One of the things I’ve been struggling with reconciling lately is my desire for authenticity. I feel like so much of life is spent pretending to be someone you are not or struggling to fit yourself into a box that someone else wants you in. In school you make sure you fit in with your current group of friends, in college you find more of yourself usually and become more confident, but if you’re like me you didn’t make a lot of friends, you may have still struggled to find your place. Post-grad you have to try and get a job, and you have to hold yourself to a certain type of professionalism depending upon the career you chose. You might feel like you have to dress a certain way or put your social media accounts on private, worrying that something you may have said may not appeal to others. I wish I could just be myself. I wish I could just be honest. I wish I wasn’t afraid of what people thought of me. I wish I didn’t work so hard to control others’ perception of me.
If you don’t live under a rock, you’ll know that Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album came out this week. A lot of people her age and older identify with her music. She’s only 18, but she writes about feelings that everyone has experienced. In brutal she writes, “I’m so caught up in the news Of who likes me and who hates you. And I’m so tired that I might Quit my job, start a new life. And they’d all be so disappointed ‘Cause who am I, if not exploited?” She’s only 18 but here already she captures the feeling of trying to keep up with your peers and trying to live up to other people’s expectations of you. Then to top it all off, we’re all living in the social media age so we’re constantly under a microscope, constantly seeing images of other people who seem happier and more successful than us. So many people feel like they’ve failed by 20 if they’re not living it up with their dream job in their dream city. Not to quote the queen again, but I literally cried to the lyrics of jealousy, jealousy this morning on my way to work: “All I see is what I should be Happier, prettier, jealousy, jealousy”.
I want to be myself. And I want to be present. I only get one chance at being 24 and I don’t want to spend all of my 20s hating myself and being depressed. I talked to my therapist once about how I don’t know if I’ll ever be happy because I’m always longing for what’s next. Because I think that once I get there then I’ll be happy. Two years ago I wanted to graduate because college sucked and I was so sad stuck where I was. Well, I graduated, but then I wasn’t happy in my first job so I wanted out. I’m terrified that will just keep happening to me. Like right now, I want to own a house and start a family, I feel like then I’ll be happy. What if I’m not?! I need to learn how to live in the present. To delight in my circumstances, no matter the circumstances. But it’s hard and confusing.
I feel like no one knows what they’re doing but everyone has convinced themselves that they have to pretend like they do. Can we just stop pretending? Can everyone be honest and authentic?
I may have mentioned this before, but I love personality quizzes because I don’t know who I am and I love when a personality test will just tell me. I’m an Enneagram Four. And according to the Enneagram Institute: 4s – Want to express themselves and their individuality. Whenever I read anything about Enneagram 4s I feel seen. Which incidentally, feeling seen is exactly what 4s look for in this world. Long story short: This creator I follow on instagram shared a poem for type 4s and I nearly cried reading it because I really needed a reminder like it. I’ll link here. It’s what made me want to write this blog post. The line “And though desperately you want to be valued for who you are, you can’t bear to take the risk of that not being good enough.” Yep. Uh… that’s me.
So authenticity is hard. Because this world both rewards and punishes authenticity. Sometimes people are applauded for being honest about who they are and being outspoken and sharing their opinions. And other times people are fired when they come out; or not even hired because they have tattoos or something stupid like that. I just really long to find a place where I can be myself. Where I don’t have to put on different faces depending on where I am. I want to find a group of friends who know me and understand me. I want to not be so afraid of sharing my opinion or advocating for others.
The most terrifying thing for me right now is that I don’t even really know who I am anymore. I’ve spent so much time trying to be a version of me that fits the situation I’m in that I don’t know what the real version of me is any more. Like who am I?? I don’t know! And I don’t feel like I have the time or space to figure it out.
Plus, this society is so built around monetizing yourself. Like… take your side hustle and make it a career. Enjoy painting? Open an Etsy shop and sell your art. Enjoy writing? Freelance for people and pitch your ideas whenever you have them. I just want to exist. I just want to run away to the woods and leave everything behind. I just want to be.
But that’s not allowed because I have a job to do and bills to pay. Oh another song reference? Sure thing here you go: Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked, but the Lennon and Maisy version. People have been writing about this stuff for eons. Why hasn’t society adapted yet?
It’s been cathartic to write this out, the only kind of writing I can do lately is stream of consciousness style rambling, but at least I’m still writing. If you’ve read this far, thank you.