I wrote my last blog post thinking about happiness. But after I finished writing it, I couldn’t stop thinking about authenticity. Authenticity is being genuine or “what you see is what you get”. It is not being fake. And I kept wondering, “Am I really as authentic as I think I am?”
Let’s be honest – I think most of us will agree that we try to keep what we perceive to be the worst parts of ourselves hidden from others. Especially others that we are trying to impress. We put on a smile when we need to. We do one thing when we feel like doing another. We put our best foot forward, so to speak.
Many times this is exactly what we should be doing. We should be polite and mind our manners, even if we don’t feel like it. As parents we spend a lot of time teaching our children how to behave properly. I can’t count how many times I’ve said to one of my children, “Apologize to your sibling. I know you don’t really mean it, but apologize anyway.” It reminds me of the story of the little boy who announced, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside.” To some extent, common courtesy dictates how we should behave. And I don’t think that means that we aren’t being authentic.
But manners aside, what I want to find out is this:
Are you putting forward the You that is the best version of who you want to be?
Are you putting forward the You that you think others expect you to be?
I think there is a huge distinction between the two. I think you can be authentic under the first scenario, but may not be authentic under the second.
In my previous blog post, I used the example of treating a customer respectfully even though I didn’t want to. That’s an example of the first scenario. I want to be a professional who doesn’t over-react to people, but treats everyone with respect despite the words that I’d actually like to say to them. I don’t think there is anything unauthentic about that.
I think we get in trouble under the second scenario when we try to be what other people expect us to be instead of being true to ourselves. This leads to all sorts of trouble.
Do people expect you to be the perfect housekeeper?
Do people expect you to serve nothing but organic, healthy meals to your family?
Do people expect you to put your children into every extra-curricular activity available?
Do people expect you to participate in every PTA and/or church activity?
Do people expect you to be Super Mom?
I think many of us are under intense pressure to be everything to everyone. And I think it’s wearing us out because we can’t be everything that people expect us to be. We simply can’t. And if we try, we often end up burning out and missing out on what is most important to us (for me that is quality time with my family).
I am often called “Super Mom” and I’ll be honest, it makes me feel good when people say that. But I’m also quick to point out that they are only seeing what I do, they’re not seeing all the things I don’t do. I’m not the best housekeeper. Never have been. There are lots of activities that I’d love for my children to participate in that we simply don’t have time for. There are also many things that I taught my older children that I can’t seem to find the time to teach my younger children. And there’s never enough time to read aloud to my family as much as I want to.
My point is – please, please don’t ever judge yourself by comparing yourself to someone else. When you see someone who you respect, learn from them, but don’t put them up on a pedestal.
There is one thing I have learned to be exceptional about – and that is knowing who I am and who I want to be and not letting anybody make me feel guilty because I’m not doing what they think I should be doing. Does it hurt if somebody criticizes what I do? Yep. But unless they have a very valid point, I don’t change what I do just to try to please them.
And that’s what I’d like to encourage you about today. Do you know who you are? Do you like who you are? Are you proud to be yourself? That means embracing what you do well and accepting what you can’t do at this season of your life.
Please don’t misunderstand – there’s nothing wrong with self-improvement and working on your faults. I’m always encouraging people to be very intentional about improving everything they do. But that doesn’t mean you should try to change who you are. You’re special. And you’re unique.
Learn to be authentic. Learn to be the best version of you that you can be. And that means getting very clear on what is important to you and what isn’t. Learn to say ‘No’ to what isn’t at the top of the list. Learn how to create margin in your life. And embrace who you are – with all your strengths and weaknesses.
What about you? Are you being authentic? Or are you letting others dictate who you should be and what you should be doing?