We crave authenticity in every area of our lives. We see the necessity of bringing it into our inner dialogue, our relationships, our online presence, and our work. However, cultivating an authentic life is much easier said than done. Our fears and insecurities get in the way and quickly pull us back into our shell. We compare ourselves to others and are not so eager to put our honest faces on. The pressures we feel from life weigh heavy on us and we are so tempted to place our masks back over our eyes and pretend to be someone we’re not.
This is why it is helpful to look to people who have been there before. We seek the insight of those who have worn many masks themselves and have found that their guises leave them unsatisfied. Here are five books that just might help us continue to learn how to be real with ourselves and each other. These five books carry common themes, yet are generally focused on a certain area of life. All of these authors have asked the difficult questions about living authentically, and graciously give us practical guidance for how to be who we really are.
1. Being authentic with yourself: The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
You have probably listened to the famous Brene Brown TED talk (maybe eleven times) about vulnerability. It will simultaneously kick your butt and make you feel like you can reach the stars if you only try. And her books are no different. Brown understands the pressures that society puts on us, especially as women, and speaks straight into them. In The Gifts of Imperfection, she specifically identifies the huge problems that plague us and steal our ability to live a happy and authentic life. Then she speaks directly to how we can be honest and vulnerable with ourselves in a way that will bring so much more joy and meaning into our lives: “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”
2. In your relationships: Scary Close by Donald Miller
This book came out less than a month ago and it will not let you down. Donald shares his experience of how years of hiding and pretending who he really is left him with one failed relationship after another. He finally came to a point in his life where he decided that he would be himself, take off the masks, and be vulnerable no matter what. The title of this book is so fitting: being real with people can be so scary. But we can learn from Donald’s mistakes as he so boldly shares his personal anecdotes with us. He shows us how necessary it is to be our real selves with the people we love in order to have truly meaningful and rewarding relationships.
3. At home: The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith
We have all felt that feeling when we see the perfectly positioned Instagram of someone’s new interior decorating. Or the glossy pages of that magazine with the immaculately set up living room decor. Or even our friend’s perfectly tidy little apartment, fresh flowers included. And as we look at them, we forget how that person probably spent an entire thirty minutes setting up and editing that Instagram photo and how no one actually lives in the rooms featured in that mag. But yet again, we let comparison threaten our happiness and we feel the pressure to get our dwelling places in tip-top, Instagram-worthy shape. In The Nesting Place, Myquillyn removes the burden of needing to have a flawless looking living space and welcomes the idea that we can embrace the chaos of our real lives instead. She challenges us to look at the real purpose of our home and to throw perfectionism out the window… then follows it up with lots of practical decorating advice.
4. In your spirituality: Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
Anne Lamott might just be one of the most honest authors out there. Authenticity just seems to seep out of her words on the page. Her book Traveling Mercies is not a “how-to” book. It’s mostly Anne writing about her life and her journey of faith, sharing with her readers some lessons she’s learned along the way. She’s not afraid to admit that her life has been pretty messy at times. She never claims to have easy answers about faith or God or life and she doesn’t minimize her mistakes or neglect the dark parts of her story. In doing so, she gives us the freedom to do the same. She’s also super witty and makes you laugh as she takes you along on her journey.
5. In your dreams, endeavors, and day-to-days: The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst
There are a lot of awesome books out there right now about how to prioritize, get stuff done, and make the most of your time. However, we can easily get bogged down by our to-do lists and fill our days with obligations. We don’t spend our time doing what we truly want to and are meant to do and we often end up running on empty. We overcommit and in doing so, lie to ourselves, our calendars, our bank accounts, and the people we love. In The Best Yes, Lysa says “In this great day when most women wave banners of authenticity about our pasts, we crouch back from honesty about our presents. We’ll tell you about all our broken places of yesterday but don’t dare to admit the limitations of our today.” She teaches us how to embrace our limits and imperfections, to handle our time and commitments with wisdom, and how to stop trying to be Wonder Woman so that we can actually be more productive and more full.
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
So, read away, my friends! And don’t forget to join in the conversation by commenting below…let us know what you think of the books you read, or if you have any suggestions along the way!
Photos by Mariam Sitchinava