A few friends in my circle have remained what I will term tier-two friends. Although we are more than acquaintances, they’ve never made it to the third level because–quite honestly–they barely share any of their heart. Despite my attempts, there’s no vulnerability or soul connection. As a person who hates small talk–talk about exhausting–I used to ditch people who just discussed the trivial. But then I realized that these people just struggle with trust. They have either been trained to guard at all costs or they’ve been damaged so much by society that authenticity feels too dangerous.
In her book “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are”, Brene Brown states the quandary this way: “We feel exhausted because without even giving it too much thought, most of us know that choosing authenticity in a culture that dictates everything from how much we’re supposed to weigh to what our houses are supposed to look like is a huge undertaking. Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”
E.E. Cummings wrote, “To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself–means to fight the hardest battle which any human can fight–and never stop fighting.”
This battle can be especially tough for women of faith. For strong personalities, what is applauded in a man will be shamed in a woman. “In my research on authenticity and shame, I found that speaking out is a major shame trigger for women. Here’s how the research participants described the struggle to be authentic [and the mixed messages they face]:
- Don’t make people feel uncomfortable but be honest.
- Don’t upset anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings but say what’s on your mind.
- Sound informed and educated but not like a know-it-all.
- Don’t say anything unpopular or controversial but have the courage to disagree with the crowd.
See the dilemma?
Dr. Thomas Sowell states difficultly of truth vs. expectation this way: “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.” Sure seems to make it easier doesn’t it? No fuss, no muss….and sadly, no authenticity.
“While the truth is sometimes hard to hear, God gives it to us because He knows what our hearts and souls really need. It is His truth that sets us free.” Lysa Terkeurst
To be free to be who God created us to be and to find our fulfillment in His pre-packaged gifts, talents and passions is the act of worship to the One who made us. Being authentic is risky, yes. But so is hiding. “Our unexpressed ideas, opinions, and contributions don’t just go away. They are likely to fester and eat away at our worthiness. I think we should be born with a warning label similar to the ones that come on cigarette packages: Caution: If you trade in your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment and inexplicable grief.” Brene Brown
So, what do you do?
Ask God who you are and let Him–and only Him–answer the question.
- “Remember not to get small so other people are comfortable and also not to throw up your armor as a way to protect yourself.” Brene Brown
- Your goal is to be true to who your Creator crafted you to be, not to be liked. Even Jesus was disdained, rejected and ridiculed for who He was (and He was perfect). If you try to please others, you will end up pleasing no one.
- Invest in true relationships where complete honesty is not only permitted but encouraged. Don’t withhold. Everyone needs at least one confidante (more is better). Find someone trustworthy, compassionate, truthful and full of integrity and have a mutual sharing. Be humble and receptive. Listen, forgive, and challenge.
- Don’t listen to culture’s demands. “The gremlins get lots of mileage out of ‘supposed to’–the battle cry of fitting in, perfectionism, people-pleasing, and proving ourselves.”
*We’re “supposed to” be this personality type, make this much money, live in this size house, wear this size pants, stick with a job we hate, ignore the side hobby that doesn’t get us prestige, marry a successful or beautiful person, get x-number of degrees, drive a new car, etc.
Quit listening to the voices that say, “What will people think?”
“People won’t get it. Don’t do it.”
“Have you lost your mind?”
“Having fun is irresponsible.”
“Telling the truth is cruel.”
“Love means complete acceptance.”
“If you hide, they will like you better.” [Incidentally, who exactly are they “liking”?]
It takes a brave soul to stand up and say, “This is who I am. This is who God is unwrapping me to be.” I am automatically drawn to people who are comfortable in their own skin, who don’t beat up on themselves, but say, “Whoops,” apologize, laugh and move on. I love people who don’t feel threatened by authenticity in others and coax it out like a scared bunny looking for love. I love people who are uniquely themselves and don’t try to be anything else. I want to be that person. I want to hear His voice over me and follow that leading, letting Him be the one to refine me (not the cruel and fickle culture).
What a day to be brave! Find the delight in just resting in who you are and let your Maker create your best self.