According to The Collins dictionary, authentic means something that is genuine. It has synonyms like real, original, true, and accurate. When we speak of a person who is authentic, we usually mean someone for whom ‘what you see is what you get’. We all want to be that kind of person and many struggle with being authentic. Societal opinions and expectations influence us from a very young age and we end up shaping our futures around them. While this can be a good thing, in some instances we end up erring on the side of inauthenticity. We may find that we fail to choose spouses, friends or careers based on our own desires and gifting but lean more on what we think is expected of us or is acceptable to others. Social media hasn’t made it easier. If the opinions and influence of your small town weren’t enough, now you have those of thousands of strangers. Should you choose to take the road less traveled, I need not expound on how hard it will be.
I’m one of those who erred on the side of inauthenticity. ‘Group think’ was a thing for me, so I struggled to form an original thought. To trust myself to make decisions. It was rooted in what I thought people expected of me, fear of drawing attention from doing what I wanted to do, fear of failure if I did it, fear of being questioned for doing what I wanted to do and not having the right answers. But what are the right answers anyway?
It was exhausting to worry about what people thought. It was draining to live life based on the world’s timeline, expectation or value system. It was tiresome to not be myself. When I surrendered my life to Christ and started to walk in relationship with God I learned that above all, it was sinful. It was saying that God who created me in His image and thought of me as good, didn’t know any better. Every moment spent being something other than what He created me to be was questioning His intelligence. The intelligence of the One who created and holds the universe.
For You formed my innermost parts;
You knit me [together] in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks and praise to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well – Psalm 139:13-14The Amplified Version Bible
Along my journey of learning to be authentic, God led me to spend time learning about Him who created me. I have spent time in the Bible, learning about the different people that lived in those times. How each of them were so different–so loved by Him, and by being exactly who He created them to be, they performed great exploits for Him and found joy and fulfillment in this life. An interesting thing I realized was that being yourself gives others permission to be themselves. To discover and pursue what they may want to pursue. I have found safety in the people I read about in Scripture as well as people that I have seen in my life who are true to themselves. It’s a source of motivation in a way and in being myself, I hope to provide the same safety for someone else.