the practice of authenticity

Yesterday I was asked to speak on a panel at the Unitarian Centre on the topic of authenticity and community. It’s one of those topics that I love reading and thinking about, but it’s one that is daunting to be asked to speak to. It was only a 5-minute time slot I had to fill, and I decided to base my talk on a couple quotes that spoke to me about authenticity:

First, a couple quotes by ee cummings:

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everyone else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight – and never stop fighting.”

I opened my talk by talking about the authenticity that little kids have — how brave and bold and outspoken they are, right up until they start understanding the weight of their words and the cultural expectations they’re under. I wanted everyone to think about the different kinds of expectations we all face in our lives — from our family, our culture, our religion, professions, relationships, etc.

Then I put up this picture:

working the hipster glasses before it was cool

And talked about all the expectations that “Becky” had, growing up.

Which brought me to a couple other quotes, these ones by Dr. Brené Brown:

“Authenticity: the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”

“The universe is not short on wake-up calls. We’re just quick to hit the snooze button.”

I then talked a bit about Dr. Brown’s idea that authenticity isn’t a personal characteristic, but it’s a practice. A practice that is both daily, and mindful. Authenticity isn’t something that is permanently achieved — it’s a conscious commitment that requires you to value being true to yourself.

I didn’t go into too much detail about my story, mainly because I wanted more to give the audience something for them to think about in light of their own life. What’s really interesting is that the service leader had specifically asked me to speak to the fact that part of my authentic journey was to reject the faith that I grew up in. Guess what I forgot to mention as I was talking?

Afterwards when I talked to the service leader, she brought up the fact that I forgot to mention my atheism in my little talk. And it’s interesting, as much as I identify as someone who isn’t “religious” anymore, I don’t really feel like that aspect of my life is as interesting to talk about — at least not in that Unitarian setting. Being a nonbeliever is just one small part of who I am, authentically.

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