I have been learning a lot about myself lately–particularly lessons about authenticity. I am a long-time tea lover who has been doing extensive work around personal growth and building a deeper mindfulness practice in 2021. Tea and, now, meditation are daily practices for me. Lately, I have been doing a lot of thinking around issues of authenticity.
Here is one deep lesson that I have learned about myself: while I tend not to do things simply to please people, I realize that too often I stop myself from doing things that I would like to do so I won’t displease others. (That’s why I included that second and third line in my authenticity mantra, in the photo above.) My experience as tea blogger and content creator (particularly on Instagram) offer me regular challenges to being authentic.
Lesson from Blog Post Length
First, let’s talk about blogging. There are lots of lessons about authenticity embedded there. Did you ever wonder why so many blog posts and recipes on the internet include really long–and often irrelevant–stories? I think we are most aware of this tendency on recipe posts because we tend go to those sites to specifically see the recipe. So, it’s very obvious when it is buried beneath extraneous text and photos. Google analytics create this issue: they incentivize people to write more than they want or need to. Since it rates longer posts higher, those posts will do better in Google searches.
I have empathy for content creators who are writing more than they might have because they are trying to earn money or maximize the audience for their work. Ignoring those analytics makes it harder to reach their goals. I, too, have felt the push to write more. Although I am not monetizing my blog, who wouldn’t like their work to be shared with a larger audience? Since I value concision in writing, however, I have decided not to add words just to satisfy the algorithm. That’s one way I choose to stay authentic in my blog. (Check out my Tisane Recommendations to Match Your Tea Mood post, for example. My SEO analyzer keeps telling me that post is “too short.”)
Lesson from Delaying a Blog Post
My tea blog recently taught me another lesson about authenticity and my challenges around it. I wrote a heartfelt post about my take on The Problem with Afternoon Tea. It languished in my drafts folder for weeks–and discouraged me from writing other blog posts–because I was worried it would rub people the wrong way! I am laughing at myself now. But, it took me a whole month to realize not publishing that post was from an unhealthy desire not to displease anyone. I know this is a small thing. (That’s why it’s so funny to me now that I got hung up on it.) I firmly believe, however, that noticing and addressing the small things help me exercise my authenticity muscle so I can do bigger things.
Another Lesson from Likes, Saves, and Shares
If you are on any social media, including Instagram, you have probably felt the pressure to take certain kinds of photos, write certain kinds of posts, make the fancy reel, etc. It’s hard not to notice when your followers (and/or the platform!) really reward or ignore certain things. There are some challenging lessons about authenticity there.
I remember when my Instagram account was new, many years ago now. I posted a photo of a panda bear teapot that I bought my daughter. We were preparing an herbal tea in it for our tea time together. It received more likes than the other photos I had posted at that time. (I never knew how large and enthusiastic panda bear appreciators were before then!) I joked with my family that we had to use that teapot at least once a week so I could photograph it. But, I realized I didn’t want change our mother-daughter tea parties to please Instagram or my followers. So I resisted despite the very real temptation.
Another example: Instagram is being heavy-handed in pushing reels. When I clicked to make a post the other day, for example, a message popped up asking me if I wouldn’t prefer to make a reel. It noted that more people would see it. The underlying message was that Instagram would show my post to more people if I made a reel instead of a regular video post! I decided to use the camera angle and video size I wanted. (If I use a reel, I have to change my camera angle or I’ll show viewers my feet and my camera stand. Riveting content, to be sure! 😉 I used a post and not a reel. I knew it meant Instagram wouldn’t show it to as many people. Reels can be fun. But, I want to use them when I want to use them.
Closing Thoughts on Lessons about Authenticity (for today)
I am by no means always good at applying what I have learned from these lessons about authenticity. I remember, for example, fretting over whether I was posting too many photos of tea with milk. Would the tea purists be turned off, I wondered? I even stopped taking and posting photos on some tea-with-milk days when I would have liked to. It took time but I got over that. I don’t want to change my tea drinking or tea photo practice to please more people or displease fewer people. I want to consistently choose to be and show up as me.
Being a part of the online tea community, like life in general, offers constant choices between authentic and inauthentic paths. Like tea drinking and meditation, it’s a daily practice to tread the authentic trail. I hope I become better and more consistent at choosing to be my whole self instead of distorting or contracting based on what I think others would prefer. I wish the same for you. Let’s all strive for #authenticiTEA in the #communiTEA. And, in life!
The picture below shares my authenticity mantra, again–this time without the tea image. (And, shoutout to Dr. Brené Brown. Her books Daring Greatly and The Power of Vulnerability helped me think through and do better on these issues. My mantra is even inspired by one she shares!) I realized I have to be authentic to be wholehearted.
Do you have a mantra, guiding questions, or other helpful ways that empower you to choose authenticity? I invite you to share them, or any other things on your mind, in the comments.