Authenticity is very close to my heart and I know that as bloggers, we are constantly told to “be authentic”.
But what does it mean to live an authentic life? What does it mean to value authenticity?
Well, I can’t speak for you, but to me it means:
- giving myself permission to be who I am and living as I want to live, without guilt;
- stopping all the self-judgement I do, as I compare myself and my life to that of others’;
- showing others how and who I really am, without embarrassment and judgement.
Being authentic means revelling in those things that make me me, rather than trying to live up to some standard I have in my head of what a perfect person should be.
This relates to me as a parent, me as a blogger, me as a business owner, me as a friend and more.
It means that instead of feeling like this, I start to embrace my realness and start showing it to others.
For example – I am not a morning person. My weekends are for sleeping in, watching TV and maybe some local exploring. Occasionally we do major outings or road trips and for those I’m happy to rise early and be out and about. But those are the exception rather than the rule.
However, instead of accepting that this is who I am, I’ve been feeling inadequate as a parent, because our weekends aren’t filled with activity, people and travel. We don’t go to every single local event and do not drive all around our area to take advantage of nearby activities. Feeding the swans at the lake, having a late lunch and a play at the playground in the afternoon makes for a pretty full Sunday in our neck of the woods.
The kids are not missing out. They are learning to make their own entertainment and get along with each other without the benefit of parent-directed activity. Yes, they probably watch too much TV and spend too much time on their iDevices, but you know what? I don’t think it’s going to kill them.
So, now when I check Facebook and see how much other people have already achieved before I even got out of bed, I either ignore it, or let them know that I’m still in bed and enjoying a lie in. I don’t subscribe to their values and their expectations of what an ideal weekend looks like. Also, quite often I find that what looks like a brag about how much they’ve achieved, hides the truth of a difficult night with a sick child, fighting kids who need to get out of the house for a bit of distraction, or lack of quality family time throughout the week. Sometimes, what look like achievements and bragging actually hide a real desperation.
I guess this post is as much about authenticity, as it is about my attitude towards and use of Facebook. I find that through most days, it’s the only social contact I have with adults. Sometimes it’s a means if procrastinating or distraction, but really, I crave human connection, as I sit here in front of the computer, writing and coding.
And even in that I need to be authentic. I tend not to discriminate between online and off-line friendships. Sometimes the two intersect, but there are plenty of people I know only because of our online interactions and I treat them as I treat those I know in person. The other side of this coin is that I expect to be treated similarly and get annoyed with Fakebookers. I recently had a social purge and unfriended a lot of people who never interacted with me online, or who were just too annoyingly positive and braggy. I want to get to know people’s real lives, not just see their highlight reels. I understand that not everyone wants to use Facebook that way, but if I don’t have another way of getting to know that person, why bother with a Fakebook friendship? If I want a business relationship, I use LinkedIn. Facebook is for friends and family.
Facebook has also been contributing to how I feel about my parenting. Seeing what “other people” were doing with their kids and seeing a flood of articles about “how to be a better parent” and “100 activities to do on a rainy day” just pushed my parenting self-esteem lower and lower.
I realise now that I have a vision in my head of what a “perfect” parent looks like and I just wasn’t measuring up. But the real test of parenting is how your kids turn out. And mine are doing remarkably well. I recently spent nearly an hour with my psychologist itemising the ways in which my kids were a credit to my good parenting. I didn’t know I needed to hear it, but walked out of his office feeling buoyed and relieved. I don’t think I realised just how much judging and comparison I had been doing.
So I’ve stopped beating myself up about my inadequate parenting and accepted that I’m actually doing a good job. Anyone who meets my kids tells me that they are well behaved, they don’t run amok, don’t destroy people’s houses or offices, they don’t swear and they listen to me. They do chores, feed the cats, can vacuum and set the table, and the only expectation I now set myself is that, as adults, they leave home fully prepared to look after themselves, be kind to others and be brave enough to go after their dreams.
I’m very lucky to be working as a life-coach’s guinea pig at the moment, as she completes her training. As the coach and I talked about what it meant to be an authentic parent and I realised that it was about giving myself permission to do it my way. Call it lazy parenting, or minimalist parenting – I don’t care – it’s mine and it works. I don’t spend hours in the kitchen, I don’t spend my days doing housework, but then, that’s not parenting. Having a raw vegan meal on the (spotless and sparkling) table every night, which the kids devour with pleasure, is not high on my priority list. Having kids who can happily go away on an overnight camp and not cause trouble, is.
The next puzzle I have to solve is how to be authentic in my business. How do I let my personality shine through? How do I use my story to connect with people?
My approach to work and business tends to be very clinical and devoid of personality. I become the job, not the other way around. Recently, I decided to remove my personal blog from my business site because I felt too exposed sharing all my highs and lows with potential clients. I’m not ashamed of my life or my story, but potential clients visiting my website probably don’t want to read about my struggles with depression, as that’s not relevant to the services I provide. They are welcome to follow me here and find out more about me, but it’s probably not the first thing they need to see.
Now, don’t laugh, but my next lot of homework from my life coach is to develop a Manifesto. I know, most of us think they’re a bit wanky, but as we talked about it, I realised that it would be a good way to articulate what I stand for. Who am I really? What is important to me? How do I want to live?
I may, or may not, share it with you. Well, I probably will, because that’s what blogs are for. And I will finally have a template of who I am. And I will know that being who I am, really, is enough.