The “authentic” trend is big right now. It think it’s great because it has people making conscious, purposeful actions that are positive towards themselves and the world. I have a couple friends who just started a fair-trade group because they have committed to ethical purchasing within the fashion industry because of the slave labor often involved. (You can create a free account to search the Higgs Index which is a great tool to measure the environmental and social impacts of apparel companies.)
One of my cousins refuses to use styrofoam because of it’s impact on the environment. I mean, the research states two options: 1- possible decomposition after one million years- OR, even worse- 2- It doesn’t decompose under natural environment settings. Yikes!
I see these friends and family declining ignorance and convenience in attempt to live authentically, and it makes me think. I mean, what does it actually look like for me to live authentically?
As I write this I actually think- “Am I authentic enough to write about authenticity?” HA! Probably not! (I used a styrofoam cup the other day after I bought a super cheap shirt from a company with a very poor ethical rating! I had to replace the white shirt I started out wearing while shopping at the mall when it became smeared, in the boob area, with blueberries, by a certain small human being I was carrying) EVEN SO it’s been on my mind so that’s what I’m sharing. And I am beginning to take the steps towards true authenticity by sharing my thoughts with you, so thanks for reading. 🙂
Part of me thinks that how I am living is already showing what I truly believe. I wouldn’t have eaten that pumpkin chocolate chip bread this morning if I believed simple carbs and gluten are toxic to my health. I ate it and enjoyed every bite. I also enjoyed the mini Twix, mini peanut butter cup, and mini chocolate bar I had for lunch.<—health freak, right? HA!
I wouldn’t drive a SUV if I thought my personal transportation method truly made a dent in pollution levels. I love having a CRV. It’s a Honda, so it’s not THAT bad, right?
I wouldn’t go outside without sunscreen if I thought I would actually get skin cancer from exposure to the sun. I stayed at the pool even though I forgot my sunscreeen and HAD to get a little sun-kissed. OH well. I’m sure my bronzed face will be fine.
But then, I KNOW that I need to eat healthier, that the average American over-consume a great deal of natural resources, and that people actually do get skin cancer from over-exposure to the sun.
Is anyone else a little wary of “authenticity” like me? Or maybe unsure? Is what I choose to eat for breakfast or whether or not I stay at the pool really have anything to do with living authentically?
When I examine myself, I find this dichotomy of a positive and negative authenticity. I have both in my life. So what does it mean to be authentic? Which part of myself do I present as “authentic” to the world? If I choose the positive parts to be authentic in and hide the negative parts does that mean I am a fraud? And is it just a show, something to be “presented,” or is actually deeper than that? It has to be, right?
As I explore the concept of authenticity I feel like I have been drugged, trying to fight the anesthesia, my eyelids heavy and my arms thick, feet numb. It seems like the drugs are a combo of ignorance and denial. They lull me to sleep. They make my life comfortable and impotent.
If I am ignorant, then I don’t have any reason to wake up and change how I live, the daily decisions I make about what I eat, how I spend my money, how I treat myself, those I know and love, and even strangers. I have no need to look beyond my own comfort and my own culture and my own family.
Occasionally I will hear of something that bothers me, something that doesn’t seem pretty or convenient, or it’s just far away and doesn’t directly affect the all important ME. I don’t want to think about it too much- or even at all. Denying its existence by turning the other way helps pave the way for my comfortable lifestyle. Convenience or inexpensiveness (in case you were wondering, Google docs confirms this is an actual word) or distance gives me a reason to ignore. Hey! It’s cheap so why not buy it? Hey, it tastes good so who cares if it isn’t nutritious? Hey! It’s in a different country! I’m separated from this inconvenient truth by so many degrees it doesn’t really matter what I do!
I’m not saying convenience or good deals are bad and I’m not saying we have to research every hint of injustice everywhere, but I am asking this question:
What would happen if we let the anesthesia wear off?
This is when we begin to feel. And it can hurt. It can be uncomfortable, and messy, and real. Authentic.
This doesn’t just happen- it has to be on purpose. When we start to really examine what we are doing and why we are doing it, we begin to notice different levels of assumptions are directing a great portion of our lives. It breaks us out of our boxes and we realize that life, religion and relationships are not black and white. You realize you may be wrong about a few things. Quite a few things. Like Miracle Whip in guacamole, for example.
Yes. That’s right. I grew up thinking guacamole was made with Miracle Whip. Only after high school I learned what authentic guacamole included: avocados, salt, lime, and garlic. Maybe even a little onion, tomato, and cilantro if you’re feeling adventurous.
Never. EVER. Miracle Whip.
Seriously though, I was making guac and thinking about authenticity of foods and I had this epiphany. Food can be differently authentic based on its origin or maker. I mean, honestly, if I was authentically making the guacamole of my childhood I would include Miracle Whip. The authentic Mexican guacamole would not. So, maybe the same is with me. How I can be authentic to myself is based on who I identify with, where I identify from, or how I derive my identity.
Going back to that concept of a dichotomy, I believe that our true, authentic identities aren’t the negative, ignorant, comfortable ones, but ultimately the positive ones. In the different levels of authenticity that we can reach, the truest authenticity is our identity found in how God sees us.. Not the ugly truth about ourselves but the beautiful truth.
People who fully live their lives, able to fully love, because they know they are fully loved.
We have a purpose and and being authentic is a step towards that purpose. Actually, I am beginning to believe that true authenticity is simply living the way God intended for humanity to live on this earth. He is the ultimate champion of social and environmental justice. He created this world and charged humanity to care and tend for it. He created every single person, and in the Bible took care to point out the spiritual and physical importance of caring for the weak, young, old, foreign-born, voiceless, homeless and parentless.
So when we see who God is, we see who we are. God shows us who and where His image needs to be reflected to here on this earth. Who needs to see Him. We begin to actively reflect that image to those people and to that need and affect change. We bring His kingdom here on earth as it is in Heaven. Jesus asked for it. We get to be a part of it.
So will you allow yourself to wake up?
And when you wake up, what will you see?
What inconvenient authenticity will you embrace?
What image will you reflect onto this broken world?
It’s ok if you aren’t there yet. We are all in different stages. I’m only just waking up. It’s why I just started to write. For many years I had been afraid to share the thoughts going on in my head, the stories of my life, the authentic me, because I thought I had to have things figured out first. I thought I had to be super disciplined, have official education, experience, and expertise and then I could share my authentic self, because I worked for it and proved myself, my authenticity.
Yet here I am, no books written, career on hold, full of issues and insecurities. But I believe that I am noticing an area that needs to see what God looks like – noticing hearts that feel unsure of their value, people unsure of their worth. People who feel like they don’t have it all together or maybe don’t have anything to hold together. People who need to know the beautiful truth about themselves instead of the ugly truth they have believed their whole lives. People who God loves dearly and values immensely, but who might not know it. People like myself. And maybe you too.