By Jebraun Clifford
There’s something attractive about authenticity.
People crave the real thing.
Being real is engaging. Being real is endearing. Being real is essential.
But at the same time, another force exists. Working against authenticity, against real, is another concept.
I see this battle between real and imitation at the grocery store.
At the back of the store, in the refrigerator section, sits a wonderful concoction made of real milk carefully cultured and aged into a magical substance called cheddar cheese. It’s beautifully tangy and sharp and tastes delicious sliced onto crackers or sprinkled over nachos. Melted in a toasted cheese sandwich. Whisked into a sauce to pour over broccoli or other vegetables (can you tell I was hungry when I wrote this post?!?).
On the other hand, sitting somewhere sad and lonely, is a particular product.
In a can.
This…stuff…thinks it’s cheese, but we all know better. It’s mostly salt, oil, and artificial flavouring with a leetle bit of dairy thrown in as an afterthought—and if you’re a lover of cheese-in-a-can, then I apologise for maligning your very poor taste in snacks. But I gotta ask, why would you choose the imitation when the real thing is so much more…real?!?
The battle between the authentic and the counterfeit area extends to other arenas, too.
Every day, we experience pressure to take the easy way, the fake way. So how can we stay authentic? When we remember who we really are. When we’re consistent with our goals and values. And especially when we silence the temptation to compare ourselves with others.
Identity vs. image
My husband preaches a lot about identity and why it’s important to Christians. We need to remember who we really are: sons and daughters of God! Chosen, blessed, and accepted! We only have to read the beginning of Ephesians to get a glimpse of these promises.
But sometimes, we trade this amazing identity of who God says we are for the poor shadow of image, or who we want people to think we are.
There are some crucial differences between identity and image. Identity is effortless. God says it, so that’s who we are. But maintaining an image is hard work. We’ve got to constantly be on our toes, projecting a fake picture, hiding our thoughts and emotions and all the little quirks that make us a unique person. What’s more inauthentic than somebody pretending to be somebody else? You are obviously the only you in the entire universe. You matter. You are important. You play a vital role in God’s Kingdom. Don’t forget it!
What do we hold close to our hearts?
I chatted with a friend recently who quit her job. She realised she forced herself into a situation that betrayed the very values she held dear. Her job wasn’t unethical or anything, but she felt she was turning into somebody else because she was promoting ideals that weren’t really hers.
Can anybody else relate?
If we don’t have a firm grasp on our identity, it’s easier to push aside our true values and adopt what everyone else is doing. But stopping for a moment, taking stock of where we’re at and what we’re doing, making sure it aligns with the things that are important to us, can help us stay authentic.
Comparison is the thief of authenticity
This one is hard. As I scroll through Facebook or Instagram and see all the amazing things other authors are doing, I can get really down on myself.
I should be posting awesome pictures of the books I’m reading in front of my bookshelves!
Why aren’t I collecting Funko Pop figures of all my favourite characters?
When will it be my turn to share a photo of me signing a book contract?
These comparisons slowly erode my confidence in my authentic self. I stop striving to be me, and I start wanting to be like them. I want my platform to be as big as their platform, my writing style to be similar, my success to be like their success…the list could go on and on.
I want to imitate them instead of being me. But whilst imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, it’s also the quickest killer of authenticity.
This comparison game is also closely linked to our identity.
I heard another pastor recently talking about the Tower of Babel. He found it interesting that the people in Genesis 11 specifically chose to build with bricks rather than stones. He surmised it was because bricks are uniform and therefore easier and quicker to build with.
Whereas one brick can easily be exchanged for another identical brick, stones are uniquely shaped.
Each on is different. It takes time and skill to fit stones together properly. A builder has to look carefully at each one to discover exactly where it will fit in best.
The truth is, we can’t be exchanged, one person for another, which is what we say when we compare ourselves to others. So climb out of the comparison trap to find your true self (and I’m telling this to myself as much as you).
I want to interact with authentic people. And I want to be an authentic person. Living a life of authenticity can be difficult but it means seeking your identity in Christ, staying true to your core beliefs, and not comparing yourself to others.
What about you? What do you find keeps you from staying authentic?
About Jebraun Clifford
Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer's 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.
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