Struggling to be Authentic in a Social (Media) World

I really want to be me. Which shouldn’t be complicated in the least, except it is. Or rather, the true expression of being myself is a little tricky these days, and I think it’s social media’s fault.

Authenticity, living out and revealing who we really are, requires a combo of vulnerability and a certain degree of restraint. Even thinking that feels at first a little inauthentic. If I’m being authentic, I don’t have to think about it, I’m just me, right? I have A.) the person I am right now, and B.) the possibility of the person I’m becoming as I grow and learn. I want to be introspective enough to get from A to B without being solipsistic. And I have to be just the right amount of transparent, revealing the appropriate amount of myself in the right forum to the right people— soul baring with my husband, transparent with friends, real publicly, but not sharing TMI with people who don’t need or want to know too much.

I’ve grown really comfortable in my skin. It gets easier with age, but it’s also my natural bent. Someone in high school once told me, “You are too transparent.” It shocked me. I thought everyone was like this. I was embarrassed and held back for a bit, but that didn’t stick.

Then society began changing. People gradually shifted to wanting more openness, not less.  Now, a generation later, our society no longer holds the voice of authority as the standard, but has shifted to valuing authenticity.

Author and speaker Brene Brown has created an authenticity movement on her blog Ordinary Courage. She said, “In the song Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen writes, "Love is not a victory march, it’s a cold and broken hallelujah." 

“Love is a form of vulnerability and if you replace the word love with vulnerability in that line, it's just as true. If we always expect to feel victorious after being vulnerable, we will be disappointed.” As Brene says, it takes courage to be vulnerable.

So we call on our courage to be real, show our authentic selves, and reveal our soft spots, holding back TMI while embracing the cultural acceptance and desire for authenticity, even in moments when we’re scared to death of doing so.

Offer content. Be useful. Consider your tribe. Find your voice. Withhold oversharing. Be transparent. Being "me" has never been so hard.

But in the end, who else can we be? Neither social media nor cultural changes nor non-victorious vulnerability can change the real me. Broken hallelujah and all.