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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Authenticity and its Pitfalls


Some of you might have wondered about my post last month, and about the relatively infrequent posting on my blog since then...

I'm authentic on this blog when it comes to sharing my lifestyle choices with you, even lifestyle choices that may be very different from the norm. This is an extreme frugality blog, and I do other extreme things, so yes, I'm daring to be authentic here...

But I get pushback. Sometimes I get criticism, and that I can usually take, because I'm confident enough in what we do and that our lifestyle is the right one for our family. But sometimes I get such cruel responses, attacking me and my character and my morals and everything else I hold dear... and that's when it makes me do a double take and question sharing so much.

I was reading a book by Brene Brown (awesome speaker, writer, etc... look her up on Youtube to see her Ted talks if you haven't yet) called "The Gifts of Imperfection; Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are" and came across this segment that spoke to me so much, you have no idea, especially as it relates to this blog, and inspired me to keep on being me and authentic, despite the kickback I inevitably will get. Because that is the price for connecting, and I've connected to so many of you readers via this blog, and I wouldn't want to give that up for the world.

And now here's what Brene said.


"Choosing authenticity is not an easy choice. E.E. Cummings wrote, "To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everything but yourself- means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight-and never stop fighting." "Staying real is one of the most courageous battles that we'll ever fight..
[...]
Sometimes when we push the system, it pushes back. The pushback can be everything from eye rolls and whispers to relationship struggles and feelings of isolation. There can also be cruel and shaming responses to our authentic voices.
[...]
The thing is... authenticity isn't always the safe option. Sometimes choosing being real over being liked is all about playing it unsafe. It means stepping out of our comfort zone. And trust me, as someone who has stepped out on many occasions, its easy to get knocked around when you're wandering through new territory.
Its easy to attack and criticize someone while he or she is risk-taking--voicing an unpopular opinion or sharing a new creation with the world or trying something new that he or she hasn't quite mastered. Cruelty is cheap, easy, and rampant. Its also chicken-sh*t. Especially when you attack and criticize anonymously--like technology allows so many people to do these days.
As we struggle to be authentic and brave, its important to remember that cruelty always hurts, even if the criticisms are untrue. When we go against the grain and put ourselves and our work out in the world, some people will feel threatened and they will go after what hurts the most-- our appearance, our lovability, and even our parenting [or our morals. -Penny].
The problem is that when we don't care at all what people think and we're immune to hurt, we're also ineffective at connecting. Courage is telling our story, not being immune to criticism. Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection."
Have you ever read or heard anything by Brene Brown? What was it? What did you think of it?
What do you think about this quote from her book? Do you sometimes struggle with being authentic, because of negative pushback you have or might receive? 

26 comments:

  1. This came at a very appropriate moment - having just (not for the first time!) been on the receiving end of criticism. That from someone who is supposed to be a friend - but they do have a distinct tendency to try and tell me what to do and not even give reasons why they think I should act differently to what I am doing (the "Because I say so" syndrome that I had as a 1950s/60s child from my parents). But...yes...I do get fed-up getting it in the neck for expressing unpopular opinions (particularly those that were deemed perfectly normal some time back - so how come some of them are unpopular now, when those exact same opinions never used to be?). I shall have to have a look at that book. It may be an idea for me to buy a copy for myself.

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  2. I love your honesty and authenticity. Stay strong.

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  3. You are an inspiration. Please ignore the worthless trolls.

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  4. Thank you for the book recommendation. I do some unpopular "extreme" things as well and people- especially random people on the internet- can be so mean about it. We're expecting our first baby this fall, and I've considered scaling back on blogging because people are even meaner when kids are involved. For the next few years I plan to do more book writing than blogging, because that way at least I'll get paid for every potential critique. ;)

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  5. Good for u! Love this post!

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  6. I really enjoy your blog and I Pin a lot of your recipes and ideas. I was sad when I read your last blog post suggesting that you weren't certain you wanted to keep doing this blog. I feel as if I've gotten to now you and your family just a little bit (I'd still like to see your dad's recipes!!) and I love to get the updates. I really admire you and your lifestyle and I'm grateful that you've been willing to share so much of it with an ungrateful public. For what it's worth, I find stunningly nasty comments to the most well-intentioned, neutral OPs everywhere I look. Some people are just vicious. It's so unfair that these types seem to be so prevalent here. :(

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    1. Thank you! If you're stunned at the nasty comments just know that I only let the more neutral mean comments Through. I get much much much worse ones that no one sees.

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    2. I am so sorry that you get nasty and mean comments. I know words can be jarring and hurtful. The truth is that there are a lot of sad and angry people out there and you are exposing so much of your authentic self which invites nasty behavior. Please know that for every nasty comment you have I'm sure thousands of readers who you encourage everyday. I was reading a blog about food insecurity and how many little children go hungry every night. Food waste is shameful and children with not enough to eat is shameful but going against the grain and making use of these things is noble and gives courage to many who are struggling. I remember one time a well respected man was telling me about someone that doesn't like him and his response was "get in line". I thought this was such a freeing philosophy, not everyone had to like you and hopefully you can embrace that and accept the hatred as a part of the internet enabled world that we live in. I wish I could screen comments for you! All my love from San Diego CA.

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  7. There are always trolls out there. But there's a difference between trolls and people expressing legitimate concerns about things like your belief that sunblock causes skin cancer. It's easy enough to ignore trolls for trolls, but the fact that you don't seem to seriously consider factual evidence (or else dismiss it as "being paid for" by industry) makes a bitter, angry, reader just as much your own fault.

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    1. Jules, you've been reading my blog for quite a long time, and you know my practices and views have certainly changed over the years (I wrote a post about why gluten isn't bad... and why I would never go paleo... and you know where I am now) so why assume my stance on sunscreen has stayed the same as I had in a post 7 years ago, and I haven't written about it since?
      That said, whatever the case is about sunscreen, I still maintain that its better to be covered up with a rashguard, or in shade, or avoid the heat of the day so the sun's rays aren't too strong, and just moderate the time in the sun... I won't tell anyone not to use sunscreen. I'm not on an anti sunscreen crusade that should upset anyone. What I do is far from controversial. My husband uses it daily and my kids use it at the beach in addition to their full coverage swim suits.
      But even if someone would disagree with me on my stances for certain things (assuming that even still was my stance), that doesn't give people the right for people to call me horrible names, an immoral person, an evil disgusting despicable person, and all other such names as I've been called. This smacks of victim blaming? Even if someone thought I was so wrong about something... that doesn't justify other's abusive speech. And your comment that seemed to be implying that I deserved it because of taking some unpopular stances on things was really hurtful, especially in response to a post saying how its been really hard lately to deal with some of the venom that I've been getting here lately.

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    2. You don't deserve to be called names, and of course people should be civil about it. But civility goes both ways: you don't get to complain about how mean people are and then dismiss their comments as being "bought and paid for" by industry. You have claimed that sunscreen causes skin cancer, which is simply wrong - and while I understand that your position on this has changed, when we were still having discussions about it you were dismissive about the facts that I presented.

      I'm not victim-blaming, here: rude, nasty people who want to be abusive and mean and nasty have no place in any discussion, and you're perfectly right to shut them out. But at the same time, if you're going to act dismissive of true concerns that people have about the things you write, you've got to expect some pushback.

      I do think you've changed a lot over the years, though. I think you've become a lot more thoughtful about your posts and a lot less dismissive and high-horse-y about your views. I stopped reading your blog for a few years because of your attitude but this year I found myself reading it more often.

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  8. I'm on the receiving end of this stuff a lot especially on a message board I frequent.
    I'm trying too to take a step back at times because it's very easy to get caught up in the emotion of it all when sometimes that may not even be the person's intent.

    On the flip however, there are just a lot of mean people out there who are bullies and get satisfaction having the last word, even if they are completely off base and most of all--wrong.

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  9. I hear you! It's hard to be "different " as many seem to feel threatened by it. My political views are not the norm for the super liberal state I live in. My support for a certain small country I won't name earns me lots of rebuke and hostility. I still find it shocking how many feel it's acceptable to trash those who have a different viewpoint. I keep going back and forth between being open with my views despite being derided for them or keeping my thoughts to myself no matter what. Keep on doing what you're doing; haters gotta hate.

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  10. Funny...this has been a topic of discussion on my blog, too.

    https://cindybrick.blogspot.com/2017/07/r-e-s-p-e-c-t.html

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  11. I don't always agree with you -- in fact, I'm probably a lot more like your dad. (I'm so glad you posted his viewpoint recently, by the way.) I don't have the love affair with chicken gizzards that you have, for example. :)
    BUT I learn and get ideas from what you do. Why wouldn't I want to keep reading what you're up to, even if it's different than my approach...
    Delete the trolls with a happy heart, and feel free to get on with what YOU consider important. It's okay.

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  12. Living with comments constantly pecking away at your self confidence is exhausting and can change a person for better or worse. Glad you found a method of dealing that works for you. That being said, I'm super curious about the really mean, hateful comments. Not sure if ignoring them is healthier for you, but a funny "hate mail" post might be really amusing and therapeutic. Good luck!

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    1. I tend to post the hate mail on my personal Facebook account since much of it also gives away my personal info...

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    2. Feel free to email me at pennilessparenting@yahoo.com if you want to know more.

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  13. Haters gonna hate. U be U. Rock on, my favorite blogger...rock on!

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  14. I work at a detention center. I have a very thick skin because I realized after a few years that I didn't care what ugliness might come my way from my wards (it's A LOT), if I don't care about you, it can't hurt me. But like Brown said, I no longer connect. Living a hermit life as quietly as I can and content.

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  15. Dear Penny,
    I just love your blog,and there must be thousands of people like me who love your original ideas, optimism and inventiveness. Please do not let a few bad apples to spoil it for the rest of us. You are doing a great job and just be yourself and keep being super original! Eve.

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  16. Hi Penny, I've read your blog from the VERY beginning. I have always appreciated your views, even when I disagree. It's true that nasty people seem to be the vocal majority often times. I stopped blogging years ago for that very reason. My skin is not that thick and I don't need the hassle. This makes me all the more appreciative of people like you. I admire you for sticking to it. I would be sad to see you leave the blogging world but I would understand.

    Brene Brown does have some amazing things to say about being true to ourselves. I'm glad you like her too. I sometimes wish she'd tone down her language a bit, but her wisdom is great.

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  17. I've never read that particular author, but I've read a lot of e.e. cummings. In fact, that quote was my senior quote in high school, and to it I've stayed true.

    You're right, Penny, it's hard. The world pushes back. People push back. It can be hard, and there are painful moments, isolating moments and days and weeks - I've lost friends along the way, and that stings.

    I'm strong and resilient, but that's something I've learned along this path. I know that my world view isn't typical. I know that the way I deal with adversity is not for everyone. But you know? If we were all the same, the world would be a very boring place. We need vast differences in order to see our similarities in the same way we need the not-so-beautiful to appreciate the beautiful. Your wisdom is much appreciated. Never stop being you!

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  18. HI Penny. Longtime reader of your blog. I know that you've endured a lot of abuse online and in real life because of you simply living your life. I will admit, there are many things I disagree with you about, many options I have that are contrary to yours. But I am careful not to dismiss your thoughts and I hope you are careful not to dismiss actual concerns and constructive criticism. Honestly, sometimes an unpopular opinion is hard to swallow - I've had to give up on a blogger when she wrote that global warming was a myth perpetuated by "people with degrees" and another blogger who preached anti-vaccine ideology. Even though your ideas aren't always aligned with mine, I still haven't let go of your blog for a reason! Stay authentic but also be open to change. :)

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  19. Thanks so much for this blog. I regret that for six years I've been an avid reader and I don't know if I ever wrote a comment thanking you.
    I learned so much from your blog and made some of your recipes- your coconut cookies are popular in my family. I understand if you decide to quit blogging, such a shame people can't have basic respect for others.

    Thanks for opening up to all of us. Your very practical and informative blog has been very eye-opening to me.

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  20. Remember that there are always peopel out there who find their joy in bringing others down.

    They're not looking for 'legitimate' flaws. They're looking for anything they can use to bring you down.

    These are the ones who call anorexic girls fat. Who call pretty girls ugly. Who call smart people stupid. They're toxic and you can't make toxic things healthy.

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