Many of you have been reading my Authentic Project posts each week and volunteering to be interviewed, which means the world to me. The fact that I get the opportunity to sit down with beautiful women and hear their beautiful stories is already pretty awesome, but then add the fact that people actually want to be part of what I’m doing? Amazing.
Here’s the thing, though: The Authentic Project was NEVER meant to be just me.
I know that it was months ago when I first shared my vision for the Authentic Project, but there was a caveat many have seemed to brush over or dismiss since that day.
As much as I knew I was going to enjoy sitting down with girls and interviewing them about the things God has put on my heart, I also felt deep down that I couldn’t do this forever. Not only that, but I couldn’t do this alone.
This is why I encouraged other women to submit their own Authentic Project interviews from the get-go. I envisioned my inbox flooding with emails from women who are bravely sitting down with others and having the same crucial conversations. I pictured an army of authentic women rising up, choosing to lay down their armor and invite others to be vulnerable alongside them.
But I haven’t seen a single woman take the initiative to do the same thing.
So I’m just going to assume that you missed the memo and the thought never occurred to you. And that’s why I’m going to make sure you don’t miss it again.
The Authentic Project requires you.
I know you’re busy. I know that a lot of people demand a lot of things from you. I know that your responsibilities have been piling up and it’s getting to be too much. I know you’ve been trying so hard to get your priorities in order and it’s just not working. I know all of these things because I’m there with you.
I laugh with people about how often I’m at Starbucks conducting these interviews, but during the busy, chaotic weeks it’s actually not so funny. My weekly budget basically consists of tithing, saving, and Starbucks-spending. Throughout the week, I’m constantly trying to schedule meetings, give each woman at least an hour or two of my time, and transcribe what I’m recording during these sessions so the interviews are ready to be posted every Friday.
It’s a lot of work and I’m easily exhausted because I’m trying to do it all on my own.
This is why I am choosing to pause from this project for a moment. I don’t want you to think that I am quitting because I am NOT giving up this project whatsoever. I am still just as committed to the Authentic Project, if not more. My vision remains clear and my heart is still beating for this cause. Yet I need to stop for a second and catch my breath. I also want to allow other women to catch up to me.
I’m not going to get down on my knees and beg for someone to do the Authentic Project with me, but I am encouraging every woman who is reading this to try. I know that what’s on my heart isn’t necessarily on your heart, but I also know there ARE those who are on the same page as me and are just as eager to see the Authentic Project in action as I am.
If you are regularly reading the Authentic Project interviews, are in support of what I am doing, or have actually expressed interest in the project to me in person, I am speaking specifically to you.
You have no idea how humbling and moving having these “interviews” (which are, in essence, conversations) can be. I’ve sat across from crying women as they share with me many of the same struggles I have in my own life. I’ve left interviews with a deeper compassion than when I walked in and a stronger conviction than when I first started.
The more I’ve done this, the more easy it’s become. The questions I ask are memorized, yet over time I’ve found myself able to instantly invent new ones and easily guide the conversation along. These interviews aren’t difficult when you are being moved by an authentic interest and care. I’ve even become a slightly better Instagram photographer.
I so badly want you to experience what being on THIS side of the Authentic Project is like.
If there’s even the slightest amount of curiosity in you, I would love to see you try conducting an Authentic Project interview following these steps:
Step One: Find a woman, any woman.
Step Two: Ask that woman to sit down for coffee or lunch. Heck, invite her into your home. Tell her what you’re going to be doing so she’s not caught off guard.
Step Three: Use a smart phone to record your interview.
Step Four: Begin interviewing. The questions I use are listed below, but feel free to create your own. I often add in unplanned questions between answers, depending on where the interview takes us. This “free flow spontaneity” is called having a normal, intentional conversation.
- What are some of the things you want to do with the rest of your life?
- What do you think is one of the hardest parts about being a woman?
- What do you think is one of the hardest parts about being you?
- Do you find it hard to be vulnerable? Why or why not?
- What would you say or do if you weren’t afraid of being vulnerable?
- What do you feel like you need the most from people in your life right now?
- What do you feel like you need the most from God?
- Who is one person you want to be more authentic with?
Step Five: Take a picture of that woman. I usually take fifteen or so pictures so I can let them pick the one they like best. And yes, I would ask them to pose. Don’t hate because you know the pictures end up looking cute.
Step Six: Go home and transcribe pieces of the interview that resonate with you or you know could resonate with someone else. I call these pieces “snippets.” If you’re too lazy to do this step, find a way to send me the audio file of the interview and I’ll most likely be able to transcribe it for you.
Step Seven: Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the name of the woman you interviewed, the pictures of that woman that you took, and the snippets of the interview you transcribed. I will combine everything into an Authentic Project post.
Step Eight: If you are pleased with what you read after the interview you send me is published, do it all over again. And again.
That might not sound simple to you right now, but I promise it becomes easier the more you do it. The hardest part is being willing to set aside the time for it. The Authentic Project requires intentional communication, but I believe this is one of the reasons for why it’s meant so much to so many people. A lot of us want to see more intentional, authentic women in this world.
If you choose to begin doing this with me, even if you just decide to do one interview, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
If you’re thinking of conducting an Authentic Project interview, let me know so I can encourage you and be of assistance (also so I can hold you accountable when you feel like chickening out). Please don’t hesitate to ask me any questions you might have. For further clarification, it might help to look at some of the past interviews I have published.
Again, this project needs you. I need you. I don’t want to beg, but I won’t lie either.
Thank you for considering being part of this project with me. My vision always was and still is for more and more women to be a part of this movement of intentionality and authenticity.
In the meantime, you will keep seeing interviews being published on my blog — not every week, but a little each month. I would love to sit down with each and every woman to hear her stories and what’s on her heart. I will continue to do so as much as I am able.
But because I’m only one woman, I’m calling out to any woman who is listening: Be a part of the Authentic Project with me and see what happens.
I have to admit something to you.
I’ve been cowardly for the past couple months. You wouldn’t know it from looking at me considering my new Facebook page for my blog, the investment I put into this site to make it my own, and the book proposal I’ve been steadily working on for the past month.
But I have been cowardly because I intentionally didn’t do something I felt God calling me to do because I was afraid of failing.
A few months ago, something began formulating in my head. A project of some sorts. I spent weeks planning it, praying about it, and contemplating it, and I felt the push from the Spirit to jump into it after returning from Clarkston. But when I did return, I became complacent and I pushed the project to the side.
I was scared.
I decided to do something more safe, like sharing cool blog posts and article once a week and calling it Friday Finds. It was a nifty idea, I thought. But it was only giving me more reason to hold off on the idea God was birthing in me.
And if that’s what Friday Finds is doing, then I don’t want to do Friday Finds anymore.
In fact, I’m removing Friday Finds altogether. I share a good majority of those links on my Twitter already. Friday Finds just takes up space on this blog that I could be giving to God and to this project.
I see now that I can’t keep writing about being brave if I’m not willing to be brave with this.
So I am officially announcing my upcoming project, one that I think you’ll like and benefit from greatly. I believe this is something God’s been leading me into and I want Him to get the glory and credit in this.
More details are coming soon, I promise. For right now, I’m just going to give you a name. I know that if I at least do that, then I can’t easily back down.
I’m tired of letting my fears dictate my life. I know what is true. I know God’s sovereignty and goodness is true. I know His work in my life is true.
And my desperation to be brave is true, too.
If I really think about it, I have nothing to lose. And if this is where God is leading me, I have everything to gain.
I’m wrestling with what it means to be authentic.
Because more often than not, I’m giving off a false impression of myself.
I’m not that calm, collected girl who walks into class with her coffee and combat boots, no care in the world. I’m not that wise, oh-so-godly girl who sits in Bible studies and leads worship because Jesus is all she thinks about and lives for 24/7. I’m not that confident, positive girl who just likes to laugh at jokes, meet with friends at coffee shops, and wear yoga pants (because they’re by far the comfiest things in the world).
I might try to look like that girl. And I might even succeed. But she’s not me.
Truthfully, I’m still figuring out what kind of girl I am. I’m still discovering my interests, likes and dislikes, and personality. I’m learning that I’m a lot like my mother, which brings into question how much of me is really me. I also know that I often mold into my friends, putting on a different mask to be around different people. And I know better than anyone that I’m a messy, complex person who is one way today and then a totally different way tomorrow.
Can the real Jessie Nyland please stand up?
In all of my wrestling, I’ve been learning a lot about myself, the world we live in, and God.
And here’s one of the most important things about being authentic that I’ve seen and am now believing: it begins with telling the truth.
You’re not going to destroy all those false images that have been built up around you overnight. You can’t dismantle all those lies just by saying to yourself, “okay, be YOU now.”
Odds are that if you have been pretending long enough, you’ve started to believe that girl is really who you are.
So authenticity has to start somewhere, and I believe it starts with telling just one truth. One scary but necessary truth.
And after that truth gets out there, you tell another one. And another one. Until eventually, when people see you, they don’t just see the girl with the nose ring, combat boots, and cool blog. The one who keeps to herself and seems to have her life together.
They see the truth.
They see the girl who’s insecure, weird, moody, and confused. They see the girl who’s struggled with perfectionism all her life, but is learning how to keep that under control in her relationships and everyday life. They see the girl who loves God, but has nowhere near all the answers to living a faithful, godly life. They see the girl who has no idea what she’s doing.
The art of being authentic is telling the truth so people can stop seeing one thing and start to see another.
And in seeing you in this new light, you are somehow given permission to keep being yourself. After all, once the truth is out there, you can’t really take it back. Might as well keep unraveling.
I think this is why I write the way I do, why I’m becoming more and more honest about who I am. I’m tired of the lies I think people might believe about me, the lies that say I’m fine and I love my life and my faith is on point and I don’t need help.
(and I’m also a little tired of the lies I believe about many of YOU. There’s nothing more crippling than the insecurity that comes from seeing someone in this perfect, Instagram-filtered life and knowing I could never be that)
Authenticity needs to be more common. I’m pretty sure I need it if I’m going to stay sane.
I made an Instagram like four days ago and I’m already considering deleting it because I’m OBSESSING over what filters to use, to hashtag or not to hashtag, and why-oh-why is this girl so drop-dead gorgeous and perfect while I’m…. not?
You see, this is hurting me. The lack of authenticity and vulnerability I see all around me is hurting me.
It’s why I took so long to tell anyone about my loneliness or sadness. It’s why I don’t ask people out for coffee or invite anyone to come over to my house. It’s why I feel awful after watching a movie with beautiful, stick-thin actresses. It’s why I feel like a failure in every aspect of my life.
I believe that everyone else in the world is pretty and perfect while I’m pitiful and pathetic.
And that’s not healthy or even true.
We’re ALL really good liars.
And I’m so tired of being one.
If we’re going to have healthy relationships with others and with ourselves, we have to start telling the truth. Yes, the scary but necessary truth.
And if we’re going to have a healthy relationship with God, we have to start believing the truth about who HE says we are, too.
This is my new philosophy and it’s taken me many years to get here.
Here’s my truth for today: I’m far from feeling secure in who I am. But I so badly want to be. And I’m clawing at these lies as fast as I can, hoping to reach the point where I can look into the mirror and say, “this IS you.”
I don’t think I want to be that perfect, happy girl in my profile picture anymore. I want to be a real girl. An honest one. And even though I know you might be holding onto your own false images, I hope you can feel just a bit more comfortable being yourself after seeing the real, honest me. I want to invite you into realness, too.
Can we please, for (literally) the love of God, start telling the truth? You and I both, hand in hand. Just pushing those truths out there into the blinding public eye so the lies can leave us in peace to be our true, beautiful selves.
All it takes is just telling the truth. One scary but necessary truth at a time.