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