I’m going to tell you a secret.
Writing these posts every week terrifies me.
It has nothing to do with being self-conscious (trust me), or thinking my writing isn’t good (I’m sure it’s fine), or worrying that I don’t have something to say (that’s rarely the case).
It’s because this is a representation of who I am as a person. And for those of you who don’t know me in real life, this may be the only representation you ever get.
And that is truly terrifying.
I want people to have a honest understanding of who I am, and what I am struggling with. But trying to present my authentic self is also so much more exposing than I had anticipated it being.
One of the first blog posts I ever wrote (looking back now is a little cringe inducing) [link] was about the struggle I have explaining to people that I work for the Church. I was concerned that presenting myself as a religious person upfront would alienate some people. Honestly, it did and frequently still does. But now I also struggle with how to present myself within the Orthodox community.
How can I be authentic and relatable without overexposing myself?
It’s a difficult balance to strike.
And I’m increasingly aware that the things I write and publish here are out there in the world for anyone to stumble upon. Which inevitably leads me to wonder, am I presenting who I really am?
Of course, some days even I have no idea who I am, so how could I expect you to?
It’s the same with the way I manage my social media. I’m so careful (I think we all are) to make sure I’m highlighting the things I want seen in my life. Every post constructs an image of the me that I want you to see, which isn’t me in my raw form. It’s something painstakingly created to maximize the positives and minimize the negatives.
Which is fine, I guess. But it’s not real.
And it’s not particularly comforting to be presented with only the best versions of everyone you know, as if you’re the only one struggling and having bad days. It makes it that much harder to feel like the best version of yourself.
Facebook is really good at letting you know that every single person you went to high school with is having a baby (or so it seems) but less good at reminding you that sometimes it’s hard to make friends as an adult, or that it’s okay if you’re the ONLY ONE not getting a Master’s Degree.
It’s very tempting to run from these struggles, to hide them. But they help define who I am, whether I’d like to discuss them or not.
These are the hardest things to be honest and open about. And that’s a big part of why these posts make me nervous every week.
Whatever version of myself I choose to present to the outside world doesn’t change the person that I actually am. I can’t hide that from myself and I can’t hide that from God. And no matter how scary vulnerability and authenticity are, I like to think that it’s more helpful to discuss our shortcomings than to pretend we don’t have any.
Which is why (despite the internal struggle I face every week of how personal is too personal) I still try and share stories that will actually help people get to know me. Because (as I talk about a lot) the Church isn’t just you or me, it’s the Body of Christ. We’re a community that should be helping lift each other up.
And if I can’t be honest about where I am, I can’t expect anyone to be honest with me about where they are. Which leads us all to the shallow place of being simply Facebook-style friends, sharing carefully crafted posts rather than who we actually are. If that’s all we are, then we can’t help each other, or at the very least offer solace and help others realize that they aren’t alone in this struggle.
So while it’s unlikely that I’ll share all the intricacies of my life here (you wouldn’t be interested anyway) I am striving to be as authentic as I can in the way I present myself, not just in these blog posts, but in all interactions. So that I can come together with the people I meet in our shortcomings and strive to be better Orthodox Christians.
Which is all I want for any of us.
Charissa is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. Charissa grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah and studied political science at the University of Utah. She enjoys sunshine, the mountains and snowcones. Charissa currently lives in New York City.
For more on being open about our struggles, check out this episode of Be the Bee:
And for more on building relationships, check out this episode of The Trench