Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Authenticity: Part I

Well, based on the number of comments and personal email responses I've gotten about this post, I think it's safe to assume that I'm not alone in my struggle with authenticity/transparency/honesty in regard to blogging.

I've read and re-read every comment and email and have been trying to sort out some of my feelings on the matter. There is still much that I'm wrestling with, and I don't pretend to have answers, but I do have some thoughts to share. It could get rather lengthy so I've decided to break this into two (maybe three) posts.

None of this is profound, or even original, but here goes...

I'm a transparent person by nature. I've never been shy and I'm not very private. If I'm happy or sad or worried or mad or grieved or struggling with something, you usually know it. I'm not ashamed of my tears, and I cannot count the number of times I've totally lost it when a friend (or stranger) has innocently asked me how I'm doing. I'm just not very good at keeping that stuff in. 

I've realized that I expect that same level of honesty from others. 

I've also realized that is not at all realistic. We're all different. What may come easily for me may be excrutiating for you. I'm usually willing to bare my soul and share my heart...but it comes with risk, and maybe not everyone is willing to be so risky. Maybe they don't know how or aren't practiced enough. I can live with that. Basically, I'm saying that this is my issue. If you hear nothing else, please hear this: It's my issue.

I also realize that the blog (mine or yours) may not necessarily be the best place to bare and share.

I agree wholeheartedly with all of you who commented that your blog is not a place to air your dirty laundry. Some of the stuff we struggle with involves other people, and talking about it on the blog could end up hurting or diminishing people we care about. I get that. Good grief, I've even done that.

I also believe that some things are better left discussed with real life friends. Sometimes it feels like the blog community can be a substitute for real life friendship and community. Personally, I have a lot of friends AND I have a lot of blog friends. But when it comes right down to it, there are only a handful of women who really know me. And that handful is who I will share the deepest, darkest, and messiest details of my life with. Yet I still want the "bloggy me" to be more substantive than just the happy life stuff. Does that make sense? I've yet to figure out a balance in all of this.

I loved what Moriah said in her comment about the depth of honesty depending on the purpose of the blog. I definitely agree. I also love that Mrs. Naz had a mission carnival last summer in which participants shared their blog's mission/purpose. I've yet to go back and read all of the posts. I'm actually trying to come up with something along those lines for LifeAt7000Feet. Right now, it's just a place I write about things I love...but I think maybe I want to clarify that a little more.

My friend, Teri, asked in her comment why I even care when someone isn't authentic. It's their blog, they can write about what they want to write about and if they're not honest, so what? Isn't that their "stuff". I'm always free not to read it, right?

I agree with her, and I drastically pruned my google reader last week, BUT I still feel irritation at the cycle that gets perpetuated by the "plastic" persona and how it affects other women. It's sorta like the story I shared about my friend who claimed to love everything about being a mom. I was left scratching my head and wondering what in the world was wrong with me for not loving everything. Wondering why motherhood seemed so hard for me when she was breezing through it with a cheerfulness that put Pollyanna to shame. 

I don't believe she was breezing through it though, and I don't believe she was always cheerful, but for some reason she didn't feel like she could admit that to anyone. And that just makes me sad...and mad because again, I expect honesty from people and there was something going on within her that prevented honesty.

See? It's MY issue.

I know that I can't change people. That is NOT my job. I can live MY life authentically though, and I desire that very much.

I'm afraid this is starting to sound whiney. That is not my intent, so maybe this is a good stopping point...for today.

I have lots of thoughts still stirring in regard to what authenticity looks like for me, especially in regard to my faith. 

17 comments:

Melissa @ Breath of Life said...

Good thoughts, friend. Can't wait to read more.

I agree with Teri's point, to an extent. I think that the more "plastic" our blog persona (I like that term), the more we perpetuate the myth that living the Christian life is easy, and the more we discourage others who might believe that our lives are so much better than theirs.

Tiffani said...

I feel like I may need a three part comment too! :) I never did get a chance to respond b/c I had a lot I wanted to say and your comments were so full of little novellas that I decided you'd probably read enough... :)

I appreciate a place where I can come, read and connect...so I completely get wondering about others authenticity...I am glad you pruned your reader...I've done the same throughout my short blogging life..I may read a few for awhile but there's very few blogs that I've read and STAYED with for the long haul and those are the places I feel most connected to...women who are real, who aren't afraid to share what hurts them, makes them smile, or their fears and worries...I feel like "hey, they what I'm going through" "they'll 'get' me if I share this with them, too"...

And, I want to have a blog where others feel the same about me. I think it is a place where our egos are easily stroked...and we do have to be careful (and by we, I mean "i") to not post with that intent...

So, I am thankful that you are who you are...that you would think outside of comfortable box and be willing to share that with the rest of us..."as iron sharpens iron", right? And, by you sharing (anything, not just this subject) our blades are shined and honed a bit brighter and I would hope the same for you with the "connections" you make in blog world and IRL.

Enjoy the rest of your day, my friend!!!

John said...

M,

Well said.

Love,
J

Michele said...

I really appreciate your honesty. You are such a neat person. I am all about being authentic both in real life and bloggy life. My sister says she has a PHD in fake (or at least she used to . . . not anymore) and I would always tell her I hated when she brought that person out. I liked the real her . . . the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Again thanks for being so honest. I love the idea about, what's your blogs mission.

Elizabeth said...

I think on your first post on this topic I commented too quickly. This is a lot to think about. For me, your thoughts are very timely b/c of some things I experienced a couple weeks ago.I even moved my blog because of them.

But I do want to say now that I am like you in that i am just an open person, not always very private. And I unfairly expect that of others. I know that I can't put that on others simply because I expect it of myself. The problem I've found is that it is my blog, not my family's, and so I have to respect their privacy more than is natural to me. I agree that people can be as honest as they want on their blogs and if they want to present their lives as flawless, then they can. I don't have to read. But it still irks me and makes me sad for them. But again, that's their issue and I have my issues.

I am one of those bloggers that has accidentally used blogging friendships to replace real-life friendships, but that's only because this season of my life necessitates that. I just don't know anyone where I live. I'm working on that, and the blogging world has helped me hold it together when I've been lonely. So, perhaps I've shared too much because of that.

I look forward to more of your thoughts.

*carrie* said...

Mer,

I didn't comment the first time around--wanted to take time to think and also you already had a jillion comments to sort through.

Seems like this is a topic that's on a lot of minds and hearts lately--Monica just wrote a similar post, and I'll send her a link to your post as well: http://thehomespunheart.blogspot.com/2009/02/pedestals.html

Your authenticity is one of things I most appreciate about you and your blog!

Moriah @ Please Pass the Salt said...

Great start!

I guess, for you and I, we can keep blogging as authentically as we are able and those struggling women (a group title I think we'd both admit to sharing) will know from our blogs that they aren't alone. Keep fighting the good fight! It's all we can do. :)

Amber said...

You couldn't have said it better, Mer. Thanks.

Jennifer said...

I think what you wrote is well thought out......very 'real'. That's why I do like reading your blog.

I have to say that I have found that some of my 'friends' in real life don't get it either. They are like you describe....so unreal.

Thanks for bringing out the thought provoking posts.

Holly said...

I have to admit that it hurts my brain to try and figure out whether others are being authentic or not. I guess I pray they will be and I try to be...and then I ask for the Lord to give me discernment. Perhaps I should love and care for the ones more who are struggling with this thing of sharing because they need a friend to say it's ok. I don't know...just some thoughts.

Praying for Abbey to feel better and that it doesn't spread through your crew.
Love,
Holly

JJ Kimmel said...

Mer,

I guess what I hear in all of this, is your longing to connect and have deeper relationship. To feel safe when you are transparent and to be celebrated for the real-ness that you bring. To not feel like you are too much.

Few women understand what authenticity really looks like, and fewer are courageous enough to take risks and let others truly know them.

I have experienced you to be a woman of beauty and courage. You have struggled and bled to know yourself and your own story. You have fought hard for the authenticity that you bring to relationship. That has made you a safe and inviting woman for others...for me.

Whatever this blog looks like now or the future, you are a woman with a beautiful heart who has MUCH to offer in relationship.

Carpoolqueen said...

And I keep most of my tears bottled up inside until I can find a quiet place (usually the shower) to shed them.

I'm doing much better about being transparent, but that has been a challenging lesson for me. I was always the kid that didn't know who she was, and so I would be whatever others needed me to be or what I perceived they'd most enjoy me being.

Now I need to be who I am, and I'm still discovering that. It's part of the aging thing that I've actually welcomed...being comfortable in my own skin.

This thought may be continued at a later time...

Rae said...

I too pruned google reader last week. I cut over 100 blogs out. It was hard to do but in the end it was something I had to do. I couldn't keep up with all of the blogs and they were not enhancing my life. Can't wait to read part 2 of your thoughts!

JenB said...

Ok seriously? Are you a mind reader? It is almost weird how much we think alike.
I, too, am transparent, wear my heart/emotions on my sleeve. Sometimes good, sometimes not.
Looking forward to part 2!

Kelly @ Love Well said...

This is a very authentic follow-up.

;-)

I'm another person who didn't respond to the original post (due to our trip), although I read it. And I think your comments here are spot-on.

Like you, I'm incredibly transparent. I have a hard time being anything but real.

But I married a man who is so secretive, he didn't even start to let me in until we had been married 10 years. (This is obviously extreme, but he has an extreme background.) He is still learning to be authentic with me.

So I see both sides of this coin. Corey has taught me some of the benefits of being wise with our inner-most secrets (versus letting everything hang out). And God has taught me a ton about me honoring my husband in this regard.

Gina said...

I like how you said that these are your issues. Because, seriously, I only like to have a few people close to me. I have my 3 best friends, my sisters (4+1 SIL), my parents, and my own family. More than that and it starts to get crowded and I start shutting down and shutting out the people who matter to me. I "know" you a little from your blog, and since you say you are a what you see is what you get type of person, I think we could be friends. Having said that, I get frustrated with people who spill all over all the time. I don't get it.
I am not a plastic person, but I try to keep my self wrapped up so my messes don't get slopped onto other people. (Not saying that's what you do...but some people do.)
Oh, and my blog is a place for people to laugh- because that's what I like best.

Jackie @ Our Moments Our Memories said...

You have a way of taking your thoughts and putting them so neatly and precisely into a post.

I loved reading all of the comments on your previous post, and I agree with so much of it. I definitely come from the more private outlook - it's SO hard for me to open up even in real life - but yet I really want to be authentic. Hard to strike that balance.

I am with you on the pruning of the Google Reader. I always feel terrible when I stop following someone, but I've noticed that when I do, I seldom miss it. So I think I will take that to heart and do another purging soon...I know my time management will be so much better off for it.