When I was a little girl, I might just have been the queen of pretending. Almost every memory of play I can remember revolves around an imaginary world of pretending I was a princess, or a famous singer, a wife and mommy, a girl who lives alone in the woods surviving on berries and any make shift shelter I could find to live in, or a sailor adrift at sea jumping from dressers and beds in danger of getting eaten by a school of vicious sharks if my feet touched the middle of my bedroom floor.
But one day little girls and boys grow up and forget that we don’t have to fake our way through real life. Maybe it’s just human nature to pretend. Scared that we might be rejected or disliked, somewhere around middle schools years we actually started to believe that it’s easier to pretend to be something we’re not than it is to just let our guard down so that we can be fully known exactly as we are.
But isn’t that exactly what we all crave? To be fully known and accepted for exactly who we are?
Some time ago I found myself wondering, what would happen if I just got honest? What if there were an alignment between the person I present to the world and who I really am inside?
I mean, how hard could it possibly be to to live authentically? Well, harder than we would tend to think it should be, because we live in a world in which it doesn’t come naturally to use anymore because society sets the rules on just about every aspect of what our lives should be.
Everywhere we look there is a commercial telling us what we should have, a billboard reminding us what we just can’t live without, and a magazine article telling how we should look, and books with some guru telling us how we should feel and what we should be doing that we aren’t.
Maybe it’s my propensity to rebel against what everyone else is doing, or maybe it’s just that 32 years of trying to be anyone other than who I am has finally come crashing in me and I yearn to be authentic in every area of my life. Because faking anything for long is flat-out exhausting.
So these days, every single day is my go at not faking it.
This morning was no different.
As I entered the buzzing halls of our homeschool community, there was a part of me that wished I could make myself invisible so that I could hide. But of course I didn’t.
Then, a few hours into the day what I was kind of dreading most happened, one of the other women came up and asked me the dreaded question, “How are you doing?”
Now this can be a trick question, because everybody knows that most people aren’t asking for an honest response.
Truth. People aren’t used to honesty and authenticity, and it can make us all a little uncomfortable.
Knowing that full well, and out of sheer habit, “Fine” were the words that wanted to spill out. But this time, instead I thought, “What if I just told the truth? I mean, how awful could that be to hear?”
As I fought back the tears that filled my eyes,“Honestly, I’m just struggling” were the honest words that I chose instead.
What happened next wasn’t the rejection and ridicule our humanity has told ourselves for far too long that telling and living the truth would bring us.
What happened next was a refreshing half hour of honest conversation between a few other women and myself in which we locked arms by sharing our stories, our pain, our encouragement, and our honest confessions about what it takes to make it through the hard parts of life in one piece. We just sat there together wearing our heavy packs of heavy brokenness and disappointments and issues. Neither of us fixed anything for the other, but the freedom came in just knowing we are not alone.
When we get brave enough to trade our natural human propensity for faking it for authenticity, we walk away from our days having gained more encouragement and life from those around us than pretending we have it all together would have ever given us.
That is just what authenticity does – it strips away the masks and chains and digs up all that we’ve buried deeply below the surface of what others can see and says, “We are all the same. And you aren’t any less. Now go, and be free to be fully known… and fully loved.”
You’re all grown up now! And you don’t have to pretend anymore.