhelming love that God gives us in his son, Jesus Christ, we can begin that journey back to this authentic place. Back to an authentic relationship with not only one another but the Great One who created us and this beautiful planet we call home.