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.
Some of the guys I’m working with have joked about initiating a no-shave summer. You know, a summer where you just let your facial hair grow and get all long and manly and unkempt? Some can make it work. Others… not so much.
Well, a few of us girls thought it’d be funny to pretend like we’re doing a no-shave summer, as well. In Clarkston, it’s actually not too difficult to pull off. When you basically have a dress-code of wearing jeans and a t-shirt all summer long, it’s not hard to justify putting down the razor. I mean, let’s be honest: shaving your legs is a drag and just a tad unnecessary if no one can see them anyway. Am I right?
But in a moment of complete honesty, I AM doing no-shave summer. Ladies and gentleman, I am not shaving… my upper lip.
Yes, I have hair on my upper lip!
(Men, ask around and you’ll realize most girls do)
There’s this stigma surrounding the idea of girls having hair on their upper lip. I mean, girls don’t really want to be associated with mustaches. Especially this girl right here. I swear I’m like part Italian, part ape. My hair is so thick and long and dark. It’s just always been that way, and the hair on my face isn’t much of an exception.
But shortly before I came to Clarkston, I decided to stop trying to mask it. Why?
Because I was spending so much time worried about what I look like when the truth of the matter is that PEOPLE DON’T CARE.
I stopped including shaving my upper lip in my weekly maintenance schedule, and no one noticed.
The only person to mention my sudden growth of a mustache was my boyfriend. And he doesn’t count because he’s a lot more acquainted with my face than most people.
Not only that, but I stopped tweezing every week. How many people commented? None.
And then I stopped wearing as much makeup. Who told me I was ugly? Nobody.
Then I decided to wear my hair back in a messy bun just about everyday, cutting down on the time and stress that maintaining this wild mane usually required. And guess who cared? No one.
And I don’t think it’s because people are being nice. I’m at the point with my roommates where I know they’d say something if they noticed an obnoxious uni-brow growing on my face.
The truth is that I have spent a good majority of my life trying to make myself look perfect when I could’ve just let those things go and nothing would have changed.
I would still have the same friends. I would still feel just as pretty.
And please know that this security I have only came through practice and persistence. I was pretty horrified when I looked in the mirror the first couple days after letting the hair on my face grow back. But I stuck with it. I was THAT tired of caring.
Yes, I’m still tempted to hide all these imperfections. I want to smooth down my hair and pluck my eyebrows and get rid of my girl mustache. I want to keep my nails painted and get rid of the calluses on my feet. I want to lose a few pounds and whiten my teeth.
But the longer I hold off, the more victorious I feel.
In a way, I feel like my persistence is my way of standing up for the women who feel like they have to hide behind acne treatments, diets, and tweezers. This is my way of fighting the fear that us girls have of our NATURAL beauty. And I don’t mean the kind of natural where you use a nude lipstick and a gold-shimmer eye shadow. I’m talking about the unshaved, unmasked kind of natural. The natural we only let our pets see.
I’m tired of being insecure around anyone and everyone who isn’t my dog. I don’t want to feel like I have to hide my under-eye circles or leg hair just to go out in public.
And I certainly don’t want to shave my darn mustache.
Girls have hair on their upper lip. Deal with it.
It’s no-shave summer, baby.
P.S. I’m fully aware that people are now going to start noticing it more. WELL, GO AHEAD AND STARE. At least I called it first.
So this might be a weird thing to write about, but I feel like I’ve reached the point where I don’t really care who reads what I write. As long as one person gets something good out of it, then I’m okay with approaching uncomfortable topics.
And the uncomfortable topic for the day is: a woman’s body.
Men, you can just stop reading now if you want. I wouldn’t blame you for not wanting to dive into the realms of feminine issues in the middle of a Tuesday.
Especially considering I’m going to be discussing the dreaded “time of the month.” AKA PERIODS.
There. I said it.
I’ve been reading this book by Stasi Eldredge (author of Captivating) called Becoming Myself and one chapter in particular really intrigued me because it discussed an element of a woman’s life that I don’t tend to concentrate on so much: the body.
She brings up a very good point. “I am my body just as much as I am my spirit, my soul, my emotions, my dreams, my desires, and my sense of humor” (Becoming Myself p.51)
The body matters, too.
When I really stop to think about it, a majority of conversations or thoughts involving my body are negative and filled with hate.
I HATE getting my period. I HATE cramps. I HATE bloating. I HATE being so incredibly emotional.
And even when I’m not on my period, I find things to complain about. I’m not happy when I’m bloated and I’m not happy when I’m thin. I feel too curvy one day and not curvy enough the next. The circles under my eyes are too dark, my skin is too dry, the hair on my legs grows back too quickly, and LORD ALMIGHTY, how do I control this frizzy hair?
I know I am not the only one who does this because I have friends. And my girlfriends and I are notorious for griping about our bodies together. We actually feel like we’ve bonded after ranting back and forth for five straight minutes about how gross we feel.
And to be honest, I love those conversations. In those moments, I feel free to complain and whine and get all weepy because I know that these other women know EXACTLY what I’m feeling. We even celebrate when we’re on our cycle at the same time because we know we can suffer together. It’s like we’re blood sisters (pun very much intended).
But on the flip side, we don’t have too many conversations praising our bodies. Sure, every now and then we’ll send some selfies to each other (#stunna) on days when we feel particularly pretty (or HOT, if I’m going to be honest). We occasionally gush about how great each other’s hair and outfits and makeup looks. But not so often our own. Most of our discussions pertaining to our bodies and appearance aren’t positive.
I wish this wasn’t so.
I’ve been growing into the idea of loving and cherishing my body for the past several years, but I’m far from fully appreciating it. I haven’t had children yet so I certainly can’t pull the whole “it gives life” card. I’m not married and I’m not having sex so I can’t even pull the whole “it unites me to another person in God’s design” card.
For now, my body seems to just be… my body. It’s just there. I have one. That’s all.
But ladies, there IS so much more to it than that.
This is quite revolutionary for me. I feel like I’m at a point in my life where it’s vital that I begin to change some of my perceptions because one day my body WILL be bringing life into this world and be wonderfully enjoyed by a man I commit the rest of my life to.
If I don’t accept or understand my body now, I might not be able to appreciate it for all that it is when it does do those miraculous things.
The truth is that our bodies are already miraculous.
And when we hate our bodies, it’s like we’re saying, “God, Your design stinks.”
Now I know that we probably won’t change our perception about our bodies overnight. In a few weeks I know I’m going to be griping about cramps all over again. In fact, I have a dreadful Pap smear at the end of this week (TMI maybe) and I’ve been cursing my body for the past week for requiring so much care. I don’t want some doctor investigating my uterus.
Yet I know deep down my body matters. It needs to be taken care of. It needs to be treated nicely.
And I haven’t been treating my body very nicely, at least not with my words or attitude.
I really think that it’s important for us women to start valuing our bodies. If we dedicate so much time tending to our emotional and spiritual needs through encouragement and prayer, then why not our physical needs, too?
Our body needs love.
Our body needs encouragement and prayer and affection and attention. No matter what size we are or what time of the month it is, our bodies should be appreciated. They are gifts.
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
Perhaps part of honoring God with our bodies is treating our body nicely. Instead of tearing it down, we acknowledge the beauty of God’s creation. We let our bodies do their thing (menstrual cycles, gaining weight, and all) as a way of surrendering to God’s plan for our lives.
I’m still going to cling to chocolate and Ibuprofen when distress hits, but I’m going to try to not despise what my body is doing. I’ll still cringe as I have a hard time buttoning my jeans, but I’m going to try to not bash my figure. As Stasi puts it, “to be a woman is a glorious thing” (p.52).
Maybe we can just start thanking our bodies for what they go through, even if we aren’t truly grateful. Maybe over time, we really will be able to see ourselves differently in the mirror. I think self-talk really does help. Prayer, too. What if we just started acknowledging things, GOOD things, about our bodies one day at a time?
I wonder if our confidence would grow. Maybe we’d curb some of that insecurity. Maybe we’d be able to survive that time of the month without biting everyone’s head off.
I certainly don’t know what could come of this considering I’m just now starting to wade into the waters of appreciation, but I feel like it’s got to be good for us to some extent, right?
I dare you (if you are a woman) to start taking some of this seriously. Take your bodies seriously.
Your body is beautiful! That’s sometimes difficult to say out loud or even fathom, but it’s true.
That’s all I have to say on this topic. I’m sorry if this was uncomfortable to read. You could’ve stopped twenty paragraphs ago.
And men, if you’ve made it this far, I’m thoroughly impressed. Don’t be afraid to make eye contact with me after reading this. I may be one of the few women you know who would dare say such things so openly, but know that every female you encounter holds many of the same feelings, thoughts, and concerns about her body. It’s just the way we are, the way we think. I think it’s good for men to dive deeper into what being a woman is like just so he can properly love and care for her. Likewise, I believe a woman has a duty to know more about herself and also about the men in her life.
It’s important to unveil some of these secrecies and mysteries.
And now that I have peeled back this one layer, you may carry on with your Tuesday.
The saddest thing I’ve realized is that for a majority of girls (myself included), being a woman is characterized by shame.
We are ashamed of being women.
And that’s not something you would normally say so blatantly and directly. Some of you might not even agree that’s true.
But when you look at the things we as women are ashamed about, the things we fear and worry about, the things we beat ourselves up for, it’s clear as day that we are ashamed of being the women we are. Deep down we feel like we’re too messy.
We’re ashamed that we are emotional. We’re ashamed of how easy it is for us to get our feelings hurt. We blame ourselves for not being more secure and fear that the people in our lives are going to leave when they realize how impossible it is for us to find emotional stability. And so out of that shame, we hide our feelings. We swallow our hurts and wounds and sometimes let people step on us so we don’t have to share our pain and risk being seen as lunatics. We’d rather be hurt and find ways to get past it on our own than own up to the fact that we are emotional, fragile beings who need assurance and hugs. We don’t want to have those conversations that reveal just how insecure and emotional we really are.
We’re ashamed that we want affection. We’re ashamed of our desires to receive those sweet “good morning” calls, find flowers on our doorstep, and be told that we are beautiful. We feel like men will look at us funny or find us impossible to satisfy and so we let things slip and allow others to treat us the way they want to treat us. We’d rather cry to ourselves than let on to the fact we require affection, affirmation, and admiration to feel loved. We’re ashamed of how hard it is to feel loved as a woman. We’re afraid that we ask too much and so sometimes we don’t ask at all.
We’re ashamed of our bodies. We’re ashamed that our bodies are different from other girls’, the ones plastered all over Pinterest with the clothes that fit in just the right way. We’re ashamed that we can’t pull off a single outfit that the mannequins wear in Forever 21. We’re ashamed when we’re too modest and we’re ashamed when we’re not modest enough. When girls with smaller waists and a smaller chest wear the same things in our closet, they’re seen as cute while we feel slutty. Because of this shame, this feeling that we ought to have a better body and better appearance, we resort to envy, discreet dieting, and shopping splurges. We constantly have to battle the lies we hear when we’re looking in the mirror. How is that we feel so confident without makeup one day and then feel utterly ugly without it the next? We are addicted to add-ons and trends as a way of fighting the lies and shame we have to deal with day after day.
We’re ashamed of being women. We’re ashamed of being highly relational and emotional. We’re ashamed of the way we care about our appearance. We’re ashamed of our insecurities and fears and weaknesses.
And that shame is killing us. It’s destroying us.
It’s making us feel less and less like the beautiful daughter of God we are. It’s making us hide more and more from the people who NEED to hear the truth so they can better love us and understand us.
I don’t know how this shame can be combated besides through God’s truth. And I know even then, it’s a matter of a girl’s heart. If she doesn’t want to accept the truth or doesn’t know how, she can be stuck in this shame for a really long time.
But what’s beautiful is when a woman does have her heart open. It’s been wounded enough times to the point where there’s enough cracks to let the truth pour through. So here’s the truth just waiting to pour through:
You are a beautiful woman. You were never designed to live in shame. You are beautifully made. God knows your heart and delights in it. You are made in God’s image. You are made to have emotions and feelings. You are made to care about relationships. You are made to be loved and accepted and cherished. You ARE loved and accepted and cherished. You are worthy of being romanced. You are perfectly imperfect. Your life as a woman is not to be looked down upon. Your life as a woman is meant to be celebrated. You are a woman worth celebrating.
I love you, sisters.