If I’m being honest, I usually find authenticity nearly impossible.

I spend too long staring into the mirror, too long thinking of Instagram captions, too long wondering what my friends think of me. I throw around words like “assimilation” and “ethnocentrism.” I have conversations in my head before they even happen to make sure they work in my favor. I put up a false front to get the attention I so desperately want. I let myself believe the lie that “I only matter if…”

I’ve begun to realize there is an antidote to this poison of shame and isolation.

It’s called vulnerability.

I recently read a book called “Scary Close” by Donald Miller. It’s about authenticity and how crucial it is to meaningful relationships.

“How else will we connect with people unless we let them know us?” Miller asks.

One of my favorite TED Talks, “The Power of Vulnerability,” which has well over four million views, presents similar concepts. The speaker, Brené Brown, research professor at the University of Houston, defines “shame” as “the fear of disconnection.” She believes that shame is what happens when we ask ourselves, “Is there something about me that, if other people find out about it, makes me unworthy of connection?”

I think we all know the feeling of shame. Wondering if we’re smart enough, pretty enough and funny enough. Wondering how to hide the fact that our answer to all of those questions is “no.”

Brown proposes a cure to shame. She believes that the only remedy is excruciating vulnerability. “In order for connection to happen,” she says, “we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.”

If someone’s love for us is based on our perfection, it isn’t real love. Real love doesn’t waver in the face of faults. I’ve come to realize that the acceptance of failings is what transforms mere approval into meaningful connection. There is joy and freedom found in being fully known.

“We don’t think of our flaws as the glue that binds us to the people we love,” Miller says, “but they are. Grace only sticks to our imperfections.”

By embracing authenticity, we give those around us the opportunity to love us for who we really are, not for the whitewashed, too-good-to-be-true version of ourselves that we so eagerly present to the world.  

As long as I keep acting, I’ll keep getting applause. But once I step down from my stage and show the world my brokenness, I can finally receive freedom in unconditional love.

It’s not possible to talk about vulnerability and transparency without talking about the risks that come along with it. There will be criticism and judgement, not to mention a fair amount of embarrassment. But here’s the thing:

It’s so worth it.

So there it is: my case for vulnerability. My argument for dropping the act for the sake of meaningful connection; for silencing the voices that tell me “I only matter if…”