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Radical Authenticity

This week, explore authenticity and the breadth of our emotional experiences.

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Lately it feels like there’s a rebellion afoot. More and more, I’m seeing writers challenge platitudes about living authentically and mindfully.

I like mindfulness and authenticity. I also like honesty and candor.

That’s why Dani Shapiro’s featured Discover post, On Authenticity, resonated with me. In it, she describes the nearly ubiquitous practice of scrolling through our social media feeds and the gnawing insecurity that often follows when viewing other people’s curated and seemingly perfect online personas.

There’s a phrase for this feeling, she says: identity fatigue. We’re spending so much time trying to appear authentic and happy that we’re exhausting ourselves in the process. In Shapiro’s words:

There is a thin but very real layer that separates the me that performs publicly from the me that wakes up in the morning with all my usual vulnerabilities, weaknesses, worries. I suppose I would liken it to one of the differences between writing fiction and memoir. When we write, we know when we’re inclining ourselves in the direction of imagination — and when we’re hewing to memory. The feeling is unmistakable.

Almost on cue, my friend and a colleague shared an article, America is obsessed with happiness — and it’s making us miserable, in which a British expat in the US explores her own culture shock around our seeming obsession with happiness, mindfulness, and self-empowerment. According to science, she says, it would appear this obsession with always being happy is actually making us more anxious and less joyous.

As a writer, and a human, I love exploring all elements of our emotional lives. After all, what is a good emotion and what is a bad one? Michael Singer, author of The Untethered Soul says, “If you are avoiding pain, then pain is running your life.”

As you open up a New Post page this week, meditate on Shapiro’s words. What does authenticity mean to you? How do you feel right now, in this moment? When you identify how you feel, do you judge it? Is there a “should” that arises, like “I should be happier” or “I should be reading that book”? If so, explore that. Dig into the areas of your self that you’re afraid to embrace or show. The best writing comes from a place of honesty and vulnerability because it shows us what we’re all thinking, but are afraid to say.

That kind of bravery is what builds friendships, communities, and ideas. Be authentic, radically so.

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  1. Yes! As it happens I am writing a post to put up tomorrow about my less than perfect first year with my horse on horseaddict. Having read your post I will strive to be honest (authentic). Thank you!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I believe that no one has everything, so when I look at my lot I am content. With contentment comes happiness, and peace I think.
    I am also reminded of my husbands father who would have commented, “They have too much bloody time on their hands if they have time to be wondering if happy is really happy”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes! We say words like authenticity and mindfulness so much and to the point where their power and meaning is diluted. Authenticity is not the same as honesty; being mindful is not the same thing as improving self or your engagement with your life!!! I am definitely going to look into identity fatigue more. It’s why I’m writing about books – something that always makes me happy – instead of trying to talk about my life because openness and sharing are also not the same thing as authenticity or honesty.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I think we live in a culture in which the way advertising infiltrates every aspect of life is having serious psychic ramifications. When you scroll through social media feeds obsessing over the lives of others, or spend inordinate amounts of time shaping your own social media profiles to create the best impression of yourself to other people (people you will most likely never meet IRL), what you’re really doing is buying into your life-as-advertising, and if we fail to conform to the standards of an aspiration-driven culture – if we don’t get that promotion, or we end up emotionally scarred from the horrible breakup – it creates a profoundly violent disconnect between the happiness we are more or less ordered to feel on a daily basis and the reality of our lives, which by and large are tinged with far more sadness and disappointment than many of us are capable of admitting.

    I’m not surprised it’s making people miserable; the gulf between how society tells us we should feel and how we actually feel grows larger every day, and no amount of meaningless 9-5 work, consumerism, or social media P.R work can bring us closer to achieving a real kind of transcendent happiness if we aren’t mature enough to accept that melancholy, depression and even anhedonia do far more to round us out as individuals than pretending to feel a movie-of-the-week style joy in the hope
    it’ll help us get further up the ladder.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Wonderful message. Take it from someone who is travel blogging and curating aesthetically pleasing parts of the world on my Instagram. Social media is time consuming and draining period. Why is it so important in today’s society? 😦

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I’m going to start writing and putting it out there. Blogging is like learning how to swim. I’m not someone with much character on the web but I’m hoping that what content I do share is authentic and sincere representation of me. I hope to write more compact pieces on hydrology and geology of the mid western states and of the environmental pollution impacts on indigenous communities. Please if you have any advice on how to write compact blogs please send them my way. Thank you!

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Identity Fatigue is an interesting concept, one worth a bit of research. Once upon a time, we received post cards from friends who were on vacation. The images on the cards reflected perfect places. The phrases written on the backs of the cards reflected perfect situations. “Having a wonderful time.” “Wish you were here.” “Best place to be.” “Perfect weather.” “Fishing is great.” It didn’t matter that we knew the couple went on the trip to salvage a failing a marriage or grieve the loss of a child. We accepted the postcards for what they were: Tokens of affection.

    It looks to me that identity fatigue stems from identity overload. Instead of receiving a post card or two a year from people we know, we’re bombarded with “Fishing is great” and “Best place to be” messages. We’ve lost the identity of the people sending us these messages, thus we’ve lost the connections that create true affection.

    Like Erica says, if we remain authentic to ourselves, we are happy. It doesn’t matter how many postcards we get. What matters is knowing who sent them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think you’re right – it’s very much a feeling of overload, as opposed to the ways in which we consumed this type of information in the past. Very well said!

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  8. I’m all for authenticity, being genuine–absolutely–and sometimes it doesn’t include “happy”, not even a little bit 🙂 And it can be exhausting to be authentic 24/7, but it’s equally tiring to habitually respond with “fine, great, super” when we may be anything but, inside. Whether we crave or shun “connection” with humans, there will be wear and tear/fatigue–it’s a guarantee, down there in the small print somewhere 🙂 Blessing to y’all ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This post is so thought provoking!
    our ongoing pursuit of ‘following the crowd’ in its latest trends, whether its “authenticity, mindfulness…” or whatever it happens to be! – just doesn’t cut it.
    We grew up believing Happiness was around the corner. So we constantly look for something newer to make us “Happy.”
    Maturity whispers that the state of Contentment is right now. and is the lasting, greater treasure to seek.
    great article – thanks for sharing with us 🙂 cheers, Debi

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I love this line: “The best writing comes from a place of honesty and vulnerability because it shows us what we’re all thinking, but are afraid to say.” Among other things in this post, I absolutely agree. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I completely agree with this! I have a friend who closed down her FB account because her anxiety level was going out of control, wading and drudging through all the “my life is perfect” and “help, my life is spiraling out of control” posts – the pendulum swings were just too much! Do I judge how I feel? Occasionally. Like now, I should be in bed, because I’m beyond exhausted! And tomorrow (nay! today!!) is going to be a tough day at the office, followed by a long night of studying… However, that’s not to say that I’m dehumanizing myself for feeling tired – I KNOW that I’m tired, and I KNOW that I’ll pay the price if I don’t get proper rest. Authenticity. Transparency. Honesty. Integrity. Real. All part of a dying breed…

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Very interesting post. I prefer to use social media just as I need it and I try to not let it control my life. I think that many of our younger users instead tend to live their life almost INSIDE Facebook (or whatever) and this is surely over the top. I read recently that an adolescent boy took his own life because his girlfriend had left him, but actually he had never met her it was a “virtual” relationship. That chilled me.

    Liked by 1 person

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