Keeping it Real: When Authenticity Feels Wrong {Day 2}

by | Oct 2, 2013 | Uncategorized


“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” ~ Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

I woke up convinced I was a failure.

Living as the only extrovert in a houseful of introverts, I’m constantly beating myself up for over sharing and expressing feelings in a way that can sometimes cause my family members to shut down. It’s not that I’m offensive, I’m off the cuff. I don’t hide my true feelings well. And sometimes, no matter what your personality type, that can be tricky.

I’m wrestling with discernment, distinguishing the difference between being other than and using discretion. The long pause before speaking has become my best friend.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who struggles with this.

When I read Streams in the Desert the same day I woke up convinced I was an utter failure at communicating, it was like pouring butane on a smoldering fire. This is what I read:

I never saw in her even a hint of an emotion unbecoming to someone who had drunk from the river of the water of life.

That line, well, it made me angry.

Why is it wrong to express emotion, I thought. Why is Christian virtue equated with suppressing our natural feelings? After all, we aren’t robots.


I need to know that you struggle, that you get angry and rant, that you think unkind thoughts at the absolute worst time. I need to know that you have a breaking point, a hot button that looks like a temper tantrum in the middle of the day when things don’t go as you envisioned.

I want to know that you are frail and weak as well as strong and brave; that you don’t have everything figured out and you’re at peace with saying, “I don’t know” when you actually don’t know.

Because how do we understand the transformative power of mercy and grace if we have life all figured out. When we only present ourselves as selectively worded status updates, we alienate people who need hope. People need our failures and messiness, just as much as our victory and joy.

By noon on the day I woke up with a vulnerability hangover, I began to practice loving myself. I admitted to my husband how I felt. Alongside his empathy, I reminded myself that I’m not a failure, that when I judge others and myself, I usurp the power of God. Because there isn’t a single one of us who can be everything to the people we love. Only God can do that.

I don’t have to evaluate myself because I’m not competing to become His equal, just His child growing into loving herself. On some days, like this one, I let go of who I think I need to be so I can embrace who I am.

What about you, how do you practice authenticity?



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  1. Glenda Childers

    My husband is an extreme extrovert … I have been thinking lately how he must feel with me and our daughters all being introverts. I know he was very happy when Jenny married an extrovert. 🙂


    • Shelly Miller

      We find ways of connecting with the outside world when it starts feeling too closed in. And we adapt. I’m so much more at peace now with the introverts world. There is a balance, we just have to figure out what works. I take walks, bike rides, sometimes just shop so I can talk to someone.

  2. cheryl

    Its the exact opposite for me. I am an introvert in a house full of extroverts; loud and boisterious extroverts. I am constantly put off by the strong emotions that run through the house of men I live and have lived with. The motto at my house is go big or go home. My house is full of people who know everything (EVERYTHING), always have an opinion, are never wrong, and never ask for information or directions. (I thank God for GPS, our first Garmin saved many trips and probably our marriage. LOL). I have emotions but no one notices in my house. I have to speak up or just get run over. They don’t mean to be insensitive oafs and they are not being mean on purpose, its just how they are wired.

    • Shelly Miller

      Oh Cheryl, I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry with your comment. I’m sorry and yet, I understand. Perseverance and persistance are your friends. Thankful for who you are and how God made you.

      • cheryl

        Shelly, I don’t know if I should laugh or cry either…it depends on the day, the hormone balance or maybe imbalance, and a whole bunch of other factors that make up a very sophisticated algorithm that is so complex not even I myself know it. LOL.

  3. Kris Camealy

    Shelly, Shelly, Shelly. Seriously. God is so good, right? You know this WHOLE post resonates so much with me. I am pretty much the same in that my feelings hang all out on my sleeve and I have a tendency to speak my feelings without always thinking of how it may affect others.

    This, here:

    Because how do we understand the transformative power of mercy and grace if we have life all figured out. When we only present ourselves as selectively worded status updates, we alienate people who need hope. People need our failures and messiness, just as much as our victory and joy.

    Yep. That. All of that. I appreciate your transparency and honesty here. it’s a gift, I can assure you. Thank you for speaking to my heart.

    • Shelly Miller

      It’s so obvious why God brought us together isn’t it Kris? Only God could do that. Thankful for you, big.

  4. kelli woodford

    Honestly, Shelly? (how many times do i begin my comments with that line? hmmm, i wonder. but seriously, you always pull the honest out of me, girl.) I have a lot of FEELINGS about Streams in the Desert. I mean, sure, there’s some wisdom in there, but often it flirts with the pretentious a bit too close for the likes of me. I’ve found that when I get mad and want to chuck a book across the room, there’s usually something there for me to examine – just like you have here – and learn from.
    Your words always point me toward the deep waters of soul-searching. Of listening in that innermost place. Of hearing the voice that sets me free. This series is aptly named, I believe. 🙂

    • Shelly Miller

      That is such a good point, that reaction we have pointing to something deeper. Perhaps I wasn’t really aware of it at the time, I just wrote in my journal like crazy. I’m so glad to be doing life with you, even if it is through our screens mostly. Just thankful for who you are in my life.

  5. Patricia

    Someone wise told me recently that serendipity is the Holy Spirit at work. And, indeed, what serendipity that I get to read this post today. Late this afternoon, I realized that I struggle with face-to-face conversation not only because I’m an introvert, but because I feel really vulnerable in conversation–in conversation, people get raw me in real-time, and i’m so afraid that my messiness and failure will show, my anger and weakness will show, my breaking point will jump out and clobber me in front of witnesses…i will be too much in some way, or not good enough in some other way. Mercy and grace and I are still getting to know one another. Your post is really moving to me…it hits me right at my center.

    • Shelly Miller

      I call them sacred echoes Patricia, but whatever we call them, its really God loving us isn’t it? Thankful He brought you here, that the message resonated. That is a gift for both of us.

      • Patricia

        “sacred echoes”–how beautiful! 🙂

  6. MsLorretty

    There are days when I wish I could go back into the box and erase any memory of risk out here but …here I am. Honestly, I have a bad case of the “Elijah complex” most of the time because i’m thinking…really God? Am I the only one who stays this intense inside? Apparently not. Can’t wait to meet you someday. 🙂

    • Shelly Miller

      Are you going to Allume by any chance? And yes, you are not the only one who stays intense inside. I sometimes wear myself out with all the things I’m thinking about. It’s just how we are wired. Let’s embrace it!

      • MsLorretty

        Embracing! Yes, I will be there. My first conference evah! Looking to jump into the river some and wade along the edges with no expectations of anyone including myself. Just want to drink and pour wherever God allows.

  7. pastordt

    Do you see me, waving my hand frantically up here in New Hampshire?? YES, I feel all those things. I, too, am an extrovert (moderately so, but still . . .) and every other member of my family was not. And so many of my friends are not. And yes, I want to scream out how I feel somedays and let the chips fall. But over time, I’ve learned (s-l-o-w-l-y) to stop/look/listen (like we used to teach our toddlers!). This is fine writing here, Shelly. (And I’m with Kelli about Streams in the Desert. . . not my fave.)

    • Shelly Miller

      Diana, it was funny to read New Hampshire since you’re a California girl. Hope you are enjoying your trip and I love that you get this. But then I again, that doesn’t surprise me really. Love you!

    • Missindeedy

      Diana! I’m up here waving my hand in New Hampshire too!

      • pastordt

        Why, hello there! I am sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of Eagle Mountain house, and Jackson. It’s a beautiful morning and we’re contemplating which drive to take to see the Lee’s. You live in a beautiful state.

  8. Carolyn Counterman

    Shelly, I struggle with all of those things and more. I emote quite a bit. I can be very authentic, but it ends up where I have to decide between being honest and being brutally honest. I find that there is hardly – if ever – a need for brutality. So I am learning to temper my words while being authentic. It is a struggle that I would not attempt without God leading the way.

    • Shelly Miller

      You bring up a good point Carolyn. There is definitely a fine line we can cross when our words are hurtful or judgemental toward another person. Then how we express ourselves becomes sinful and that is different than being ourselves for sure.

  9. Deidra

    Can I just say I’m glad to read these “reviews” of Streams in the Desert?

    My friend Marge is one of the most authentic people I know. She has taken full advantage of her 92 years, and is quite comfortable in her skin. She tells it like it is. She listens. She is not easily persuaded; she is thoughtful and deliberate in her decisions. If I ask her what she thinks about something, she tells me. Straight up. She never tries to give me the answer she thinks I want to hear. Sometimes what she says is what I want to hear, and sometimes it isn’t. But I know I can trust her. I know she isn’t ever trying to pull the wool over my eyes. I know she’s not trying to manipulate me, or to present herself as someone or something she’s not.

    I want to be like Marge.

    • Shelly Miller

      We all need at least one Marge in our lives don’t we Deidra? I have to believe at 92 that we will also be grounded like that, what do you have to lose at that point. If you can’t be who your are, authentically you by then, well, that is sad really. I am inspired though, by the way you love people and want to learn from them. You keep your heart open, always willing to listen and be present. That is a gift my friend. Thankful for you. You inspire me.

  10. Sylv_R

    Shelly, I’m just wondering what “an emotion unbecoming to someone who had drunk from the river of the water of life” is. Did God not program all that wide range of emotions in us and give us the Psalms as expressions of them, too? Losing our temper, our patience, our courage, our hope are failings (which God in His grace forgives), but is sadness, or inner turmoil, or even anger always wrong? If so,what do we do with all those emotions in Jesus as he walked this earth?
    Carolyn is right. Speaking brutally or acting vindictively is all wrong. But there seems to be this unwritten law permeating too many circles calling themselves Christian that allows only sugar-coated false fronts that don’t “rock the boat.” What results is pretense, even hypocrisy, and failure to confront wrong. It pushes people into becoming “selectively worded status updates” instead of real live people, or trying to… It bothers me…
    But then, I don’t even have to say or do anything for my emotions to be evident. How I feel is almost always written all over my face without my intending.

    • Shelly Miller

      Sylvia, I laughed out loud when I read your last sentence. ME TOO! I don’t know if its a blessing or curse some days. Thankful for you and glad you are here.

  11. Amy Hunt

    OH, MY, Shelly! Saddle me up right next to Kris Camealy (which is why He knitted that girl and I so close together!). I am soooooooo with you here. As in, every thing you’re going through sounds exactly like where I am, too.

    This — “On some days, like this one, I let go of who I think I need to be so I can embrace who I am.” — is a place of surrender is where we say He matters more than me. It’s where His glory lies and nothing else matters. And what I’ve been learning is the heart of worship.


    • Shelly Miller

      Amy, you are good company. Love your heart surrender and tenderness in following Him.

  12. Linda@Creekside

    Ah, Shelly, be assured that we are all wearing that struggle …

    • Shelly Miller

      Oh yes, I know that. It’s what gives me the courage to write about it.

  13. Jen Armstrong

    While I’m not really an extrovert, I don’t fall far in the introvert category either. Most times, I think I tend to teeter on the balance between the two. Even so, on the outside I tend to express an introvert side, afraid to speak my mind, afraid of offending others and yet in my mind, I have a world of words to share. Where the balance comes in is I carefully (not always wisely) the people I am willing to share those words with.

    I too, feel I need to hear that others aren’t put together perfectly all the time. Thank you for your imperfections, for being real and for admitting you need to see that in others as well 🙂

    • Shelly Miller

      We all struggle don’t we? And we don’t need to reveal everything but we find a pathway to healing in empathy. Empathy is needful for us to become fully human I think. And if we aren’t willing to reveal ourselves, then empathy can’t do its work. Thanks for being here Jen, appreciate your thoughts.

  14. Missindeedy

    The three most authentic words in the English language: “I Don’t Know.” I struggle mightily, too, Shelly. I do! As an extrovert, I think it was so convicting to read: ” When we only present ourselves as selectively worded status updates, we
    alienate people who need hope. People need our failures and messiness,
    just as much as our victory and joy.” Yes.

    • Shelly Miller

      If we could all let go of what other people think . . .think of that freedom. Bliss.

  15. LuAnn

    Shelly, I wonder if the “Streams” you read is the one I argued with. I actually went on my Streams app and commented my disagreement. I think that Christ in us makes us more alive, invigorates not numbs us. In that fully alive state I feel the freedom to be honestly who I am and to express what I feel. He is a safe haven. I am sweetly accepted. When I ask, “search me, show me what got me going, what I’m thinking, feeling, wanting and more importantly what You’re thinking, feeling and wanting,” I experience his unconditional love in His answer. I wish I could express the penetrating power of His love when it comes in repentance-the clear revelation of my twisted emotions and actions just before fading in His brilliant love. Words fail.

    • Shelly Miller

      I am so impressed that you actually took the time to disagree with Streams in the Desert. But then again, of course you did, your my best friend. Love you and your thoughts. They always inspire me.

  16. Karrilee Aggett

    Love this… just the very heart of it is so good… hard to act out -especially as writers, I think – because we preach vulnerability but we forget that – as Brene says so beautifully – not every one has earned the right to hear my story! It’s a tough balance that needs grace and wisdom… and chocolate never hurts!

    But oh for the boldness to just Live out Loud… it brings freedom and it is always worth it!

    • Shelly Miller

      I think you describe the tension we all feel as writers Karrilee. How much is too much? There is a balance I believe. The more I write, the easier it is to discern it. Our spirit lets us know when we’ve crossed the line. There is a difference between healthy fear and conviction.

  17. DeanneMoore

    You know a few years back I figured out that I didn’t have it all figured out…and I was found out by others who may have thought I thought I had it figured out, outed with a stint in a mental hospital (or two)! That whole experience changed me, humbled me and help mold me into the kinder and gentler Dea—-except for when I am not. And that happens mostly with my family, but I went off on someone recently when my blood was boiling, and I took some low shots even though it was (or it might have been) true. It was ugly and I felt shame and I wouldn’t name it and I rationalized and hated myself for a couple of days. It seemed all I had done to live whole-hearted, I had blown up with my dynamite mouth. I have recovered by the grace of God and remembering that kinder gentler me isn’t perfect either. I want to be a grace giver and most times I am. But when I not…well it isn’t pretty… All that to say I practice authenticity with caution on the days when the hormones are off…

    • Shelly Miller

      Oh, you made me laugh. Only because I’ve done that more times than I can count (or want to remember). ack. And the funny thing is that I had a whole train of thought about this today and wrote it my journal. Maybe it will work into something readable. More than that, it confirms our friendship. We are often on the same page. And those hormones? Its the first question I might ask God, why he gave us those when they cause so much trouble. Remember Eve? That may be his answer.

  18. Christie Purifoy

    Shelly, this is fascinating and so helpful for me to read. I think we are almost exact opposites in this regard (I keep my feelings so buttoned up even I don’t know what’s there). The truth is I often feel terrible about the difficulty I have being honest, speaking up, sharing emotion – just being vulnerable. I could easily look at someone like you and feel even more ashamed. Except: having shared your story and your own insecurities I’m forced to admit that maybe it takes all kinds? Maybe it was intentional on God’s part when he made you you and he made me me? Ok, that’s an obvious point, but sometimes I really need to see the obvious. So, thank you.

    • Shelly Miller

      I think it does Christie, it does take all kinds. And perhaps that is the walk of maturing in Christ and what loving ourselves looks like, accepting the way we are, period. Sometimes the obvious is an epiphany for me too, well maybe more than sometimes. Thanks for the follow btw.

  19. Emily Wierenga

    oh friend, i wear my emotions on my sleeve! this, another reason why we are kindreds… the world is a hard place for us bleeding hearts… but oh, the intimacy we can feel with Jesus…

    • Shelly Miller

      Holding you close in my prayers, we need each other don’t we? Thankful for your friendship.

  20. smoothstones

    Hi, Friend. I wanted to share something regarding your statement here: “I need to know that you struggle, that you get angry and rant.” Traditionally, I’ve gotten angry and ranted A LOT. What I’ve learned, though (and what I’m trying to remember in the heat of the moment) is that my anger isn’t an indication that I’m being vulnerable, but rather a defense mechanism. When I’m feeling hurt, disappointed, threatened, sad, lonely, afraid, etc., anger is my go-to place. And my husband, in particular, NEVER gives me what I want emotionally when I’m angry. Instead, he turns defensive and sometimes ugly. So what I’m learning to do is figure out what the true emotion is and then tr my best to project or share that without the anger. It’s hard work but very important work, I think.

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