Living An Authentic Life: My Journey

Living An Authentic Life: My Journey

May 2008
As most of you might know by now, I’m a believer in what I call “Authentic Living.”

This is a topic that really speaks to me because it affects so much of our life either positively or negatively. I’ve learned this through experience, so I thought I’d share a bit more of my journey of discovery.

By my loose definition, authentic living is living a life that works for you, instead of struggling against the one you have been given. It is finding satisfaction, contentment and fulfillment in the present. It is living on purpose and with purpose. And, perhaps more importantly, it is a life where we are useful to people around us because we are able to give of ourselves in the way we want to.

It can be a life filled with dreams, hard work and determination, but at its foundation is authenticity to both who we are and what is appropriate for us at any given point in life. It is like a compass, it helps us to determine if we are spending our time and money appropriately. It is living well within our means not only financially, but emotionally, physically, time-wise, and in other ways as well.

Learning to live authentically has been a lifelong process for me, as I think it is for most people. What was “authentic” while growing up in our parents’ house is different for what we think is authentic in our 20s or 30s. And often times in those early adulthood years, we don’t know what is authentic for us. We might think we do, and some might even have a firm grasp on who they are, but for most of us, we are “just learning the ropes” of who we really are, separate from our parents. We are still trying out different hats, different paths and really learning who we are and what works for us. With each life change (careers, marriage, children, moving, empty nests), we have to adjust our way of living life.

Living An Authentic Life: My Journey

As I find myself in my 40s, I feel that I am poised now to be living my most authentic life, because I have had more experience with what works for me and what doesn’t. While authenticity is something I always believed in, it has taken time, trial and error to really grab a hold of what it means to me and how I live that out. That is not to say I have it all figured out, I’m still learning and adjusting. I’m still on the journey of discovery and growth.

When I was a young wife, I thought my authentic self was destined to live in some sort of dreamy environment. You know, if I worked hard enough at it I could have the spotlessly clean house, cute cherub children, the perfectly decorated home. It seemed natural for me, as I had grown up in a few homes that were close to most people’s definition of perfection. I had dreamed of my perfect fairytale life as a wife and mom ever since I was little. That was all I knew and it seemed like a realistic option!

But as my husband and I carved our own way in life, it became clear to me that life was different in my new family than it was in my original one. Not better or worse, just different. I had some adjusting to do.

Living An Authentic Life: My Journey

The difficulty I ran into with the perfection route was something always suffered when I tried to achieve it.

Contrary to my original assessment of what life as an adult would be like, I was not in a position to do it all. And usually what suffered were things I held dear. I lacked the time and/or money for my expectations and that led to feelings of discontent and frustration.

It took awhile for me to realize that I was running ahead full steam in a direction that I thought was important, when really it wasn’t what I valued the most or was capable of achieving. My priorities confused me and left me wondering if that was how life was supposed to feel.

So, in the process of redefining how I live, I had to reconcile the parts of me that loved a beautiful environment and the parts of me that couldn’t keep that up! I wanted to live a “beautiful life” and it was part of who I was and how God wired me, but I didn’t always have the money or the time to do things the way I wanted to. I wanted to be true to who I was, but I didn’t know how.

Living An Authentic Life: My Journey

As time has marched on, I have had to redefine for myself what a beautiful life looked like. Again, this process was a part of learning to live authentically. My husband and I moved quite a bit in our married years, I think each time we moved we were seeking more authenticity. A bigger house, a smaller house, a different neighborhood, digging out of a rough financial patch.

While we were able to pay off debts, earn equity in our homes, accommodate career changes and build up our assets, the moving took a toll on our life. We kept working hard on our houses only to move and have to start over.

We’d get our life organized in one house, and then had to re-do it the next. We’d fully landscape one backyard and move to a home that needed the same overhaul. It began to feel like we were on a treadmill and never were arriving at our destination.

It was an exhausting exercise in trying to find authenticity. Looking back, I thought if I got everything arranged in life just so, the right house, the right neighborhood, the right yard, the right decorating and the right size of house, authenticity and contentment would fall into place.

True, if where you are at in life is completely inappropriate for you (your house is way too expensive for your income, for example), then switching homes might be a good idea. And sometimes making a move is just what you need to do to change your life.

But still, many times in life when I made a decision to move or re-do something, my focus might have been off. I would solve one or two problems and create a half dozen more.

Living An Authentic Life: My Journey

What I have learned for myself is that the goal is not always to make everything perfect around me, but to LIVE fully, to the best of my ability, wherever I am. It is being content to balance my life with what God gives me!

I have had to change my focus and perception of how I look at life. Yes, sometimes that means moving to a new house, remodeling or getting a new job in order to live more fully. But sometimes that means projects remain undone for years at a time so I can redirect my time and resources to something else that is more important to me.

Living An Authentic Life: My Journey

Circumstances will ebb and flow, but now that I am fully embracing authentic living, my intent remains the same in spite of my circumstances or whims. Authentic living isn’t necessarily being frugal in every way or living simply, as some people do, it is living on purpose and with purpose according to what I have been given.

I have to make sacrifices in order to fully live with contentment in the moments I have. I can’t chase down authenticity or find it somewhere else, nor can I have every duck in a row at all times. Authenticity looks different at my house than it might look at your house.

You can’t necessarily spot someone who is living authentically just because of the car they drive, the kind of house they live in, the things they have, or the place they buy their groceries.

Authenticity is a series of personal decisions I make every day. While I sometimes think it would be great to go back in time and make life a “do over” I’m content where I am today. Life isn’t perfect, struggles still loom over us and some uncertainty of our future remains. But I’m happy to just fully live in the moments I’m given.

So, in a nutshell, that is my journey towards authentic living.

Living An Authentic Life: My Journey

Comments

  1. My goodness, this is beautifully written. Living authentically is for sure a journey and one that is ever-changing.

    Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring journey.

  2. Oh girl.. you never cease to inspire me! Thank you so much for this post.
    Authentic..Beautiful living is so near to my heart! Forgive me for rambling…but as I am at the end of my 30’s (gosh…say it aint so! lol) I’ve grown tired of trying to fit into one certain mold.. I hope I can teach my children this early on… We need to be who God created us to be! Not what we perceive the world wanting us to be..
    Thank you soo much!!
    I hope you and your family had a wonderful weekend.
    XO

  3. Great thoughts! I’ve found that living with children has forced me to live authentically–kids can spot a fake a mile away ; )

    Look forward to your ideas on concealment.

  4. A very candid and personal post Melissa. To me living authentically is simply living truthfully by adjusting to the different seasons of life and learning to enjoy the process instead of struggling in them. Like you it’s now all coming together in my fourty something time of life and it is incredibly freeing! Thank you so much for such an intimate share!
    xxoo hugs to you sweet friend,
    j

  5. I’m glad I stopped by tonight- I so needed to read your post- I seem to be on that same treadmill – and yikes I turn , dare I say {50 in a few days} and my baby graduates from High School this week, and we have our home up for sale again-yikes-
    Thanks for sharing your feelings- major big help-and prefect timing!

  6. Melissa, truly enjoyed reading about your life journey, I stamp it with full authenticity. I am newly married and am going through the early stages of what you’ve probably gone through and the importance of living in a beautiful ‘ home’ is like top of my priorities always. I shall heed your advice and go slow where necessary! It’s all too exciting at times!

  7. Hugs to you miss Melissa – this is one amazing and inspiring story -you know what I can tell you walk the talk my dear friend

    hugs

    FelicityXOX

  8. Beautiful post Melissa and beautiful images. I love the term “authentic life”. Oprah, who I adore talks often about authentic selves, life etc. Its a wonderful phrase that encompasses so much. Have a great day, Rachael

  9. Very inspiring post! Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  10. Oh, Melissa…so beautiful. It sounds like you’re well on your way to identifying with Paul when he said in Phillipians “I have learned the secret to being content in every circumstance…”. I loved reading this post and that’s the first thing I thought of. It seems no one in our culture talks about contentment & authenticity…it’s all about what we need to do upgrade, climb the corporate ladder, keep up with our neighbors, “super-size” our meal, our home, our life…it is a vicious cycle. Thanks for reminding us to think about what’s really important in life – what truly makes life beautiful and real.

  11. Melissa – Well said! I so identify with this beautiful post. I have and continue to walk the same path. This journey leads us through ever-changing directions and to remain authentic we must constantly change with it. I’m just into my 60’s and I feel that I’ve come to a place where I am very content with ME. I know who I am and what is precious to me. I feel I have found the things that I am meant to do and the ways I am directed to touch others. Thank you much for sharing these wonderful words from your heart. ~Adrienne~

  12. That was so beautifully said Melissa. I think so many of us, myself included, live thinking we should do this or this or that and then it will be right and in the end, like you said, other problems are created. So our front yard looks rather awful but at least I got to spend time drawing with my boy today. You’ve really put it all into perspective. Still I love being surrounded by beauty and it doesn’t have to come at a price, you are so right and so insightful xoox

  13. Thank you so much for this post! I have been mulling on this for a very long time too, and you expressed a lot of things I had thought very clearly and beautifully.

    My husband and I are renting a house in Christchurch, NZ, at the moment, and I often get frustrated at how small it is and how little we can do to change anything – especially as I was lucky enough, like you, to grow up in a beautiful home (I grew up in Harare, Zimbabwe, in a big house with a huge garden and a staff to help keep it looking lovely). I am trying to be at peace with our home and curb my impatience (and desire to have everything perfect right away!) while still making it a happy and attractive place to live. I’m also trying to balance my perfectionism and control-freakiness with having a life – that is, sometimes leaving the vacuuming and playing a board game with my husband instead. I still have a long way to go.

    I am only 23, so still very much in the early stages of learning how to live authentically, but I hope to be as good at it by the time I reach your stage in life. Thanks again for a great post, and sorry for the enormous comment! :)

    I look forward to the next post – sounds like another important subject!

  14. How I can so relate to what you have written so beautifully! In deciding to move home I am looking for something more authentic, less time consuming, less financial commitment and more time to ‘live life’ instead of my house being my life. I applaud you in looking for authenticity in life and embracing what God has given you. Go girl, I’m right behind you!

  15. I found this post very interesting and I could identify with much of it. Looking forward to the next post!
    God bless.
    Terri

  16. God is using you as a tool to spread the word about what is important in our lives. People will do well to listen to what you share. So, so many miss all the wonderful pleasures that exist all around us because they just aren’t paying attention.

    You are so right about going back for a do over. I hear so many people say they would like to be able to go back, but I truly believe they wouldn’t find what they think because they could never be the person to which they have evolved.

    May we all live many more days, and may we each strive to share our joy and reach out to others. You are living your life well, Melissa. I am proud of you.

  17. Thank you for this encouraging and insightful post, Melissa. You have made so many really good points here! It’s obvious that you have gleaned a lot of wisdom from what you have experienced to give to others and that is such a blessing to everyone in your life! You are a special woman! Also, great photos! Thank you!!

  18. Manuela says:

    Hi Melissa!

    Lovely post, Authentic Living is somethings that’s been a goal for me for several years and as you say it is a journey. What I consider Authentic has changed through the years and I’m sure will keep changing. I look forward to reading your next post. Hope all is well.

    xo,

    Manuela

  19. Hi, Melissa, thanks for sharing your journey. I think so many of us have been through that same journey and are still traveling that road of being content with what you have and where you are in life. I’m about a decade ahead of you agewise, but it is a lifetime of learning, I think. My life has not taken the road I would have chosen all the time, but it is what God has given me too and I yearn to make the most of what he has given me , just as you do. I think I’m over having the “dreamhouse” woes, of always wanting more, more, more. I’d just like to putter around on my yard and house now, making it the best it can be & not look around at what I DON’T have.

    I’ve got a drive-by to share with you tomorrow, so I’ll email you the link when it goes up. Beach cottages!

    xo,
    Rhoda

  20. BRAVO MELISSA!!!! I am giving you a standing “O” right here right now.

    You and I have been bloggy buddies for some time now and we have had many email conversations about this very topic and I was overjoyed when I read this statement…”Authentic living isn’t necessarily being frugal in every way or living simply, as some people do, it is living on purpose and with purpose according to what I have been given.”

    Beautiful my friend…simply beautiful! Authentic living is not about the stuff, it is truly about who we are on the inside spilling over onto those around us on the outside. LOVE IT!

    Sorry I haven’t been around much, business is taking off and have been super busy! Miss chatting with ya!

    The Other Melissa ;)
    (Mel’s World)

  21. You write of something I struggle with constantly, and it reminded me of what apostle Paul said:

    Ephesians 4:12
    I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

  22. Beautiful post Melissa!

    Janet

  23. Inspiring entry…

    I love that top room!

    Is it living authentically, to be threatened with law suits?

    Mari-Nanci
    ‘Smilnsigh’

  24. Beautiful and insightful words. I agree with you, and I also struggle with the same ideas. Thanks for the post.

  25. Lovely Melissa,

    What a wonderful article! You truly are expressing important scriptural principals like being content and being thankful for God’s blessings and, most of all, being honest and real. I so needed your post today.

    Thank you!

  26. Hi Melissa,
    I feel we are all a huge group of lucky women holding candles up to light the way for each other as we all stumble and recover in puirsuit of our dreams. The path is rocky, or crooked but the lights stay lit and we eventually get there with help. You really are a candle in the wind.
    Lisa & Alfie

  27. What an inspiring post… I too, (in my late thirties) am learning more to appreciate what I have, and less to yearn for what I may never have, to live for the moment and not just for the ‘future’. I’m learning that, God willing, there will be many happy days ahead, but also that these are ‘the good old days’–right here, right now.
    Thanks Melissa, for sharing and reminding me!

  28. I am bringing you all a big giant {HUG}…you are all such a blessing to me and to each other…thank you all for sharing and affirming and understanding, I think us women are so alike despite our different backgrounds. We can learn from each other’s weaknesses and mistakes, as well as our successes. We need to keep it real. Life isn’t really about having it all (or having what we think we wanted when we started out), it is about becoming who we need to be. That is the challenge! Love to you all…let’s stick together, I like you guys!

  29. wow! I agree with almost everything in there. You expressed it beautifully! Thanks for the little reminder for the day :)

  30. Melissa–

    I just love this post. Thank you for sharing your journey toward YOUR authentic life so honestly with us. This topic resonates with me more than you can know. :)

    –Abby

  31. BRAVO!! such lovely sentiments and expressed so well. i’m encouraged and glad that you are finding contentment and joy in what you have. what a life lesson! i look forward to more of your postings and wish you continued bliss! thank you! jkj

  32. What a great post. Ironically, I was thinking about this same topic last night. What’s important to us now, may not be in a few years…regardless of how we feel about it now. At this moment, I’m more into very simple detail, but who’s to say that I won’t be into ornate furniture in the near future. I think style and design go with life, and the different challenges we face.

    Great photos as well!!!

  33. I was so encouraged by the realness in your post…thank you for sharing your voyage and new discoveries with us. :) It is SO true about LIVING where you are at…as is, content in Him…you will then be content wherever you are, whatever circumstances surround you. Sometimes I guess it take us a while to “get it”. I can so relate to this since we are starting life over…still…and do not have a place of our “own”. I have to watch myself and continue to choose to be thankful for the provision that He HAS supplied…in His own way, maybe not my choice but it IS perfect because it comes from His hands.

    Have a wonderful evening, friend!! :)
    p.s. do ya watch Lost??! ;)

  34. Hi Melissa – Yay for 40’s and figuring out life – simply moving through as if we’re in a beautiful dance. It’s so freeing to know that we can be real. That we don’t have to achieve everything we thought was so important.
    Great post – I’m sure it resonated with so many! Bless you!
    Sandy

  35. Melissa, You hit the nail on the head with this post….I have bought, sold, remodeled, redorated, re-thought so many homes in my adult life. For the longest time, I thought each home had to be my forever home. Obviously, none of them were. I still look for my forever home. When I find it, I will know. But until then I am living authentically in the moment I am in…

    Hugs,
    Penny

  36. Melissa

    I live in a very upscale neighborhood and am not “keeping up” so to speak. We have neighbors where the Dad lives in another city during the week and only comes home on the weekends, another dad who travels over 10 days per month…my husband and I are both home with the kids everyday at 3:30 pm…we do not drive the nicest car around, when we get together with the neighbors (super people–not putting them down for sure!) we cannot discuss stock portfolios or exotic places to travel. I never thought about these things when I was growing up and deciding upon our life together as we dated in college. I did think of afternoons like today where we had a picnic for dinner in the den and watched “27 dresses”. I think I am very happy with a quieter, slower life no matter what else is happening around us. My kids are happy and we tuck each kid in every night ourselves! Content. That’s authentic!

    :0)
    Tara

  37. Melissa Lewis - Off The Wall says:

    That’s the best description of “authentic living” I’ve heard, Melissa. (Especially for being in a nutshell). Beautifully written! I appreciate the time you take to share your heart with all of us and for following God’s calling to inspire other’s.

    Wonderful post!

  38. Vee~A Haven for Vee says:

    Very thoughtful and thought-provoking post. Life certainly is full of twists and turns and we need something solid to count upon. I think your authentic living is serving you well.

  39. Melissa, this was truly an identifying and comforting post for me. I am currently traveling through the same journey to discover authentic living. Although I have come to the realisation that being filthy rich and living in the best part of Sydney just probably isn’t in the cards for me (although anythings possible), I am however grateful for where I do live and what my husband and I have already achieved. We can proudly say we are now debt free however we would ideally like to expand our home for our growing family and to do that we need to either go into more debt or save our money and add on slowly. I’ve had many arguments about wanting to borrow more money and get things done yesterday but now what I’m learning is to slow down, take a breath and know that working hard, sacrificing and saving is the better and less stressful option, and I will finish my dream home in time. The kids aren’t living a lesser life because their room is smaller than ‘the joneses’.

    Anna :)

  40. I’m 44 and have been on the same path it sounds like you have been on. I agree with you 100%. I am now a reformed perfectionist and am trying to be authentic and live my purpose. Thanks for your message.

  41. zoenewone says:

    I will be 57 in a few weeks and “Oh how life has had its transitions and challenges”. Still discovering and finding
    what is the authentic me…’tis an evolving adventure full of
    surprises. Found a watercolor/calligraphy that defines HOME for me: Home is the comforting nest (sanctuary) to harbor the soul. Have been divorced almost 2 years; so this is what home is for me… right now.
    I derive pleasure and “eye candy” from your site. Thanks for graciously sharing with us! Stay blessed.

  42. You have put into words, an ‘awareness’ I have had washing over me since I turned 40, and as you say each day comes a result of a series of personal decisions you make. Isn’t it wonderful to have this awareness and appreciation for living authentically NOW when we are aware of it and can appreciate it! Life is so sweet when you cherish every moment. Such a beautiful post. I have drunk at your spiritual fountain tonight! A-M xx

  43. What an amazing post Melissa…..so well put that I think I need to go back and read it again. I think as we get older (I am in my fifties) we tend to realize what is most important to us. Authentic living to me is just staying positive in daily life and embracing the golden rule, and everything falls into place as it should. ~XO~ Janet

  44. This was a wonderful post. Everyday gives us the opportunity to just start over again! Isn’t that just the best?

    ((hugs)) Rosie

  45. Hi Melissa! What a beautiful and inspiring post! What a wonderful lesson for us all. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us!

  46. Melissa, that is a beautiful post. I took the time to slow down and read it carefully because I know you are a deep thinker and were trying to share with me a hard-won life lesson! What a great teacher you are. I really do feel where you are coming from and feel like i know “exactly what you’re saying”. Although we’ve had a house (proper, not an apartment!) for only 2 years, I’ve already struggled with the having/doing it all dichotomy. I work full time and everything just can’t be perfect. Which is a struggle for me because I’m a perfectionist and want everything perfect – perfect dinners, perfect exercise, perfect looking house, perfect bedding, perfect garden, perfect fridge, perfect clothes, perfect body. Well, it aint happening, and the sooner I began to realize that, the happier I am feeling. And I can’t imagine the extra stresses that come with being a Mom. Thanks for this post. I think I am “on track” too, with getting my values straight before I waste too many years trying to achieve the wrong things. Thanks for the lessons you share, for your wisdom. You can’t buy wisdom like that – it is hard won..hours spent pondering and struggling inside until you figure out what’s right for you.

    I love everything you said about authentic living. That you can’t see from the outside, always, who is doing it. That’s so true. So observant. And like you said, it is all about those countless decisions everyday, and choosing authentic “right for me” things, instead of perfection and instead of making the world happy. GREAT post. And I think this should be the topic of your first book, by the way. ;)

  47. I love this post, your authentic living posts always resonate with me. I live in what 99.9% of the world would consider their dream home, yet sometimes (often) I long for something different…something bigger, something with more land, something closer to the kids school. I often have to shake myself and tell myself to appreciate what I have – a tiny mortgage, a wonderful husband, three healthy and bright children, no financial worries, a life in which we are living well within our means. Reading posts like this makes me realize that I need to want what I have…in so many ways, it is the key to happiness and contentment.

  48. Jessica says:

    I came to this post to look at the pictures, but as I looked on I found my eyes skipped the pictures to continue reading your story. I’m twenty and also think i’m destined to live in a dreamy environment. haha.

    At first my thoughts were, “No, that’s not me. I’m realistic.” But I’m not.. I want that perfectly decorated home! To have the perfect life. The more I read and the more I thought of it, I realized how imperfect my expectations were. I was setting myself up for disappointment as well!

    I know that God has wonderful things in store for my future and this reminded me to let Him have my imperfect dreams of perfection and transform them to something better- what He dreams for me.

  49. Your posts continue to inspire me. As I am on the cusp of turning 40 I find myself in a place of life readjustment and the yearning to reach perfection. Of course, perfection is not possible so I find my life lessons in this season are staying in the present and aiming to live authentically, all of which prove to be a challenge. More and more I find myself prioritizing on people, activities, and purpose that fills my life more authentically and true to who I’m created and intended to be.

    You’re right, it’s a daily decision and it is a journey. Mine continues…

  50. I’m with Kristin here, I have had to keep telling myself be content, bloom right where you are planted because things wasn’t getting accomplished as fast as I thought they should. It’s so hard to just wait and be content but I am also learning things are for a reason so I have to be patient. I really enjoyed reading this post!!!

  51. Melissa, I know you wrote this post nearly three years ago, but I just wanted to let you know how much I love it! It’s so true that you can’t judge who’s living authentically based on what car they drive or where they buy their grocery’s. And I love how you said, “Authentic living isn’t necessarily being frugal in every way or living simply, as some people do, it is living on purpose and with purpose according to what I have been given.” I know I heard before that to be authentic is to be frugal or live “simply” but you’re right! That’s not the case. It’s all about living on purpose and making a decision every day to intentionally be authentic and true to who we are and who God’s made us to be. Thank you for the inspiring post — I love your blog!

  52. This is a great post and I’s glad you linked back to it…It was a pleasure to read…

  53. Hi, I just came over from your post at Incourage. This post is so written for me! I’m constantly fighting the life I’ve been living and my dear hobby, bless him, is trying to encourage to live just as you’ve described here. It’s my perfectionism that is weighing me down. I need to give it to the Lord and embrace what I have with a big fat smile and joyful heart.

    God bless you!

  54. Very nice post– very nice. At 57 I am still learning and growing into authenticity. I find that the more I focus on being the person God created me to be– not who I or others try to force me to be, the more authentic I become.

  55. Thanks for this post…reminds me about what’s important in life. Cheers!

  56. Thank you, thank you, thank you! For so long I have been trying to articulate this feeling that I have when blogging that I am perpetuating this unrealistic image to people reading it. I often say to my husband, “If people only knew…”. You should make badges for this so people can put them on their blogs. “An Authentic Life Blog”. You could start a movement : D

  57. Lee Ruscin says:

    This post is thought provoking and insightful. Thank you for encouraging me to think about a life lived authentically rather than accepting the status quo.

    – Lee Ruscin

  58. Jennifer Nicole Camp says:

    Yes! You express it so well here. Perfectionism truly is a joy stealer. If one can release that burden, the rest seems to take care of itself. Acceptance really is key. Wonderful article. Thank you!

  59. I am so glad I found your blog. I really enjoyed this article. I also appreciate your articles on how to decorate. It is helping me to organize my thoughts on different styles I like and giving me a lot of inspiration for my home. Where did you find those white sliding doors? I would love to replace my mirrored closet doors in our hall way with those. Thank you!!

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