A is for Authenticity

Authenticity is tricky.

Just to be clear, I’m defining authenticity as

real or genuine : not copied or false

true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character

That can be tough to live up to. It’s easy to slip from authentic to unfiltered.

On one hand, I’d never want someone to think I was being fake or hypocritical or plastic.  But on the other hand, I don’t want to hang my dirty laundry out for everyone to see.

I recently heard it put this way –

You don’t need to flush the toilet in front of everyone.

I don’t know about you, but I kind of gross out when I realize that someone is in the bathroom while talking to me on the phone. It’s just weird. EXCEPT, if it’s my husband then it doesn’t bug me. It’s no big deal. There’s a different level of authenticity and transparency required for toilet flushing.

a is for authenticity

There’s such a thing as “too transparent.”

I’m called to be authentic. I believe it’s an important part of encouraging other moms and forming real connections. But there are limits. You know I go to the bathroom. Everyone does. But you don’t need to know the details.  I’m quite certain you don’t even WANT to.

Beyond that, if I were to do something as gross and tasteless as Instagramming my bathroom habits, I’m guessing it would hurt our relationship. You’d probably have a hard time taking me seriously the next time I wrote about Grace or tried to share an idea for how to solve a parenting challenge. All you’d be thinking about was my “mess.”

And you’d be right.

authenticity is different than unfiltered

Authenticity still needs filters.

Being authentic means I admit that I’m a hot mess. I stop pretending. I let myself be vulnerable and admit I’m flawed and imperfect, and that vulnerability brings us closer.

(In the whole unfortunate bathroom example, it might mean asking a friend to pause a conversation and allow me to call her right back.)

Being unfiltered means I impose my mess on others, sometimes in graphic detail.  I stop having boundaries. I over share. I let myself be vulnerable to having my mess used against me.  I even use my mess to drive others away.

(Young children are completely unfiltered with their bathroom habits. Ever notice? Thank goodness we have a different standard for itty-bittys.)

You dont need to flush the toilet in front of everyone. Authentic is not unfiltered.

I want to be authentic.

I want to be true to my own personality, spirit, and character. I want to be real… genuine… not fake.

But that doesn’t mean I want to flush the toilet in front of you (much less post it to Instagram!)

I’d love to know how you walk the line between authentic and unfiltered. Care to share?

Note: This post is part of an ongoing series expanding the vision first shared in the 31 day series on writing.

P is for Passion

E is for Encouragement

A is for Authenticity

C is for Character

E is for Excellence

the peace vision - this is why i write what i write on my blog

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Susan Baker
I have a passion for encouraging weary worn out mothers to find joy in everyday motherhood and peace in unlikely places. I have two elementary school boys, one nerdy husband, and two cats. I have a strange fascination for bad puns, the color pink, socks, and books. I worry about running out of toilet paper, wine, and chocolate.. I serve an amazing God. I live an ordinary life filled with wonder.
Susan Baker
Susan Baker

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  1. Social media is really such a weird thing. One person shares too much. Another person shares just enough that it leaves you wondering what she’s talking about – did she mean…? And then another one writes something that makes us say, “Is she talking about me?” Wow! Somewhere in all of those words authenticity can and often does get lost.

    I am with you – I want to be authentic enough to encourage other women as they walk through their normal, messy lives, but I want to be careful not to offend or even wound someone with my words. For me, it means a lot of proofreading and re-writing before hitting the publish or post button. And, most importantly praying before, as, and after I write.

    • Yes! In terms of FB, I find it useful to remember that my pastor and my mom are reading. I don’t ever want to post something that I’d be ashamed of them reading… or something that prompts a worried phone call from my mom.

      As for my blog, if I’m in the least bit of doubt I’ve learned to sleep on it, pray on it, and seek council. I used to seek council more often than I do now. I’ve figured out that if I’m still not at peace after sleeping on something and praying about it, then the answer is NO… DON’T publish it.

  2. Susan, this is SO true! In my early 20s, I totally confused the 2 and really came across as brash and unkind which was absolutely not what I wanted. I think I was trying to somehow combat what I perceived as “fake Christians” that I over-corrected. God, in His goodness, has totally grown me in this, although I’m not totally there yet. Thanks for your good words!

    I’m glad I ended up getting to read this from the 5 for 5 link thing today!

    <3 Becky http://www.beckyshappytable.com/chocolate-chip-buttermilk-scones/

    • Becky, I did some of that same thing in my 20’s. I was so disgusted by the “fake Christians” that I was guilty of oversharing in the extreme. It wasn’t pretty. My lack of boundaries left me vulnerable and drove others away.

      I’m sure I’m still guilty of the occasional overshare, but God has taught me so much and helped me grow. It’s a heart issue. Being transparent to prove that I’m NOT FAKE is different than being transparent to share how God has worked in my life… or to help give someone else the courage to know they aren’t alone.

      Can’t wait to try that scone recipe – I’m in a baking mood. 🙂

  3. Susan…what a fantastic post! I think everyone who uses social media should be required to read it. So much truth here. I think so many people confuse authenticity with oversharing. You have delineated the line between the two beautifully. Here’s to be authentic women who know where to draw the line.

    • It’s only taken me 20 years of adulthood to figure out where to draw the line. 🙂 I wish someone had sat me down and explained this to me years ago. Here’s hoping the idea of authentic women who know where to draw the line spreads.

  4. Bless you for writing this post! We live in a world of oversharing, it seems. I have a sixteen year old daughter, and it’s so hard to teach her how to limit what she posts on social media, because all of her friends are “flushing the toilet in front of everyone.”

    • If I thought it would help, I’d make a lock screen graphic that reads “you don’t have to flush the toilet in front of everyone” to help our teens remember to walk the line between authentic and oversharing. Honestly, I don’t think it would help. My own kids are tweens, not quite yet in that phase. I’m not looking forward to it.

  5. To be honest, authenticity is something I’m still learning to do. I grew up not being allowed to be my authentic self, so I learned to put on a mask. One thing I have learned is that sometimes we need to be allowed to be unfiltered with others. Not all the time, mind you, but sometimes and I think we need to feel safe to do that occasionally. To be honest, bathroom stuff doesn’t gross me out and I don’t mind at all if my best girlfriend takes “me” in the bathroom with her while we’re talking on the phone and vice versa, she doesn’t care if I do the same. The way she and I both look at it is that it’s something we all need to do and sometimes that need happens at an inconvenient time, but that’s life and it happens to everyone at one time or another. I know that’s not for everyone, so I wouldn’t do it with just anyone on the phone, but I know that if I need to be unfiltered with her, I can be and it’s not a big deal. It’s the same thing with my husband. You don’t do that all the time, but every now and then we all need to have a moment where we can be unfiltered and it be okay. The other part of that is recognising who those people are that we can occasionally be unfiltered with and who we need to refrain from being so completely and totally “real” with. Obviously, the level of intimacy in the relationship plays a big part in understanding who those people are. I think boundaries are appropriate and that there are different boundaries with different people and that’s really, for me, at the heart of the difference between being authentic and being unfiltered. Being authentic respects those boundaries and being unfiltered tramples all over them. Does that make sense?

    • Absolutely makes sense.

      Learning to be authentic (the filtered kind) happens over time. Without a strong role model growing up, I think it’s something we learn by trial and error.

      Yes, there are levels of transparency. We all need a few people with whom we can be totally unfiltered. Those people EARN that, and it’s generally reciprocal. There’s a trust factor that has to be built over time.

      Being real and true to ourselves takes courage. It means we give people a chance to get to know us and then reject us or judge us or at least hold us accountable for what we reveal. It takes strength.

      That being said, there are times when we really do need to guard our heart… to choose not to be vulnerable. Either because it’s situationally inappropriate (like a bank) or because its relationally inappropriate (the other person is toxic).

      The key to all of this is knowing when we’re in each situation. That takes discernment, wisdom, and practice.

      Make sense?

  6. I LOVE this! I long to be authentic as well, but agree that we must be careful not to cross the line. Boundaries are important. And your toilet flushing analogy was spot-on!!!

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