Authenticity is a Privilege

I think a lot about authenticity, especially lately as I learn more about myself during this pandemic. As a chronic over-sharer for years being authentic is a huge part of my identity and, I guess if we’re also looking through a capitalistic lens, also my personal *brand*.

But what does living life *authentically* mean? Is it about sharing a lot? Is it about sharing a little? Does it have anything to do with the quantity or is it more on quality? I think it’s the latter.

I’ve been compelled to share my life with … SOMEthing ever since I was an angsty teen with crushes on some “not great” choices and a journal to write in. I needed a place to confess, to ask myself the tough questions; I needed a place to be completely myself and analyze what the heck was going on.

At the advent of social media, my sharing took off and became much more public facing. It was nowhere close to being as honest as it is today, but where I am now was always the goal. When I first started the Not Your Mother’s Playground non-monogamy blog in 2008, it was with the intent of sharing 100% Me going through some BIG STUFF. Sadly being authentic didn’t stop me from being an asshole a few too many times, but I hope I’ve learned from those experiences and those I may have hurt have been able to heal.

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to get messages from many people who’ve said I helped them in their own lives, in a variety of ways, just by vocally modelling what (not) to do in polyam relationships, sharing my struggles with illness & pain, or being myself openly at any given moment. 

I still work as a chameleon, adapting my level of “Samantha” to hopefully match my audiences comfort level, but I’m always still myself, just when required a more reserved version.

But I’ve been very lucky. I’ve had plenty of chances to be authentic in various media and haven’t had to worry too much if the norms judged me, because I got to not care without much consequence. I’ve only lost two friends (that I know of) and one job for being open about my life choices. And yes, I consider those minimal losses me being lucky.

My ability to live a loud & authentic life relies heavily on my privilege as a white cis woman living & working in Canada, in the most diverse city there is. And although I came out years before polyam became “the thing”, when only a very small few were open about it publicly, I made it thru relatively unscathed. And I still do so today.

Have I had partners & friends who didn’t understand my desire for connection via mirrored experiences? Of course. I’m still judged & misunderstood for non monogamy AND the way I share my illnesses. Because it’s not common in society to be so open, my vulnerability & enthusiasm can be confused for something bigger than just “who I am as a person with most everyone I like”, and sometimes (often) with strangers too. 

Because I’ve never understood playing games, I tend to show up as mostly my whole self in situations where others might be used to more cagey interactions where people hold their cards close to their chest for fear of their vulnerability being used against them as a weapon.

Vocalizing my enthusiasm for things or people I enjoy is hardwired into me. I love the camaraderie that comes from sharing. Too often in this world people waste time and potentially wonderful experiences because they didn’t feel safe & encouraged enough to be their authentic selves. I don’t want to live like that, even tho my way can be really scary. And I’m extremely lucky that, in many cases, being the most open, straightforward, & direct version of myself isn’t just who I am, it’s who I’m allowed & even encouraged to be by so many.

But there are countless others who can’t share their true selves, experiences, & emotions as I do. And not just because they’re private people. Queer phobia, judgment, cultural & religious expectations, the threat of being kicked out, fired, and even death, cause lots of people around the world to hide who they are. It’s not lost on me that I can get away with talking about things that feel normal (often boring!) to me but could be life-threatening to others.

I know I’ve put some people off over the years, but I’ve gained more than I’ve lost being this way and I don’t take that privilege lightly. 

I get to be myself here, & slowly everywhere else too – especially lately in my work. My authenticity has helped me deepen friendships, stay above water, & find my humanity.

I’m so grateful to everyone who participates in my life. Whether you’re just lurking, here as a friend or family, or maybe just think I’m a car wreck, at the end of the day I still get to be Me.

I appreciate that I can live love laugh and lose on full display & feel safe doing so. Living out loud helps me understand my constant evolution and how I work. I will forever continue to use my privilege to create change & show you the good, the bad, & the ugly because I want to help create a world where people both feel and *are* safe to not hide their authentic selves.

So if you’ve read this far, thanks for helping me use my privilege for good. I hope my oversharing helps some of you feel safer to step into your own truths, however messy they may be.

If you have thoughts about your own journey with authenticity, or maybe mine, I’d love to hear them. Together we are so much stronger and I hope this little Internet space enriches and encourages you to be truer to yourself, even just a little.

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