on being unique and authentic

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I have two overarching thoughts about the fashion industry. First of all, individualistic people shop at thrift stores. For all the hype about being unique, it makes no sense to me how people shop by trends. Like I heard once, “If it comes in Small, Medium, and Large, it’s not unique; it’s commercial.” Regardless of what the fashion industry says, they aren’t helping us gain authenticity. They’re selling us something. There’s a big difference in that.

Secondly, why the big deal with being unique? The hard reality of it is that people stand out in society not by being different but by doing what everyone else does–just doing it better. This uniqueness- your genuine self shining through (i.e. authenticity) becomes not about being real or even being different, but about being better.

We desire authenticity because it should bring us closer to the people around us. It ought to deepen and strengthen our relationships, and help us grow. Sadly, I find that a prevalent “authenticity” of our society–the “authenticity” that draws attention to itself and follows the latest trends–is doing pretty much the opposite.

There’s a danger of commercializing ourselves in quest for authenticity. In putting our own lives on display and subjecting them to the standards of strangers, we have done nothing to deepen our relationships; but we may face more temptation to fit in and conform to a standard that holds no significance. We may face greater temptation to be visible and affirmed by people who have little bearing on our lives. And we will face the temptation to be absent from our personal reality in the quest to be seen by a wider audience.  

Perhaps it would be helpful to remember in our search for authenticity that we do not have to be unique. Honest and real, yes; but uniqueness does not matter. I think what we’ll find is when we let go of being unique, we will actually become unique. Unique, not for trying, but for letting our authenticity shine through.

Do you see the difference? We are not to be unique in an effort to be authentic. That’s a focus on the outward: a desire to impress, to be seen, to fit in and simultaneously to stand out. Our authenticity–the genuine honesty of our lives–is the thing that is unique, in and of itself. There is no need to be enhanced or promoted, which would cause our authenticity to lose its reality.

It is freeing to put aside the goals of authenticity that society presents, and instead strive for authenticity as a trait of Godly living. Jesus left us the best example of living a genuine life- honest not only before people, but also honest before His God. He lived by a standard higher than His society and experienced a deeper life as a result. He interacted with society in a way that certainly attracted attention, but not for the sake of attention. When there was opportunity, He slipped away to what mattered most, the privacy and personal connection with His Father.

Don’t aim for an authenticity that cheapens what’s real, seeks to prove your worth, or places you on display. Aim for hidden authenticity–like Jesus.

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