Authenticity and vulnerability are favorite topics right now. It seems everyone is talking with enthusiasm and hopefulness about the joy and freedom that come when we choose the path of truthful living.
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” ~ Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
Letting our true selves be seen sounds liberating and exhilarating.
What if it’s possible to be exactly who we are and to find that we are enough? Loved. Accepted. Embraced. We know instinctively that this is how we are meant to live.
But for some of us, being our truest selves sounds rather terrifying. We’ve learned from past experiences that when we drop our masks, things can turn out badly. Someone we cared about pulled away or left us. We were told we were “too much to handle” or “not enough to matter.” We began to doubt ourselves – our decisions and life choices – and suddenly we found ourselves wishing we had kept quiet. The truth felt like a sucker punch to the belly and our carefully crafted house of cards scattered in a hundred different directions.
The truth about truthful living is that sometimes it hits us harder than we were expecting. It can knock the wind right out of us.
Truth can bring freedom, yes. But sometimes letting go of what we want to believe and accepting what is true can be excruciating. Being freed can feel less like flying and more like a free fall. So how do we land on our feet and begin again? How to muster up the kind of strength and courage we need to remove our protective masks and step off the edge into living life truthfully? Here are four strategies that will help.
Understand that you are going against the grain.
Yes, social media, best-selling books, and TED Talk speakers seem to be brimming with encouragement to embrace who we really are and to live our truth. But these encouraging messages get dropped like pebbles into a cultural sea roaring at us that reality isn’t enough. That the truth can always use improving.
Our bodies are too big or too small or too lumpy. Aging is seen as a disease to be cured or a curse to be avoided. Our moods and energy and sex lives can all be enhanced with the right medications. Accepting and making peace with reality is often framed as giving up or settling.
So we should remember that we are swimming in this cultural soup where positive messages to live authentically are easy to post, but a lot harder to practice.
Expect some resistance.
Especially from people who know you well and are accustomed to predicting what you will think and how you will behave.
Talk with someone you trust – your spouse, a faithful friend, or a therapist – about what changes you might like to make. Someone who can help you find your voice.
And if you’ve been smiling politely and trying to please everyone around you for most of your life, know that authenticity will likely feel awkward at first. It will take some time and effort to unveil the true you.
Believe that God knew what He was doing when He made you YOU.
You were created with a unique design and a plan for your life. (Eph. 2:10) So if you hold back, disappear, or pretend to be someone else, who will get to have the life God wants for you? How will you participate in all of the assignments, adventures, experiences, and relationships He has in store for you? If you go on hiding from Him, yourself and others, you’re going to miss all the best parts.
Trust and hold tightly to the one who promises that even the hardest truth will set you free.
When God puts opportunities in your path to practice vulnerability and truthfulness, be ready to jump. And know that you’re not stepping off the edge of a cliff, free falling toward a painful landing with no one there to catch you. Because God is with you. Encouraging you to let your old ways of hiding and pretending die off, so a new way of life can spring up in its place. A life that promises to be both exhilarating and a little bit terrifying. The true, authentic life you are meant to live.
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)