September 12, 2012

Authenticity

Personal authenticity has been on my mind for most of the summer. My swirling thoughts about it solidified a little after I read this lovely post by Definitely RA about things she will do and things she won't do, even if it feels like everyone else is doing (and loving) them. 

I've noticed this specifically because of Pinterest - the same things get pinned over and over again, and I start to think, "Does everyone really love chevron that much? Or do they just think they should like it?"
"Does everyone aspire to make their own magnet boards out of cookie sheets?"

Since we've returned home from vacation, I've tried to think more proactively about what I really like.

What do I want to read? I want to read what appeals to me, whether it's something that's boring to other people or something that others look down on for being low-brow. Right now, I'm reading a lot of adult non-fiction and picture books. I'm reading less YA right now than I have in years.

What creative outlets do I want to pursue? I've realized that sewing is just not that enjoyable to me. I can do it, but it doesn't really fulfill me and I find myself really frustrated most of the time. I'm happy to keep buying my clothing at the store. But I do like activities that have less margin for error and that use my hands while letting me listen to audiobooks, like glass painting or fooling around in Photoshop.

What kind of weekend activities do I like to do? How do I like spending my time with Ella and Bart on a Saturday morning? I like to get outside for walks, try new restaurants, and not feel like I have to do something "productive." Spending the morning playing a hundred games of Memory in Ella's bedroom while Bart and I talk about hamburger joints in Austin may not make for good blog posts, but it makes me happy.

What do I like to wear? I don't want anything fussy. I like simple outfits, few accessories, and basic things like black shirts, jeans, and flats. I like Merrick's philosophy about pinning outfits on Pinterest - she told me she doesn't pin any outfits that she doesn't already own at least one part of. She wants it to be a "how to make my existing wardrobe work" pinboard, rather than a "things I wish I owned and now I look with despair at my own non-Anthropologie/J.Crew wardrobe" pinboard.

How do I like my house to look? I like neutrals with some bright colors. I like clean lines and modern looks. I don't like anything distressed or "shabby chic." I don't like knick-knacks or things that look homemade. I don't like cutesy.  I really like things to be well-organized, and I like as many places to sit down as possible.

What activities do I do with Ella? I was really inspired by what Princess Nebraska said recently when someone asked her how she manages to wear wedges while having two little children: "I wish I was a playground mom, but I’m just not.  Guilt over that fact never turned me into a playground mom, it just turned me into a mom who felt guilty for not going to the playground. Now I don’t go and I don’t worry about it." I've heard my mom say the same thing about her own parenting many times - she did the things she liked to do. So Ella and I go to the library a lot, take walks, and have friends over. We cook together and read books on the couch. We go to stores and wander around. I don't make up stories or play with toys. 

I think it takes a lot of time to figure out what you really like. You aren't going to know, usually, by 18 or 19. At 26 (and 363 days), I'm only just starting to be able to wrap my head around the fashion and home design things I gravitate toward. Taste in entertainment and activities will likely change over time. Eating habits may be vastly different ten years apart. I like the opportunity to explore new things and figure out what really is the best fit for me.

I want to be happy with my own life and who I am. I want the things I wear, the way I eat and decorate and entertain and and spend my time to reflect who I really am and what I really like, not force myself into some box that I think I should fit into.

And I have to say, I've felt more fulfilled, more happy, and less frustrated as I work to fill my life with things that make me happy and stop doing the things that I don't really want to do.

45 comments:

  1. I love every bit of this post, Janssen, and I relate to so much of it. Forget what you think you should be doing and focus on what it is you LIKE doing and it's amazing how much more fulfilled you feel.

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  2. This is such an interesting post! Definitely thought provoking...I'll have to brainstorm my own answers in my journal soon :)

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  3. I love this and can totally relate. It's easy to feel like you "need" to like something because it's everywhere on Pinterest or whatever. Thanks for the reminder to stick to things I actually like... No shame in that!

    ....and I might just adopt Merrick's pinning rule. Very smart! :)

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  4. I think the last year or so of transitioning from a student to a mostly-SAHM forces me to encounter some of these issues. As a student, a lot of my day was scheduled and determined for me (if I want an A in this class, I will read this book and write this paper). Now that my schedule is so much more flexible and mostly determined directly by me, I have to decide what to do to make myself happy. While some people may make rules for themselves for pinning, I avoid Pinterest almost entirely. Like you, I also don't like playing with toys on the floor and would much rather go on a walk or to the library. Very interesting post.

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  5. I love this post. There came a time a couple years ago when I felt like I was super unhappy all the time, even though everything in my life was really great. When I took a good hard look at my life, I realized a lot of what I did I was doing because I felt like I was supposed to, or because I wanted to be able to stand my own when compared to others. And I thought that was stupid. So I quit. I decided to only do things because I want to do them, not because that's what my sister was doing or because it made me look like a cool person. That sounds so juvenile and jr high-ish, but that's how I was doing a lot of things. Once I made that change, things got so much better. I got back to the person I'd always known I was, and usually had been, and have been loving myself harder and better ever since. If something's not making me happy, I do what I can to get it out of my life. If something's out of my control, I try to realize that too. I've embraced parts of me that I always kinda hid, and I've come to realize something - I think I'm pretty cool. :)

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  6. Great points. I think Pinterest is a good place to share ideas but it does tend to bring some guilt. Thankfully, I decided with my crafting blog I'm not going to make crafts I don't enjoy or don't serve a purpose. I don't like chevron or cookie sheet magnet boards either.

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  7. love this, Janssen!

    You and Merrick (and Kayla) are great voices of reason. I'm happy to be in good company on so many of your points: cookie sheet magnet boards?! And I love doing nothing on the weekends ... and a bunch of other points but I have to go take my kids on a walk and slyly pass the playground without them seeing ... mean mom.

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  8. I love this post. Defiantly things I will have to remember when I begin staying home with my daughter when she arrives in December. Good to know that I'm in good company in regards to some of the things that are constantly getting pinned on Pinterest.

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  9. Great post. In fact, I think I'm going to pin this on pinterest, because it's something I actually like. :)

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  10. Brava, lady. (Psst, I am with you about not liking anything distressed or cutesy.)

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  11. I love what you said about the playground. I hate the playground too, but! it's getting better. Once the smallest is able to climb without constant help, and I can sit and read while they do their thing, it'll be terrific. I get a glimpse of this when we go without her. The parenting thing I don't like to do? That will make people gasp, I'm sure, is to read to my kids. I love books, and I'll do it, but the whole time I think about how much I'd rather be reading TO ME. I am, in a word, selfish.

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  12. You're finding yourself.
    Without that expensive solo trip to Sumatra.
    Perfect.
    :)

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  13. You go girl.
    Take it from someone old enough to be your mom (my daughters are your age). You will lead a much less stressful, much more joyful life if you continue to do this. I wish I'd figured it out sooner than I did.

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  14. This is a brilliant post. Thank you for guiding me to RA's post as well! This is something that I need to keep in mind when it comes to my hobbies and my home. Well done!

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  15. I love this and the thought you put into it. I am pretty unapologetic about what I do/don't do, what I'm into/not into, etc., but even having confidence in your life decisions doesn't always free you from overthinking them or feeling guilty about them sometimes.

    Pinterest has been an interesting phenomenon. I like it and enjoy using it (it's a convenient place to keep recipes, especially with a move coming up where things like cookbooks must be sacrificed to storage), but I think sometimes people forget it's a tool, not an obligation. I used the fashion boards to try and narrow down my personal style - I used to buy things because I felt like I should (no chevron, at least), and my closet was full of things I didn't like and never wore. It was really useful in figuring out what I consistently liked. I'll be honest and admit I occasionally pin things I just think are pretty too ;) It's odd when things we develop for convenience and social connection (Facebook and other social media, Pinterest, bookclubs, MLM businesses etc.) completely take over and become monsters of their own to keep up with!

    (PS - Shabby chic is ridiculous and fussy. I love your taste!)

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  16. I have never understood the shabby chic/super distressed look. Why would you take perfectly good furniture and make it look like you dragged it in off the street/out of the dump? Makes no sense to me. And it always looks germy.

    Excellent post. Love.

    xox

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  17. Lovely, Janssen. Thanks for your tempered and honest thoughts. I wholeheartedly agree.

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  18. This subject has also been on my mind quite a bit lately, and you articulated it so well. You've definitely inspired me to put more thought into this for myself, so thank you!

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  19. Oh I really really really love this post. I had a similar post in my head about why we travel so often instead of fix up our house or buy nicer cars or (even) have more kids, and it comes down to what works for us, what is important to us. What I really love is that all of our answers can be so different and yet we can still find common group. The beauty of motherhood/adulthood.

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  20. It's interesting that you posted about this today because it's been on my mind a lot lately. We bought a house 7 years ago when we first got married and my approach to decorating that house was so different to my approach with the new house. I think I've just finally decided what I like and what feels authentically me. Same with my clothing and food. 27 must be the age when you start to figure that stuff out or something.

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  21. I've made similar lists for myself in times of feeling unsure of who I am. I think lists like that make you more aware and proud of the things you really like and don't.

    - tianna :)

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  22. great post!!! i wish more people were more comfortable with themselves and didn't worry so much about what everyone else does. it's so much more peaceful to just be you. :)

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  23. this was AWESOME! one of the most often compliments I get is, "Chanel, I love that you're so real!" Usually it is said after I say something completely inappropriate, but thats me and I am who I am. The funny thing I have found after my oh so enlightening plunge into my 30s is we are always evolving, so sewing might not be your things now, but it may down the road. Who knows, pretty sure though, shopping will always be more FUN! Chevron, though, really? I don't get it, I believe it use to be called zig-zag, does "chevron" make it sound trendy? Just makes me think "gasoline is expensive and bad for the environment". ANyway, wonderful POST! You are the coolest!!

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  24. Well said.

    I'm just learning this too, most particularly lately with food. I see all of the fad foods and meals and menus, and I think, "Do I really need to like goat cheese?" (I can't get past it tasting like pasture--maybe I haven't found the right brand. ;)) or "Am I strange for not liking this vegetable or that?" I've come to the conclusion that, no. I know enough (and care enough) about nutrition that I don't need to feel bad about what I eat, especially when what I'm eating is already really good for me. It's ok that I don't like peppers, because I like a lot of good food already.

    Crazy how guilty we can feel about things that don't matter in the long run. So glad you're feeling so happy.

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  25. Love this post! I'm trying to be better at this very thing, so it's nice to hear your perspective on it.

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  26. Amen, amen, amen. Great post.

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  27. Refreshing to hear this said "out loud."

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  28. You've been reading Gretchen Rubin again, haven't you? ;-)

    I was thinking about just that. I think there's a lot of pressure for young adults (especially women, I might posit?) to reach for the stars, try everything once, be creative, start new hobbies, etc, which is all well and good... but at the end of the day, you like what you like and you shouldn't feel shame or guilt for not liking everything!

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  29. I think we discussed this already on twitter back when Definitely RA originally posted. But since reading the Happiness Project it's been on my mind even more. I often think to myself, "Be Emily" now. (Full disclosure: I usually think "Be Gretchen" first and then correct myself. Whoops.) It's ok to like what I like and do what I like to do, even if it's not popular. And it's ok to like what IS popular right now, even if my first tendency is to NOT like it, just for the sake of not liking it. Sometimes I have to remind myself of those things and really ask myself, "Do I really like this?" Great post. Love when you write thought provoking things like this.

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  30. Amazing post. Absolutely amazing.

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  31. Amen, amen, amen! I was talking to our Homes editor at work about this very thing. Of course we are attracted to trends and what is new, but what makes fashion and home decor interesting is how people inject their personality and authenticity into it. For instance, NieNie, take it or leave it that woman uses her own style and people are attracted to it because she is so herself. You know?

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  32. Fantastic. I have been working on a "happiness project" of my own and this is further inspiration to "BE LINDSEY".

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  33. I love this post. It's so so true. And such a good reminder not to worry about what everyone else is doing and thinks. Just to be me. Thank you.

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  34. something that can be so hard to do- just being the way you want to be! Who doesn't struggle with this sometimes? I'm always asking myself, 'wait, do I really want that, or do I just want it because i feel like I should (or that other people think I should)? As well as not not caring about how others choose to do things.

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  35. I can understand why everyone loves this, because I do as well. It feels like an everyday struggle to separate the things I do and figure out what I'm doing because it makes me happy, and what I'm doing because everyone else thinks I should be doing it.

    I don't have time to worry about what other people are doing with their time. I'm spending all of my energies trying to get the most out of my day.

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  36. Yes! I hate chevron and it's everywhere!!! I've been figuring out the last year or so that I'm really like a little old lady inside of my 27 year old body. I like to be more simple and don't usually want to change up for the latest and greatest anything. I'm left out of the loop on so much new stuff, and I'm ok with that. I just want to sit in my little sweater and hang out at home.

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  37. I really like this post, but especially as it related to parenting.
    For some reason it just never occurred to me until reading this, that it is OK to just do with your kids what YOU want (or what they want) instead of constantly looking for things to make them 'well-rounded'. That it's ok for your kids to be interested in the things you are, or know about the things you know (for me: gardening, cooking, reading, etc) instead of forcing yourself to do a million things not enjoy them or be good at them, just for the sake of what everyone else thinks you should be doing.

    I'm not even close to being a parent, but I so appreciated this!

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  38. I love everything you said about clothing, books (I too am burned-out on YA), food, home-decor. However, and I hate to be a dissenter, but when it comes to parenting, I do a lot of things with my boys that I don't necessarily like to do. Because while I may not want to be a playground mom, my kid is a playground kid. He loves when I play toys with him (and when we are stuck at home because the baby is sleeping the choices are slimmer). I'm not taking him to the library as often because lately all library trips end in a meltdowns. I'd love to sit at the table and paint or color with him, but he paints 4 stripes and is done. We listen to a lot of music, and we both like that. It sounds like you got a kid that likes to do what you like to do. You are blessed.

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  39. I really like this post. Since turning 30, I've been trying to be more honest with myself and what I really like. I liked the idea of only pinning clothing ideas that you own one piece of (or similar to). I always joke that Pinterest needs magic powers so that when you pin an outfit, it appears in the closet. I'd have a sweet wardrobe by now. I really like the idea of authenticity.

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  40. I just wanted to send a note that I quite liked this post, but it seems everyone beat me to it. It made me step back and assess my own authenticity and I felt pretty good about it. Sometimes I feel like I SHOULD feel bad for doing/thinking/wanting but don't. It's so easy to get all tangled up in people's expectations, your dreams, what's popular, and what your mother in law wants you to be. :) Be you. And that's it. Thanks Janssen.

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  41. I've only recently come to the realization that I can read things simply because I enjoy them, and that I don't have to read something just because everyone else is. It sounds ridiculous (and I felt ridiculous when I realized it), but it's made reading so much more enjoyable lately. I am still very much figuring out the other things you've listed, but mostly, I just like simple.

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  42. Ha! I was laughing at your playground comment. Ella is just too young for the playground. When we hit the playground I usually make sure a friend of mine and her kids come too. My kids are old enough to be able to enjoy the playground with little assistance from me. This gives me time to chat with my friends and the kids are off on their own. (not destroying my house, or making a mess of toys I will have to worry about later) Don't rule out the park/playground just yet!

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