There’s a veneer that people maintain online – and we’ve all done it – showing audiences a polished, glowing side of themselves no matter what else might be going on in their lives.
You don’t see the dozen crappy selfies taken, the failed bench presses, or the missteps on the path. You don’t see the messes or the self-doubt or hear about the questions and thoughts that keep them up at night.
And while these people might be falling apart inside, we only see the veneer, wondering why we can’t be as polished as they are.
What’s worse is that audiences like tidy bows and happy endings. They want posts like this one to tell them that what they’re experiencing – depression, anxiety, imposter syndrome, self-doubt, and the oppressive feeling that you have no idea what the fuck you’re doing – can be overcome. They want the success stories, so they can follow every single step.
Last week I shared a blog post about the bout of depression that has plagued me the last six months, and I didn’t have a tidy bow to put on it. It was not an easy post to share, and I fought with myself to push that “Publish” button.
But I couldn’t not write about it and share it with you, either. It is too big a thing, too important to edit out of my story. And it taught me about authenticity.
It’s easy to call yourself authentic, but it’s another thing entirely to be authentic, to take off the mask and pull away the protective veneer.
It’s one thing to declare that authenticity is something I value. It’s another thing to be scared shitless while I tell you that for the past six months I’ve suffered from mental illness.
Here’s what made me take that leap: if I’m not being real with you, then you don’t really know what it’s like to follow the writer’s path.
I’ve spent a lot of time telling you that the life of a writer is filled with grudging, mundane work and bad days followed by a few insights. I finally got to show you what that life looks like.
I gave you a glimpse into why I stopped writing on here for so long. I left some details out – no need to wander into TMI territory – but I didn’t make excuses or candy-coat a single thing.
If it’s important and it scares the bejesus out of you, then it’s authentic.
Some of my favorite stories have characters that are flawed beyond all measure, who aren’t perfectly courageous and who lose their way. That feels more real to me, because that’s the life that I know.
In place of the tidy bow, I used a technique that I’ve learned recently from a few storytellers, which is to give the impression that the story goes on from here and this is merely a resting point on it’s path.
It’s liberating to take off the mask and pull away the veneer. It’s a relief to admit that you don’t have it all figured out. When you’re ready, you’ll feel it, too.
Photo from Unsplash by Max Ostrozhinskiy