Wednesday, September 3, 2014




What does this word mean to you? I've been on a quest for the past year to understand what it truly means and honestly live according to it. I have never wanted to be the type of person that puts on a facade rather than being my truest self. Many people wear a mask of protection from their truest self without fully realizing they are even doing it. They believe that if they were to live in a way that expresses who they truly are or say the things that are really on their hearts, they will be met with the disapproval of others. When someone disapproves of your most true self, you become hurt and feel rejected. We feel that they are rejecting the deepest part of who we are; therefore we we swim along with the mainstream school of fish so that we can blend in, remain safe, and keep the hamster wheel of people pleasing and adequate living running smoothly. We all want to be well thought of and have people like us; therefore, we may find ourselves behaving in a way that will guarantee other people's approval, even if it is not who we are.

Why do we do this? Simple answer: We all want to be loved and accepted. But guess what? We already are:

"The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness'." (Jeremiah 31:3, NIV).

So often though, we don't allow God's love and acceptance of us to be enough in our lives. We may understand His love for us on a cognitive level or even a heart level, but we don't allow it to actually seep into every area of our lives in a tangible, real way. Instead, we crave this love and acceptance from our families, significant others, friends, peers, and society in general. This is quite unfortunate when such an extraordinary, Divine love is offered to us daily. I'm talking to myself here too.

Being authentic becomes quite difficult when we are so preoccupied with what others think of us and how they will react to us. Most everyone cares about what others think of them (woman especially). So often, we are trained as woman within conservative American culture (and especially mainstream Christian culture) to always be sweet, kind, gentle, and adhering to the desires of others. If a woman acts in a way that is the antithesis of this, she is labeled a witch with a capital B and described as being difficult.

I was talking with a friend the other day about the difficulty she often faces in feeling obligated to answer people's questions regarding her life circumstances and always put on a happy face even when the questions about her life become intrusive and she has no desire to engage in the conversations at all. She struggles with feeling that she must remain cordial and put on a good appearance even if she is incredibly uncomfortable and desires to be disengaged from these interactions completely. How true this is for so many women! We often feel as if we owe everyone answers to their questions and fulfillment of their expectations of us, even if it is not what we want at all.

From kindergarten on we are engrained with the desire to please others and be good, well behaved, sweet little girls. We are taught to be quiet, polite, and gentle. Unfortunately that lifelong training within our culture can be quite difficult to shake as grown women. However it must be shaken.

Sheryl Sandberg discusses these societal limitations placed on women in her best selling book, Lean In. She states:

"From an early age, boys are encouraged to take charge. Teachers interact more with boys, call on them more frequently, and ask them more questions. Boys are also more likely to call out answers, and when they do, teachers usually listen to them. When girls call out, teachers often scold them for breaking the rules and remind them to raise their hands if they want to speak" (p. 20). 

Such cultural training sets a precedent for women to stay in a box and surrender the reigns of their individuality, leadership, and innovation to society. How often we see a little girls who are confident and self assured in their interactions with others be referred to as "bossy" while little boys with the same qualities are referred to as "leaders".  This happened to me as a child and resulted in years of suppressing my natural talent and ability to truly lead others for fear of being labeled "bossy" and "controlling"--curse words in society's vocabulary for describing a women who is adored.

Lack of authentic living and authentic communication not only keeps you locked up in a personal prison, it also hinders your relationships and can harm your professional success as well. Sandberg states:

"Authentic communication is not always easy, but it is the basis for successful relationships at home and real effectiveness at work. Yet people constantly back away from honesty to protect themselves and others. This reticence causes and perpetuates all kinds of problems: uncomfortable issues that never get addressed, resentment that builds, unfit managers who get promoted rather than fired, and on and on. Often these situations don't improve because no one tells anyone what is really happening. We are so rarely brave enough to tell the truth" (p. 77-78).

Am I saying that we should throw kindness to the wayside and always say aloud whatever thought pops into our head or commit whatever action we desire for the sake of authenticity? Absolutely not. There is certainly a time a place for everything and there are many things best left unsaid, especially when they are not constructive and are unnecessarily hurtful toward others. After all, Paul says,

"So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don't get tied up again in slavery to the law...For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don't use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'." (Galatians 5:1, 13-14 NLT).

How can you truly love and embrace others if you do not fully love and embrace yourself? How can you truly love yourself if you do not value yourself enough to live authentically? This is not permission to sin and do whatever you want, whenever you want in the name of authenticity. This is permission to be the fullest, most beautiful, earth shaking expression of who God has truly made you to be. 

It is time for us to start being who we truly are without any apologies or fear. Now is the time to say what we want in our lives and with our lives without making apologies, excuses, or justifications. We have the freedom to live our lives removed from the oppression of other people opinions and expectations--we just have to choose to walk in that freedom. The only person that keeps you chained to the opinions of others and the cultural expectations of society is yourself. One of my all time favorite quotes comes from Elianore Roosevelt in which she states, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." How true this is. We are own slave masters when we adhere our lives to the opinions and expectations of others. We can choose daily to be authentic.

A lifestyle of authenticity may not always be the easiest, but I believe it is certainly the most rewarding. At the end of the day when you lay your head down on your pillow, the only people you are truly accountable to are yourself and God. The crowds of those you have longed to impress are not lying there next to you; so do yourself a favor and just be yourself.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Kind replies are always greatly appreciated. Thank you!