Authenticity and Belonging

Authenticity and Belonging

Authenticity. Identity. Belonging. Imposter syndrome. These are all things that have been filling my mind lately.

But as I’ve dug deeper, these themes have strands that run throughout my entire life.

For the month of October, I took a step back from social media. No Instagram. No Facebook.

Over the past few weeks I’ve read 4 memoirs. Reading these people's stories prompted me to start writing memories from my own life. This is where the deeper reflection has come in.

God’s used this to break things open in me, to click some puzzle pieces together that I’ve held all along but until now have drifted disconnected.

In one of these books, the author made a comment about watching her daughter choose between authenticity and belonging.

That concept struck me. These are things I’ve been thinking about all my life. And to choose between the two…

I think this is what I’ve been wrestling with all along.

I want to be authentic and genuine. I also want a place to belong. Why can’t we have both?

Ironically, the things that are supposed to connect us can sometimes serve to drive us further apart. This became clearer to me as I stepped back from social media.

We have to go into the forest of our own mind to ever truly connect with others. We can’t be authentic if we don’t even know ourselves.

We’re all in a war between worlds. We have our inner worlds, and our outer one. We have the world in our mind, and the world online.

But how do we translate one to the other?

In my experience, it’s a lot more challenging to bring the inner world out than it is for the outer world to invite itself in.

Absorbing is easy. It happens automatically. External inspiration is absolutely a good thing, as long as it's intentional. But so often we don’t have to try to be influenced by the outside world; it happens whether we’re conscious of it or not.

Thoughts, words, concepts, ideas, images… They all seep in so easily. We can use this for good and purposefully choose what we allow in, but it requires constant intentionality to keep our inner world untainted by the outer one.

It takes effort to create, to bring the world of our imagination to life in the external worlds we live in. We have to initiate, fight for, and continue to chase creativity.

And I think this is one of the reasons it’s easier to just put on the mask. It’s like we think we’re protecting ourselves, our own hearts, minds, and inner worlds, by blending in. By matching what we see outside we think we’re keeping the inner world safe inside, all without realizing it’s still influenced by the masks we wear.

Maybe it really is about the choice between authenticity and belonging, but I don’t think it has to be that way.

We get to decide which world we prioritize. And I’d like to think that whichever one we choose brings its own sense of belonging.

The inner world, the world without masks, is a daunting path to choose. If we choose this path, we have to face the masks head on. We have to face the messy things inside that forest of the mind. We have to face who we really are and who we pretend to be.

But on this journey there’s a richness of authenticity. Deeply knowing ourselves and others: this is how we connect and find that place to belong.

This is the world beyond the mask.