The Authenticity Dilemma

“Authenticity is a practice, and you choose it every day                                                                    –sometimes every hour of every day.”

-Brené Brown

There are many things I aspire to be: patient, kind, wise, compassionate, brave. But, there is one aspiration that pervades all the others. To be authentic.

In her book, “The Gifts of Imperfection”, Brené Brown breaks down authenticity into three actions.

         -cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable          

         -exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle

         -nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe we are enough

Intellectually, I comprehend each of those pieces of the authentic life. One must be comfortable enough in their not-yet-glorified (perfected) self, to be honest about her own faults. One must set boundaries with herself and with others to not allow the voices that would whisper and confirm lies into her life. At the same time, one must risk rejection and put herself out before others regardless of their response. She must have compassion toward herself and others because she knows no one has it all together. She must be secure in her grace-given, God designed self knowing that He doesn’t make mistakes.

But how does one know, in a moment, if their response is out of vulnerability or self-protection? When someone speaks out of line, is it more vulnerable to set a clear boundary and let them know that they may not speak to you in such a manner and risk more backlash? Or, is it more in line with vulnerability to be silent and move on?

I had an encounter like this recently. And quite honestly, I still have no idea if I should have spoken up or been silent. Being silent seems inauthentic to me. And I desire to be authentic. But at the same time, it isn’t always appropriate to speak one’s mind. If I am only speaking my mind to protect the perceived damage to my “good” name, than I have made my name more important than the other person’s opinions or feelings…I have ceased to “exercise compassion that comes from knowing we are all made of strength and struggle.”

It’s an ongoing battle, particularly for those of us who are wired to be more sensitive. How to be one’s true self, not wear a mask to the world and another at home, without losing ourselves somewhere between the two.

I have no grand truth for you today. No conclusion. I only have an honest moment. A confession that I want to be authentic but I don’t always know how to be. Do you have any wisdom to share? Have you wrestled with this as well? I’d love to know what you think. (Brené Brown, if you happen to read this, I have two requests: share your thoughts and let’s be friends.)

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