Spreading Authenticity in an Inauthentic World
to be happy: this truly is my aspiration in life, and for a long time before my bipolar diagnosis, i never thought i would get there. finding out what was really going on with me felt like a veil being lifted. although i am still trying to figure out how managing this illness affects my daily life, i can also begin focusing on fulfilling my life’s purpose and being happy rather than just barely getting by from day to day.
in contemplating this new development, i have discovered that my purpose in life is three-fold, and it is directly related to the three #majorkeys that are helping me in my mental wellness journey. my purpose in life is:
- to spread authenticity in this inauthentic world;
to live with boldness, going for my goals unapologetically and inspiring others to do the same; and
to use my creativity to build and cultivate a community of people who support black women and our mental wellness journeys.
over the next few weeks, i want to expand on each part of my purpose because (1) it is deeply intertwined with on the LEAUX’s purpose, and (2) i want to encourage you to contemplate your own life’s purpose and act on it. that being said, let’s look at part one of my purpose: to spread authenticity in this inauthentic world.
the gospel according to LEAUX: chapter I
first, shoutout to Amber W., who made an incredibly insightful comment on last week’s post:
read my mind, why don’t you? while i am a fan of social media and its ability to connect people from across the globe, i am an even bigger fan of authenticity and life, unfiltered. i abhor the idea that so many of us are putting up fronts for the ‘gram, the snap, and other social media sites. i am not innocent in this, either; before my bipolar diagnosis, i would go days and weeks at a time without cracking a genuine smile. during these times, i would either refrain from posting or try to offer a pleasant-ish look that did not betray the turmoil going on within. my Storm Syndrome and "strong black woman" complex demanded such, especially when i would see #BlackGirlMagic all over my feed every day; my depressed and depressing mood was no comparison.
this wasn’t just on social media. on days where all that i wanted was to stay in bed and scream/sleep/weep/die, i would drag myself to work and plaster the same pleasant-ish expression on my face. i tried to ignore the pain of what i was going through in order to portray a poised, polished presence that (on the surface, at least) erased how i was feeling inside.
this facade is the epitome of inauthenticity. after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, i re-decided that authenticity - and honesty with myself - was one of the only things that would get me to come to terms with my illness. i had to show and tell myself that it is ok to be ME, just as i am. i don’t have to put up a front and pretend that the hardships of life don’t affect me. i can ask for help and still be strong. i can truly be myself and still be worthy of walking in this world. as the quoted above, we black women are diagnosed with depression at higher rates than any other group in the country, but many of us go untreated. we need to be honest with ourselves and each other about how difficult life is for us. one thing i have learned is that the first step to being mentally well is acknowledging that you are not ok.
the most important thing that i have learned throughout this process is that inauthenticity kills. literally. ignoring symptoms of mental illness just led to an emotional breakdown for me. but how many people ignored the signs until they were hospitalized? or until they died by suicide? or until they hurt someone close to them? how many people have been told that they don’t need medication; they just need to pray it away? how many of you have held everything in until you exploded - or imploded?
the conversation about mental illness - especially in the black community, and especially when it comes to black women - is a matter of life or death. we must give ourselves - and each other - the permission to be who we are, authentically. we must allow ourselves to acknowledge our own pain, hurt, and anguish, unapologetically. in doing so, we give others the permission to be their authentic selves, and we spread a culture of authenticity rather than a culture of fronting. comparing yourself to others isn't the worst thing in the world, but keep in mind that most people treat social media as their highlight reel. what i want you to keep in mind is that "it's ok to include real life ish on your highlight reel: i promise you, somebody can relate" (M. Friend 2017).
tell me: how do you strive for authenticity in this inauthentic world? leave a comment to let me know, and come back next week for part two of this series!
❤️ lauren dee.
Hamm N. (2014 September 25). High rates of depression among African American women, low rates of treatment. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nia-hamm/depression-african-american-women_b_5836320.html
Ferguson, A. (2016, February 8). "The lowest of the stack": Why black women are struggling with mental health. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/feb/08/black-women-mental-health-high-rates-depression-anxiety