Authenticity seems to be very important to us nowadays. With millions of Instagram posts using the hashtag, #liveauthentic can be found under photos of flannel-clad hipsters, fancy coffee mugs, and not-so-candid shots of laughing friends. Ask any hipster or millennial the meaning behind live authentic, and they probably won’t be able to tell you. Or they’ll give you a vague, wispy answer that leaves you even more confused.
Authenticity, in its most basic sense, means real. Yet most of us are well aware that most of what we put out on social media is not very real. Or at least it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Authenticity has come up a lot in the conversations about millennials. Millennials want transparency in the workplace. Millennials want honesty from their friends and family. They just want someone to be real with them. But do we? We often recoil when confronted with brutal honesty when it’s directed at us.
Authenticity has been reduced to drinking fair-trade coffee, eating organic, and taking photos in the Pacific Northwest. While authentic may mean real, we have become anything but. We live out these personas of what we want the world to see, while hiding what’s truly going on inside.
For example, I hate admitting any kind of weakness or fear I have. Call it manly pride or whatever you want, but I hate appearing weak. Mostly because that’s how I think others perceive me: a 5’8” skinny white guy who’s bad at sports.
When I’m overly fearful or facing temptation, I have a select few friends I know I can text about these things for prayer, even in the middle of the night. It’s a great comfort to know I have friends praying for me. After the fact, however, I often feel foolish for ever being afraid or weak for being so tempted in the first place. And it’s not like my friends’ opinions of me have changed. They know what I struggle with. They know what I go through. So why is it so difficult to admit when I need help?
There’s a difference between #liveauthentic and true authenticity. Vulnerability is necessary to be truly authentic. Most of us say we want to be authentic, but very few of us are willing to be vulnerable. Few of us are willing to put our deepest emotions, our darkest fears, and our greatest desires out there. No, we’d much prefer to continue posting pictures of our artisan coffee and outfit of the day.
Now I’m not advocating we spill our entire guts on the internet for everyone to see. That is more foolishness than vulnerability. Instead, I’m advocating we actually get real with those closest to us.
Look, I get it. It’s scary to bare your soul to another human being. That’s why you do it with someone you trust and not Facebook or some random stranger. If you feel like you can’t, then maybe you need new friends. Or, more likely, you need to get to a place with your current friends where you can be honest, and vice versa. Vulnerability goes both ways.
Authenticity isn’t easy. Vulnerability is difficult. But it’s worth it. Our facades will eventually wear out. We’ll eventually get tired of our false selves. Let’s get real with each other. Let’s create moments with those closest to us to be real, honest, and vulnerable. Live life truly authentically.