Tag Archives: authenticity

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Which Mountain Are You Climbing?

Choosing Authenticity over Popularity

“How is your daughter making it away from home?” the mother of one of my daughter’s high school friends asked me the other day.

“Well, she’s been staying with us,” I confessed, sheepishly at first, until I remembered that this was a decision my daughter and I had agreed on, along with my husband, after discovering the anxiety she was experiencing from staying in the dorms.

My daughter hadn’t been ready to leave home. The two years before graduation had been full of twists and turns, starting with my return to full-time employment and ending with her brother leaving home for a school nearly five hours away.

Between these life-changing bookends, Covid, deaths, suicide, and job loss had ravaged our family’s sense of stability. We’ve truly struggled the last couple of years, as have many families like ours.

Already an anxious child, what’s occurred made my daughter uncomfortable leaving home. And though we spent a small fortune on a dorm and decorations, we’re okay with her returning to her bedroom. (Our college is a mere five minutes down the road.)

Our daughter built up a lot of expectations for freshman year of college, and they all failed.

She’d scrolled through her college friends’ social media posts and had believed that she was supposed to want the very same things they did.

This was a theme that had played out over most of her life, and mine, too: wanting something because you think it’s what you’re supposed to want.

The truth is, nothing about college life has appealed to her so far. She thought she had to live the “college experience,” but for a girl who would rather be curled up on the couch watching a Hallmark movie with her family than she would be out dancing with a bunch of kids her age, the “college experience” left her nervous, anxious and confused about her wants.

Popularity Quotes: "Avoid popularity if you would have peace."

“Am I just not normal?” she’s asked me before, with tears in her eyes.

It’s a struggle to feel different in this world.

“You are totally normal,” I told her, “because there is no such thing.”

The mom from the beginning of my story, the one who was discussing our girls’ time at college, moved here because in her previous other town, she’d looked around and found that, in her words, “My children were going to be the have-nots.”

A town where most children go to the prestigious private prep school and live in multi-million dollar houses, this mother believed that their family would not achieve the status needed for her daughter to fit-in.

I knew this wasn’t true. Her daughter was beautiful inside and out, well-liked, very kind and funny, and a tremendous athlete.

Once they moved here, the family immediately became “well-known” in town, and the daughter was the epitome of queen-bee at our local high school–with the exception of the stereotypical meanness.

What I came to understand was that, in the other town, the one where you needed more to be more, it wasn’t that her daughter wouldn’t be liked, it was that she wouldn’t be liked to the standard her mother wanted.

Simply put, some mothers want their children to be worshiped.

Worship: to treat (someone or something) with the reverence and adoration appropriate to a deity.

Webster’s Dictionary

You might think worship is a strong word, and maybe it is.

But I’ve thought a lot about this through the years, seeing as how I was a teenager myself, have had four kids, teach high school and have witnessed everything you can imagine when it comes to teenagers, parents and school.

Why do we push the sort of activities on our children that we do? The select sports, the competitive cheer, etc.

Why do we make sure they have the right backpack, shoes, clothing, and even water bottle?

Why are we teaching our children to climb the popularity mountain when we should be teaching them to climb the authenticity mountain, or the integrity mountain, the kindness mountain, or whatever mountain they choose?

What about you?

What mountain are you climbing?

My parents always teetered just outside the edge of normal. They weren’t raised to go, be and do, and as a result, they didn’t raise my brother and me that way, either.

When I was young, it was obvious we were different, and I spent my entire time in public school just trying to fit in.

I tried different social groups, and I sought to blend in. I finally found that being as fake as possible–hiding all my wants and wishes, scars and stories–would help me fit in.

I went to college and completely broke loose, but being judged left me feeling even worse than before.

When I met my husband, I found that his lifestyle gave me a sense of superiority, as if I’d finally found someone who could not only fix me, but make me look good, too.

Forget the nagging sense I had inside me that nothing about his desires lined up with mine.

He was a golf course guy; I liked the country. He was a firm Southern Baptist; I’d always told myself I’d return to my Catholic roots. His bent was towards popularity; I’d tried that, found it lacking, and just wanted to stick my kids in a bubble on a farm somewhere and raise some chickens and cows.

You can imagine what won out, but I have to say, my husband hasn’t been nearly as hard up for the popularity as I thought he would be.

He’s very supportive of our children just being who they are, and I love him for that.

If I’m being honest, it’s me who’s had the harder time letting them be who they are.

I’ve lived my whole life judging myself on the short twelve-sixteen years I was liked or not liked by others.

And as parents, we want to rescue our children from other people’s opinions, don’t we?

But we can’t. That’s a sad fact.

I forced my olders to be people they weren’t. I pushed them into all the bes, and dos and goes.

I moved inside their friends’ parents’ circles. I was going to be and do and go, too. Fake worked when I was young, and fake would work again.

But it didn’t work, not anymore. Because I knew who I was, and I finally knew what I wanted.

Exhausted at being someone I wasn’t, I climbed down that mountain, and I took my children with me.

And I’ve tried really hard not to push my littles up the Go, Be, Do Mountain.

Instead, we’re walking the mountain of Audacious Authenticity.

It’s not an easy mountain. There are lonely trails and rocky paths.

There are high peaks and deep valleys.

But I believe when they reach the top, they’ll feel the greatest sense of peace.

Because authenticity leads to the peace that only comes from knowing exactly who you are.

In what ways are you trying to be more authentic? How are you teaching your kids to navigate the road of popularity? I’d love to hear from you.

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What Happens in Your Relationships When You Begin to Tell the Truth

How many among us have what one of Oprah Winfrey’s most prolific guests, Gary Zukav, coined The Disease to Please?

Many of us are born with a personality built to cater to others. We’re nurturers, listeners, and maybe also a tad on the indecisive side, and so naturally, we tend to go with the flow.

Others of us were raised around people who demanded our obedience. We walked on eggshells and constantly tried to do whatever it took to make them happy.

Maybe you’re a little of both. A little timid, you also were born to a mother or father, or both, who needed you to be their “yes man.”

As you grew older, you transferred that need to please to other situations. You never went against the grain in school. You did whatever your boss told you to do without questioning. You allowed your spouse to walk all over you.

What happens when we’re eaten up with a need to please is that we begin to lie to ourselves.

Have you ever found yourself in a scenario like these?

  • Your husband wants the house on the corner, but you know the house down the hill would be more suitable for the children, and, let’s face it, you’re around them more, anyway. But you give in to your husband’s wants because you don’t care to argue.
  • Your boss needs you to work a weekend. You’d planned a huge day at the zoo for your children, and, technically, it’s nowhere in your contract to give up a needed rest on a weekend. But you give in to your boss’s wants because you’re too afraid to say no.
  • A friend asks you to go on a girls trip that will cost a good twenty-five hundo. You don’t have anywhere near that amount to blow, but your best friend has always gotten her way where you’re concerned. (In fact, everyone has always gotten their way where you’re concerned. You seem to attract these people.) So you give in and now you can’t pay the light bill. And honestly? You didn’t even have a good time!

Over time, this “Disease to Please” begins to eat at our soul.

We find ourselves questioning every answer, judgment and decision we make.

We no longer trust our own heart.

I was raised in a home with a very controlling father.

His story is his to tell, and honestly, I’m not really sure what made him the way he was.

But I remember my mother cowering in corners after standing up for herself, and I recall vividly many instances where she, my brother and I were forced to make decisions we did not want to make, since my dad was “the man of the house.”

Eventually, his controlling nature and lack of genuine love destroyed our family (for the record, my mother was no saint).

And unbeknownst to me, I carried this eggshell-walking into every other relationship I had.

If you had told me that’s what I was doing, I wouldn’t have believed you. I thought myself to be an authentic, independent girl.

But really, I became whoever I needed to be to please whoever I was around.

Does that sound familiar? What about this?

  • Do you act one way around one group of people and another way around the next?
  • Do you change your beliefs and opinions to match those around you?
  • Do you refuse to speak out against injustice or wrongdoing because you’re afraid to rock the boat?
  • Do you choose to dress differently than you’d like or live contrary to what you want because you’re terrified of what others will think?

I lived that way for so many years. I was so afraid to be who I really was because who I really was felt like “too much” for some people to handle.

So I sank further down into the depths of depression. I ate to distract. I drank to numb.

And I was miserable.

Then, 2020-2021 hit. These years have been like a giant bomb dropping on my life.

So much has remained the same about my life. My job didn’t change, I didn’t get a divorce, or run away from my children or responsibilities.

And yet, I am a completely different person. I stopped letting people I didn’t even care about walk all over me. I started telling my husband the truth about what I wanted and needed.

I began to love my kids for exactly who they are and allowed them to grow where they are.

I no longer told my boss yes when I wanted to say no.

I now speak up about political and social issues that I used to flip flop on because I was scared of disappointing my father. (And my Father. But that’s story for another day.)

I’m not completely out of my “Disease to Please” mode. I still feel that urge to dance around my desires and to walk on eggshells to please some people.

But every day, I’m growing. I’m learning to tell the truth about who I am and what I want.

I consider myself lucky. My truth isn’t something that will shake the foundations of life around me.

For some of us, the truth about who we are is something we battle every single day.

Telling your family you’re attracted to the same sex.

Deciding you no longer believe in the God of your youth.

Choosing to move halfway across the world so that you can heal far away from those who hurt you.

Learning that you aren’t the person your spouse married and it might be time to move on.

These are tough, heart-crucifying situations.

But being who God created you to be is what you were put on this Earth to do.

And I believe that the more truth-tellers we grow, the more beautiful this world will be.

Because nothing is more satisfying than a heart at peace with itself.

Do you struggle with a “Disease to Please”? How are you working through it? I’d love to hear from you.

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How Authenticity Helps with Contentment

Getting lost in the sea of expertise is easy nowadays, with so many online influencers claiming to have all the answers to life’s problems. 

One would think a simple Google search would make finding a solution to being discontent or unsatisfied with the way things are going pretty easy.

Oddly enough, however, at the beginning of my sobriety journey, when I searched for “living a good enough life” or “finding contentment in the present,” not a single website, blog or social media post provided what I was looking for. 

Because sure enough, as I would scroll through posts that seemed to want to convince me that the life I was living was good enough, ultimately, each influencer was pushing me to perfection.

Behind each carefully crafted post, picture or hashtag on social media hides the message, “You’re not good enough. Do better. Be better. Be more like me. Be perfect.”

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Each post said:

Perfect airbrushed skin and photoshopped body.

Perfect crisp white kitchen that doesn’t show a single kid-stain. 

Perfect well-manicured lawn that holds a perfect farmhouse. 

Perfect children who wear only the nicest clothing and never talk back. 

Perfect marriage and perfect life. 

Perfect. 

Perfect. 

Perfect

Which only served to make every single part of my life seem more imperfect

My kitchen is old, and I have no plans to fix it up any time soon. Same goes for the rest of my 1970’s home. 

My body has birthed four beautiful children, and while I wish I could say I bounced back to pre-pregnancy bliss, at almost 41, my body looks nothing like it did at twenty. 

I hate working out. 

No, even more. I despise it. If I died and went to hell, hell would be me at a gym, in a class, listening to a workout queen shout orders at me. 

I like good food. Hey, I’m part Italian and lived in New Orleans, Louisiana, during childhood. I was raised on spaghetti, crawfish and king cakes. 

And I will never be the woman who dresses up to check her mail. Give me a t-shirt and a good pair of jogging pants any day of the week. 

Truth is, these could be considered flaws to anyone else. But they’re a part of who I am. They make me me

Still, over the last couple of years, I’ve worked on improving a little bit in each area. 

We are slowly renovating our house and trying to do it on a budget using DIY methods. 

A short twelve minute workout routine every morning and an afternoon walk with the dogs is helping me reach my exercise goals (and I actually feel better doing it). 

Eating more clean foods is better for us as we age. 

And I’m learning that dressing up gives me a sense of self-worth. I feel sexier and more attractive when I take the time to put a little effort into my look. 

But I’m not going to change who I am. No amount of influencing will make me follow the “perfection” crowd, no matter how loud they scream. 

The number one thing I’ve learned about being content in the present is this:

Most people with a serious online presence are trying to make money.

It’s true. If you’re online and creating anything, chances are, you’re not just doing it for fun. 

And that’s okay. Because we live in a huge world, there’s plenty of abundance out there for each of us, and we should all use the God-given talents we have to bring good into the world. 

But this trend of trending online is turning us all into identical, mindless robots. 

Don’t believe me? Scroll through Instagram. 

What you’ll find is that, depending on the generation, the influencers are all starting to look the same: same hair, same makeup, same home, same content. 

Now, either I’m totally wrong, or that’s a whole lot of inauthenticity right there. 

So, do you want to stand out? Then be authentic. 

Sounds easy, right? Then, why don’t we choose to be authentic more often?

Because social media isn’t built to show reality. It’s created to show the highlight reel. 

Now I’m not saying you should go around taking pictures of your dirty dishes or the crusty spaghetti covering your two-year-old’s face. 

But your kitchen doesn’t have to look like Chip and Jojo’s.

I don’t think Chip and Jojo even want your kitchen to look like theirs. 

Your body doesn’t have to look like a Kardashian (let’s be honest- their body probably doesn’t look like a Kardashian). 

And if you’re my age, you don’t have to fall into the trap of trying desperately to look like you’re still in your twenties or thirties. (Shhh! It’s okay to move your eyebrows and have a few crinkles.)

I don’t say any of that lightly, ladies. I realize what we’re up against. 

We are living in a world that glorifies youth, a certain type of beauty, and perfection. 

Women today are expected not only to make a million dollars working full-time while being full-time moms, but also to do it with a perfectly kept home and an even more perfect body. 

It’s time to rally against those standards. Not to let ourselves go, mind you, but to say that it’s okay–it’s right, even–to be best enough. 

To be different people is the way the Creator created us to be. 

Could it be that the enemy seeks to make us all the same? 

We’re being fooled into thinking that more diversity, individuality and choices are being celebrated.

But think about it…as you scroll on social media, is that really true?

I turned forty this year, and I decided I was no longer living my life for the approval of others.

Everyday, I’m setting a goal of showing up as the most authentic version of myself. 

I am finally believing I am fearfully and wonderfully made. 

I hope you’ll join me. Together, we can turn the strong waves of perfection into a calm sea of contentment.

Psalm 139:14

In what ways are you striving to be more authentic and content? I’d love to hear from you. Comment below or send me an email to share your thoughts.

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