Why Being Real Matters More Than Being the Best


“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.” ~May Sarton

Have you ever compared yourself to others on social media?

You’re not alone if you have. It’s human nature to compare, compete, and seek value in the opinions of others. To aspire to the heights others seem to have attained.

But how real are those people we compare ourselves to really being? The ones who seem to have it all together? Perfect family, ideal job, loving relationship?

I would venture to guess they’re not being very real at all.

It’s true they may have a great partner, a great job, and well-behaved kids—some of the time. But like everyone else, they fall, they fight, and they make mistakes. They just don’t talk about it on Facebook.

That’s where online relationships let us down; they fail to tell the whole story.

I’m as guilty as the next person. I post pictures of my kids baking cakes, running along the beach, and acing the soccer game on a Sunday. But I neglect to mention how much I yelled at them for their attitude or constant fighting.

I talk about date night with my husband but don’t mention how we argued all the way home.

And I post pictures of inspirational life quotes, such as, “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile” (Einstein) as though I’m living them every day.

Because I, like everyone else, want to show the best side of myself. I have an inherent need to be liked and to belong. It’s human nature.

But what if being liked and belonging is more about being authentic than being the best or getting ahead? What if in sharing who we really are, we are more able to find the connection we crave?

A few years ago I attended a weekend retreat and workshop for personal development along with about thirty others. Not knowing anyone, I was nervous.

We met for the introductory session in a large room and had to mingle for about twenty minutes or so before the facilitators arrived.

What I experienced in that time was eye-opening to me. I watched as eyes darted around the room, each person looking for someone like themselves to identify with, be it through age, appearance, personality type (introverts, extroverts), or physical attraction.

In this vulnerable state, where each of us was seeking to find favor with the other, we all were quick to disguise our true selves and to judge everyone in the room on appearances and first words.

And for the first day of that workshop judgment remained, until the facilitators were able to break down our walls and encourage us to see the value in being who we really were—in talking honestly and not trying to be better than the next person.

To do so required being vulnerable. But once one person began to speak honestly about their fears and their struggles, it gave the next person permission to do the same. This continued until we all let down our guards and spoke honestly about our struggles and fears.

The result was incredible. The connections I made that weekend were real, honest, and close.

Once I saw my fellow participants for who they really were, all judgment fell away and I felt nothing but genuine love for them. Because when we see one another in our true light, it doesn’t make us weak; it makes us the same. We see how we are all human and in this thing called life together.

It’s not being the best or getting ahead that meets our true desires; it’s being real and doing life together.

What if we were to share our truth on social media? To talk about a bad day instead of always trying to be great?

And what if instead of saying “I’m fine” to the next friend who asks, “How are you doing?” we could instead respond with “I’ve had a hard time lately”?

Sometimes that leap of faith in the response is the first step toward living an authentic life and being true to ourselves. Because being anything less than who we really are just isn’t worth it.

Friends image via Shutterstock

About Claire De Boer

Claire De Boer is a writer and teacher with a passion for stories and a strong belief in their power to heal and connect us. Her vision is to empower people to become their authentic selves and to live more abundantly using the tool of writing. Visit Claire’s website to access her free eCourse and content library.

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  • Claire
    I don’t use social media in the way you describe but I think the issue is wider than just social media. There’s always been a keeping up with others on material items and many people live behind a mask especially in our increasingly fragmented and indivdualistic world. What we need to be is to be authentic, our real selves, and to stop comparing ourselves to what we see of others or the glossy/prefect world the media presents on TV and in magazines.

    It’s like we always think other people’s homes are tidier – that’s because they tidy up before they let the guests in. When we really know people we get to pop in when they haven’t tidied and we also get to see the real them as well.

    Just a few real realtionships not a horde of digital followers is what counts.

  • Claire,

    Great piece! I think those of us who life-coach, motivate and inspire for a living fall prey to this especially. We feel like we have to always be presenting the positive side of things.

    Recently I went through a fairly nasty bout of depression. Constantly posting inspirational quotes, etc…made me feel like a huge fraud, but writing about feeling isolated and apathetic made me feel like a failure.

    This was a great reminder that letting others see the not-so-pretty parts can actually connect us on a deeper level, and help others who might be struggling to know that they aren’t falling short of some imaginary standard.

    I think there is a line to balance on social media – I’m never a fan of airing dirty laundry or “vague-booking.” However, I do think that admitting you’ve had a rough day (or week) let’s people see that you’re human, even if you do have a somewhat public image. 🙂

    Have a great week!


  • Such a great topic, Claire! And so true. It’s easy to compare, esp with the social media most of us are on. And comparing at all is unhealthy, but when people compare Self to the very limited and selective info on social media…. it can be so damaging.

    I certainly don’t depress everyone on my pages, but I am honest… even about a tough day or experience. When I do share, I also say something to encourage (mySelf and others!). I’ve had a lot of positive feedback. I think this honest vulnerability is so important in our world!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • Hi Claire, I really relate to what you’re saying.

    As a Life Coach myself I also want to inspire people, and try to do that on a daily basis. However, my “about” section on my website is very clear that I have bipolar disorder and have made it through mental illness. I don’t keep it a secret because it help people know that it IS possible to live a life of stability, and it help to reduce stigma.

    I think the advantage of showing what may be perceived as our “weaknesses” is that it also gives us the opportunity to demonstrate how we made it through and that there is always light there at the end of the tunnel.

    I’ve found that my depression has been much less since I’ve been practicing Law of Attraction principles and realizing at a deep level that emotions are a guidance system and not something that has to consume us.

    Hope you have a great week too..and an awesome 2015!


  • Sandy Holland

    Generally true and sensitively written, but possibly somewhat naive? How do you see this applying to a criminal? Should someone who has unspeakable thoughts accept those as part of their frightening and strange self, or take steps to change?

  • cjdeboer

    Hi Peter — I agree that the issue is wider than just social media and has been present for as long as far as we can go back. I would love to see a world in which everyone shows up as their real and authentic self – what a different world it would be.
    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • cjdeboer

    Hi Mandie – yes there certainly is a fine line on social media – and knowing what to share can be a challenge. I simply advocate for being real as often as we can.
    And I know your challenge with writing about depression – I suffer too. But in writing about it and being vulnerable I’ve found it has helped many people to also be open about it and receive the help they need. I hope you;re able to write about it sometime without feeling like a failure 🙂

  • cjdeboer

    I think it’s great that you do that Shannon – and that you know where to stop. Being vulnerable, honest and encouraging online is to lead the way in authentic communication. Thank you!

  • cjdeboer

    Hi Sandy – that’s a tough one to answer without knowing the individual. I don’t think you can disentangle “unspeakable thoughts” from who a person is but that doesn’t mean they don’t need help to see themselves in a more positive way and to heal.

  • Elena

    “It’s not being the best or getting ahead that meets our true desires; it’s being real and doing life together” What a perfect quote. Thanks for this article.

  • I love this post, Claire. It’s so hard and scary sometimes to be vulnerable, but it’s being vulnerable that allows us to create deeper and more meaningful connections. And there is something so amazing about opening up to someone and allowing yourself to be seen because usually they will do the same with you. Thanks for sharing this 🙂

  • Mark8v29

    I experienced a bout of depression and noticed how intensely during that period I compared myself to others. I suspect that comparing with others is not only a symptom of depression, it is also a cause that eventually one day results in depression.

  • cjdeboer

    Thanks for reading Elena 🙂

  • cjdeboer

    Thanks Megan. Yes, I think vulnerability is actually a sign of great strength.

  • Robyn H

    Thank you for a lovely article. I find that through overcoming vulnerability, and fears of shame, I am able to build REAL relationships. It’s interesting, that when we were younger, it was easier… And we all have our close relationships with old longtime friends. As we get older, it’s more difficult to make close friends, it seems people are so caught up in society’s creation of division. We are not! We are all frail perfectly imperfect beings, and we can bond and love and heal one another. Thank you for this article.

  • Great article. The non-genuine authenticity of what people post on Fakebook is the primary reason I left the service back in 2007 and will never return.

  • cjdeboer

    Thanks Greg – yes FB is definitely a form of social media that can hurt people more than it connects them at times.

  • cjdeboer

    Hi Robyn – I agree that it’s more challenging to develop close friendships nowadays – we are so wound up in the demands of society. I love this: “we are all frail perfectly imperfect beings” – so true 🙂

  • cjdeboer

    I think so too Mark. Comparison and the self criticism that comes from it can often lead to depression.

  • Your article poses some great questions. However, the question to start with is why do people even use social media? The answer to that question speaks volumes to many of the questions about being true and authentic online.

  • Mark8v29


  • Bev Murrill

    The older you get, the truer these words you’ve written show themselves to be, Claire. I love that you write on these issues so much… the freer you are, the more others can embrace their own freedom. Good on you, Girl!

  • cjdeboer

    Thanks so much Bev!

  • cjdeboer

    I think people use social media because that’s the way we communicate nowadays – just as we adapted to telephones a hundred years ago. It’s also a very effective business tool. It’s when SM is used as a way to hide and miscommunicate that the problems begin.

  • I agree and think that people use Social Media because it is more convenient. It kind of scares me because convenience is often associated with laziness. And we know what happens when we get lazy…

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  • Mahesh Sahu

    Nice piece of writing. Following sentence is not clear to me. May you please explain?
    “realizing at a deep level that emotions are a guidance system and not something that has to consume us.”

  • Mahesh Sahu

    Thanks . It is one of the best article, i have read in this website.
    I am in not following any social media groups. However your article is very good and eye opening and can be applied for wider spectrum of daily life.

  • Hi Mahesh 🙂
    emotions arise in our body due to our environment, our need for food, shelter etc. and are also a result of our thoughts about past, present and future events. They help to guide us in the choices we make and are and are messages from our subconscious minds to indicate the priority of the choice…e.g. give us a feeling that expresses the consequences of a choice.

    Different people are different in the level of emotion they feel and their sensitivity to it.

    The trick is to try and observe these emotions from an outside perspective and consider them as messages, rather than have them control our behaviours and cause to be aggressive, defensive, angry etc.

    I hope that makes it clearer for you. If not, let me know and I’ll explain some more 🙂

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