on authenticity

[blogging is] a way to focus on the good and identify all those things that fill me up and fill me out. as a way of cataloging progress and change.

Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts. Each time we drop our complaints and allow everyday good fortune to inspire us, we enter the warrior’s world. | Pema Chödrön

–both megafee.com

that night i sat down and wrote every good thing about my weekend into my long-neglected blog. it was maybe just one or two things, but i poured everything i had into making those things sing. i did it every night, and after just a few posts over the course of a week, it was like the day had dawned inside me, brand new.

nat the fat rat

Every once in a while I’ll read a blog post of the confessional type–the type where instead of an outfit post, a vacation recap, or a tender look into a mother-child moment (i’m not making fun of people who blog, I like all of these things ;)) a blogger switches a gear and lets you know what’s wrong in their life.  They admit they are depressed or recovering from an eating disorder.  They are infertile, or they miscarried.  You know those posts.  Where they reveal that their life isn’t all pictures of the beautiful spring blossoms, smiling babies, and relaxed afternoons in cute coffee shops.

And I am always fascinated by the comments.  They always applaud the blogger for being so genuine.  So real, so authentic.  While I know where they’re coming from and what they mean, I have a problem with this.  It is that you only see those kind of comments on posts that are negative in some way– Posts that reveal a problem, a weakness, a sadness, a trial, an imperfection in the life of the blogger.  A confession is made and readers burst forth with exclamations of “oh my gosh, thank you for being so real.”  What I see behind that comment though, is a disillusioned reader who has bought into the falsity that a persons blog is that person–and overall, that what you see of people’s lives, is all there is.  They see what they see and they think–she’s perfect.  She’s got her perfect, loyal, good-looking, hard-working husband, her perfectly decorated apartment, her beautiful well-behaved children, her never-ending fashionable wardrobe–she’s got it all together all the time and there must be something wrong with me because I just don’t!  They’ve (we’ve?) got a wheel running in their heads that says I don’t wear anything more exciting than jeans, my apartment is always messy, my family makes me crazy half the time, my toddler won’t stop throwing tantrums, I fight with my husband, I’m overweight, I can’t have kids, I have depression, I don’t have this that or whatever.  And when they get a glimpse into some tiny stormcloud in that blog-perfect life, it is as if they breathe a sigh of relief–Oh! she has issues too–good!  And then they thank her for being genuine.

But since when does genuine mean negative?  Since when do you have to include the bad and the ugly to make the good legitimate?  Is there anything wrong with an individual creating a space online where she documents only the good and leaves out all the painful messy stuff?  I say no.  I say that it is not the bloggers job to reveal all of her imperfections and problems in the name of authenticity.  I say that it is the readers job to be mature enough to understand the difference between someone’s blog and real life–and to stop reading (!!) if it is damaging your self image and causing you to set unreasonable expectations for yourself.  Bravo to all of those brave enough to share their personal struggles online–I’ve been touched by many women sharing their experiences with infertility, divorce, motherhood, depression, eating disorders, and so on.  I think (when done tactfully and appropriately) sharing these stories is important and it can help other women to know others have gone what they go through.  But I don’t think that such is necessary for the stamp of authenticity.    If you are applauding, do it for their openness, honesty, and courage. 

Blogs inspire me.  The internet inspires me.  I love the beautiful pictures, thoughtful words, bright ideas– by all means, ladies, create beautiful blogs.  Sit down at the end of the day and write down every happy thing that happened to you.  Post pictures of pretty things, exaggerate and emphasize the heck out of every teeny tiny victory in your day.  Rejoice in your successes, find the good, laugh off the bad.  There is nothing at all wrong with this.  It’s not fake.  It’s not unrealistic–it’s a perspective.  It’s optimism.  It’s looking for beauty.  Just also be responsible consumers.  Don’t be a jealous reader!  Don’t hate on the beauty, don’t spitefully criticize the “perfect” lives and things you see online.  Be smart enough to know that they are choosing what to see, they are choosing what to show you, and just like you and your family and the friends you know best–they have demons too.  And it’s perfectly ok for them not to share their demons with the whole internet.



5 thoughts on “on authenticity

  1. I’m totally guilty of writing a negative post or two, and interestingly enough those are the posts that get the most comments and more often then not the comments go something along the lines of, “thank you for being so real and honest!”. Sure it’s nice to hear that, but it’s almost like that discredits all of my other blog posts and that super bothers me because all of those posts are just as honest. I really am that happy or I really do love my husband or daughter that much or whatever the heck it might be, ya know? I’ll be the first to admit that my life is not perfect, nor is my marriage, but I’m not about to parade around the internet telling about the fight my husband and I just got into, cause, uh…who wants to hear that?

    Wowzers! I said a lot, when all I really wanted to say was I really really like this post, you are a fantastic writer!

  2. I like you thoughts on this a lot. I sometimes feel ashamed that by and large my life right now is incredibly peaceful and good. I want to justify it with; “Well, I have had my share of hard times.” or “I am sure it’s only a matter of time before things are hard!” I worry that by being by and large content with my life I come across as naive, fake, or idealistic (depending on the demographic I am considering). Which I also know is not the way to appreciate the blessing my life is.

    I think what is hard is that many people have been taught that expressing the bad is inappropriate or shameful. So we rush to express gratitude with the most sincere or validating comments we have whenever someone shows us that there is no shame in living a life with hardship.

    But I agree heartily with your conclusion. I do not think we should feel ashamed of the negative OR the positive. And oh how I love the idea of being a responsible consumer … personal accountability and respecting personal agency for one and all; yes please!!!

  3. One last thing I just thought of and would like to submit for your opinion … if you are a super popular blogger … bloggers who girls and women (or boys or men) look up to … do you maybe have a responsibility on some level to at least admit to bad days or hard times? People need people to look up to, and often to learn from. If a blogger has worked to put themselves in a highly influential sphere is it really fair of them still claim that they only have to put what they want to put on their blog? Do they not have some responsibility to their readers?

    I do not know the answer … just a thought :).

    • Lauren, I go back and forth–a big part of me thinks a personal blog is a personal blog–no matter how many people read it. The writer has the freedom and right to make that space be anything they want it to be. That said, I think they do have to take responsibility for what they post, knowing the influence they have, just not necessarily in they way you are saying (admitting to bad days and hard times) I think it’s good when they do. I think readers like it more. I admire the honesty. But I also don’t think there is anything wrong with a blogger leaving them out if they so choose. Or–some people just do have good lives, right? Or beautiful stretches like the one you are in (yay!) without any particularly huge hardships, and what are they supposed to do, make something up so that their readers will find them more relatable? or think really hard for something not good when they’re feeling great?

      I hate the concept of someone experiencing good fortune and blessings and feeling guilty about it. The blessed are not responsible for the jealousy of others.

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