Authentic Living is Hard


You know I am from the Midwest because when you ask me how I am, I answer you. This is, as my children’s minister pointed out to me, a trait I have passed on to my girls. Lucky for the Norman girls, she finds us charming. Don’t ask us how we are if you don’t want to know, because we will tell you. As it turns out, most people who throw a casual, how are you, my way do not actually want to know that I am exhausted, or that I am having big feelings about my big job change, or that my children are having big feelings about everything, causing me to about lose my mind three separate times on the way to church that morning.

It is hard being a hot mess. It is even harder when you are doing the best you can to tell the truth about it. Authentically living is just really hard.

This year, my New Year’s resolution was to feel all of my feelings. Next year I am totally going for something less painful and intense and will choose completing a triathlon, or offering to birth someone else’s baby.  My feelings are exhausting, not even I knew I could be so happy and sad, so sure and so confused, all at the same time about the same events in my life. But the deeper I get into this authenticity thing the more I realize just how hard and beautiful this life is.

I used to think authenticity meant saying all the says, telling everyone everything that I thought or experienced. I am learning authentically living has a lot more to do with making the choices that are right for me, including choosing when not to share.

As a writer, it turns out, I have a pretty high tolerance for sharing all the things. I have written about pooping my pants in public, about gaining weight, about just how inadequate I sometimes feel as a parent. My family doesn’t mind. They too have a high tolerance for my whole self.

Not everyone will be ready for your authentic self. Not everyone wants to know how you are, even if they do ask while you are clearly fifteen seconds from crying. They may have not even had a chance to look at your face that hides no secrets. That is okay. It doesn’t make you a liar to smile and give them a “fine.” It makes you wise. Not going into it may be just what your authentic self needs.

In all my attempts at living authentically, I have found one thing to be true: everyone does it differently. You can’t follow someone else’s blue-print and end up with your own unique house. I tend to share more than others, to cry in public, to spill my guts when it is my turn to request prayer because I just desperately need it that week. That is how God built me. But it isn’t how God built some of my most authentic friends.

You have to find your own way, you have to try a lot of things on and see what fits, you have to build your own life from the ground up.

Authentically living is hard, but it is also totally worth it.

Abby Norman
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15 thoughts on “Authentic Living is Hard

  1. Hi Abby! Although we’ve only chatted once in the wholemama meet up, I imagine reading your posts is very much like sitting across from you. 🙂 The word authenticity makes me cringe; it’s a word we like to bandy about in higher ed marketing even through we only think we mean it. In my industry, authenticity is a buzzword, and for me, nails on a chalkboard (dry erase marker on a whiteboard?). But it’s inherently a good, solid word and one that, as writers, we need to think about. I recall the first time a professor told me how honestly I wrote; maybe that’s the same thing as being authentic. I realized he didn’t mean telling ALL the truth, but rather writers need to first being honest with themselves. And, you’re right, that is hard sometimes.

    • SO HARD. and yes I imagine it is a buzzy-word right now (incidentally it makes me want to kill someone when they say organic to mean no work at all. That isn’t real) but being authentic is what most people are looking for. But brands can sort of not by definition be that.

  2. Yes, yes, and yes. It can be amazing how shocking an honest answer to a social question can be — I had such a wide array of responses when I’d answer “She’s a nightmare” to “How is she sleeping?” about my daughter. I appreciate how embracing your portrayal of authenticity is here. So often, people think it’s the blabbing everything to everyone, and while that’s certainly one way to be authentic, it isn’t the only one. I’ve got to tell you, Abby, you are one of my favorite thinkers/writers/feelers.

    • WHY do people ask things when they don’t want an answer? And thank you so much for your encouragement. It means a lot, especially this week.

  3. This is so good Abby! Perhaps we were twins separated at birth – with a lot of years in between births! I too can share almost anything if the door is opened for me. And as a nurse, there are no subjects considered taboo. Add in the lack of filter that accompanies this season of my life and anything is a go. Fortunately, writing slows down the graphic authenticity and provides some checks and balances. Thanks for sharing. I always enjoy your posts.

    • Ahahaha! I already had my teenage students look at each other and say, Did she JUST SAY THAT! Yes. I did. I have no shame.I usually get along really well with nurses because they too are this way.

  4. Abby,
    Your line about running a triathalon instead of feeling your feelings…resonated…and you’re right, everyone does “authenticity” differently and not everyone can handle our authenticity…but I’m thankful for my husband and my friends who can handle my authentic self and for God …Thanks for your authentic words 🙂

  5. Love this! I also have big feelings and would love to be wiser about when to spill and when to hold back.

  6. Yes, I love this Abby – “not going into it may be just what your authetic self needs”. The older I get, the more I find this to be true.

  7. Amen, sister-friend. AMEN. Authenticity is terrific – it is also unique. No one looks exactly like anyone else (even your beautiful girls are not like you in everything, right?) Good word, Abby. Thank you.

  8. Being authentic is not quite the same as “letting it all hang out.” Having healthy boundaries means sharing what is important to those who respect us and cherish us. Self-care demands that we treat our self with the same respect we offer to our dear ones. Best wishes.

  9. I love the distinction you made at the end–that authenticity is about not sharing, too. And–that sharing in writing can feel different than sharing to random strangers. because at this point, my readers are NOT random strangers. They have stuck with me, many of them, and sharing with them feels less weird than making small talk. (Though I definitely have boundaries, major ones, around what I share in my writing–I process hard stuff with those I’m closest to first.)

  10. I loved this so much and laughed out loud. I have been trying to figure out what authentic looks like for me and sometimes I DO feel like everyone has to know everything. Thanks for affirming the freedom to be my own kind of real.

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