There is a temptation we face when we meet new people to put on a mask.
Strangers are blank slates. Yet to witness our baggage or keep a record against us. It is all too easy for us to morph into someone we’ve always wished we were.
If you are of the obliging sort like me, when you meet someone new you will agree to almost anything.
I so hate making waves that I will bend over backwards just to keep the peace.
I will nod along to their every suggestion. I will eat whatever is placed before me. I will go wherever they want me to go and do whatever they want me to do.
I’m a puppet on a string with a clumsy, oblivious master.
But after awhile of this masquerade I begin to feel exhausted. Worn out from pushing myself to be an extrovert, an adventurous type or the kind of person who stays up past midnight on weeknights.
I get this icky, sticky feeling of something not being right. The uneasy, conflicting feeling of not being true to myself.
Authenticity it seems is a necessity for me. Much like a lack of oxygen, without it I am breathless. Like an absence of food, I get queasy in my stomach. Like the deprivation of sleep, I get sharp and unkind.
I have been out of town for the past couple of weeks and with the change in routine I’ve found myself withdrawing from my blog and social media.
I haven’t written at all since I left and it has made me feel smaller and less valuable.
Because writing is a part of my identity. The part that makes me feel most connected to the world around me. The part that allows me to create and add something rather than just taking all the time.
Without my blog to fall back on, I have felt dry and empty. And like a vicious cycle, the worse I feel the less inclined I am to write which in turn makes me feel less and less useful.
On the other hand, my absence from social media has been refreshing.
I hate uploading every part of my day on Instastories. I hate retweeting pointless things on my Twitter feed. I hate the edited, filtered, lack of spontaneity that I see all over Instagram.
It just isn’t me.
It doesn’t align with my values. It doesn’t fit my brand. It doesn’t fill me with joy.
And yet as a member of the millennial generation I don’t know how to escape it. As a struggling creative who is desperate to share her work, I don’t know how to avoid it.
Authenticity is an internal struggle. A fight to remain the truest version of ourselves when all around us we are tempted to fix our flaws, patch up our problems and become someone better.
I have discovered that a lack of authenticity breeds discontentment.
It fosters ideas that something is missing from our lives and if we just had that one thing, we would finally feel fulfilled.
If only we could lose that last 5 kgs. If only we had a wider social circle. If only we had a supportive partner. If only we had more time to pursue our passions.
But it’s just a mirage. Chasing after an ideal that we can never obtain.
The pursuit of authenticity leads to increased creativity, deeper relationships and an abundance of new ideas.
When I am being myself I feel happier. Because I don’t waste energy pursuing things that drain me. Because I use my time to write, create, bake, and share, to do the things which make me feel alive.
When I am being myself I find more pleasure in the company of others. Without the fear of judgement or pressure to perform I find I have more patience to listen to other’s stories and more compassion for them.
When I am being myself I feel more inspired. Because I take the time to notice things I might otherwise miss. Because I feel confident, secure and comfortable in my own skin which enables me to stretch out, take risks and explore new ideas.
Authenticity requires courage. Looking in the mirror and accepting myself as I am. Going out and facing the world without make up to hide behind. Speaking up and sharing my opinions even though I could get shut down.
I’m a big fan of self improvement so I’m always looking for ways to extend and grow myself. I want to increase my productivity. I want to tap into my creative side more. I want to push myself to try new things.
But perhaps an even greater challenge is to grow into myself rather than trying to imitate someone else.
Maybe what I really need is to become more self aware and to live from a place of authenticity everyday.
For me I think that looks like withdrawing in social settings because I am an introvert and being around people for too long makes me feel exhausted.
Or making the time to write because of all of my hobbies it is the one thing that makes me feel most alive.
Or not posting all the time on Instagram because it feels like a chore to me. And when I do, not being fussed that it makes my feed look scattered and unplanned because that is what real life looks like.
Authenticity is a daily practice of accepting who I am and finding new ways to allow myself to shine.
Because I have spent a lot of time trying to change myself but I’ve never been happier than when I was just being me.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.