What does it mean to live an authentic life? Does it mean we don’t lie about liking certain things like ranch on pizza and crop tops? Does it mean we tell everyone every single thing that goes through our minds? I don’t know about you, but being authentic seems to me to be something more than just telling the world on every social media platform that you just realized that you forgot to pay your credit card bill this month or that you just put in a fresh piece of gum.

Authenticity is something that I have been thinking a lot about as of late. I think it is an idea that is actually really intimidating to approach because to be completely authentic could mean being real about issues in life and the world that are hard to talk about. It means being genuine. Being open to criticism and open to trust and be trusted.

It’s kind of funny to think about because this whole idea of being “authentic” has really blown up in recent years. Sure, people have always asked themselves what their inner most soul wants in this life. We are creatures who crave knowing that they are here for a reason and that they can go after something they are passionate about. I think this idea of authenticity has become so prevalent in the media and online because technology acts as a fantastic buffer for each of us to hide behind. It is a lot easier to pretend that I’m something that I’m not when I can say it to someone through a few strokes on a keyboard or a quick two second text.

So yes, being truly authentic to who we are has become a little different now that we have personae’s to uphold online. I mean, can you imagine posting how you are actually feeling as your status? The people who do that are deemed “overdramatic” and “attention seeking” for one reason or another. In reality, if these people are being honest with themselves and then honest to everyone who is online, they are the ones who are living authentically while we sit back and silently judge them (even though we are really only judging because we are too insecure to put who we really are out there). I will be the first to admit that I am extremely guilty of this.

But that’s why I’m trying so hard to understand what authenticity means to me.

You may be reading this now (if you’ve stuck with me so far, that is) and asking yourself why it even matters if we are honest with ourselves or not. Well, let me just say that there are so many ways that our lives would improve if we could just be who we really are.

For me, past relationships have been messed up because of a lack of honesty between the two of us. It wasn’t that either party just out and straight-faced lied about things; it was just that we were not in a place where we were honest with ourselves about what we wanted and where we wanted things to go. Similar to the way some people say that you can’t expect someone else to love you if you can’t love yourself, I believe you have to accept yourself for who you are before your external relationships will work out. Authenticity goes a long way.

So who are you? What do you know to be true about yourself when stripped of every societal buffer? Are you living life to let that person show to the ones you care about? It’s not easy to be honest with yourself because you have to accept who you are in spite of your flaws and in spite of the ways you are different from everyone else. But once we figure out how to be that kind of honest everything changes.

We don’t have to be afraid of it. In the words of Grace Helbig in her recent commencement speech, follow your fear. It’s not as scary as it seems.

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