26 April, 2017
“None of us are perfect, but we all have the capacity to be authentic.” – The Minimalists
The older I get, the less I care about pretence. Before I started this blog, and before I started stepping out and speaking up about mental health, I was worried that people would think less of me if I talked about feeling depressed, or just expressing any kind of vulnerability.
But now, I don’t really care as much. Of course, there are plenty of things that I won’t say online that are personal or private, but I want to be real. I want to be authentic. I want to be myself, and I want to be around other people who are comfortable being themselves too.
One reason I think that depression has such a foothold in our culture is that so many people are paralysed by fear of what others might think of them. Both men and women, boys and girls are tightly gripped by insecurity about themselves. Although there has been a lot of progress over the last 5-10 years with attitudes towards mental health, there is still a lot of stigma, especially for men. This just causes anxiety and depression to snowball further.
After losing a friend to suicide a few years ago, then going through the lowest point of my life, I just don’t care as much these days if someone perceives me as weak, feminine or soft. The way I see it, it takes the most strength to be vulnerable. Too many men and women think they are tough because they don’t express their emotions, yet they are unable to let their guard down for fear of being labelled. They want to seem strong, attractive, and in control. But one of the most attractive and compelling qualities a person can have is authenticity; being real with themselves and with other people.
Growing up, the number one quality almost everyone used to describe me was “nice”. People would always remark how kind I was, and how much I smiled. I appreciated the kind words, but nowadays I don’t really see this as a compliment as much as I used to. Instead of being nice, I would rather be authentic. Rather than having a constant smile on my face, I want to have joy in my heart. Even as a teenager, my smiling face covered up a lot of sadness.
In our culture of fakeness, everyone is crying out for authenticity. As I scroll through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, I see a carefully constructed image of triviality amongst so many, even those who I think of as authentic people. And I’m not immune to doing the same thing. It is easy to get the perception that everyone is just so damn happy all the time. But it just isn’t real. Everyone craves real, but most don’t have the courage to be real themselves.
So, since we’re being real, here are a few things maybe you didn’t know about me. I am not ashamed to admit that all of these things make up the real me, living a real life in our real world, right now:
- I’m currently working 2 days a week, earning a very low annual income.
- Because I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I am receiving some benefits from Centrelink.
- Bearing that in mind, I will be 25 this year, and I have finished a university degree. (I actually graduated with distinction).
- I grew up in a very dysfunctional home, but was too ashamed to talk about it growing up. There was mental illness, disability, and financial hardship. Yet externally, we were a healthy middle class family.
- I’m still seeing a shrink, because I still need to.
- Because of CFS, I fall asleep in church.
- Often, throughout my day, I get dizzy spells, and occasionally almost faint.
- I find it difficult to trust people.
- You wouldn’t think it looking at me, but I often over-eat, for different reasons.
- Music always makes me emotional, whatever the genre. I have become misty eyed listening to hip hop, EDM, pop, rock, cinematic music, anything. I am pretty happy to admit that.
- I didn’t tear up watching Titanic, but I did to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. And CW’s The Flash. And Interstellar. Don’t even get me started on the video game The Last of Us. That prologue though…
- I am very real with God. I say a lot to God that I wouldn’t repeat in church. If you’ve ever read the Psalms, then I think it’s safe to say He’s cool with that.
- My church is full of real people who are authentic, who genuinely care about me, and do life alongside me.
- I am not perfect. I am more flawed and weak than I will ever admit. That is not a figure of speech. Jesus is still working on me.
Being real just feels great. And like most things in life, it gets easier the more you do it. There is such a tremendous freedom that comes with being authentic. It is like being unplugged from the Matrix. You are no longer a slave to acceptance, to a system built on fakeness. You are free to be who you were made to be. You are free to be loved, and you are unstoppable.
Grace for Failures is the blog of Carlin Doyle to encourage and inspire people who have gotten life wrong for a long time, and want to try and do things a little differently. Click here for more info and here for more posts.