How This Generation's Obsession With Acceptance Is Killing Authenticity

by LySaundra Janeé

I’ve never been the type to fit into a box. When most people ask me to describe myself, I shrug my shoulders and say something along the lines of “hella random.”

Is that a genre of music or a category for types of people? It’s the simplest way to describe me without trying to sound fake deep.

My favorite movies range from "The Lion King" to "Love Jones," and my iPod can switch from Tupac to J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg No. 3. I find appreciation for the Italian and the Harlem Renaissance in the same breath. For me, not fitting in is second nature.

I’m constantly trying to find my own voice as a writer, my own sound as a musician and a consistent flow for creating art. Living in a society where social media has become the primary outlet for communication, yet an easy avenue for comparison, can make me a bit hesitant to share the real me.

I tiptoe around the idea of posting what I know will tickle the ears of many for the sake of acceptance. But my desire to be genuine, thankfully, trumps it all.

If I write anything and send it to the masses, it’s because I believe it truly serves its purpose in society, or at the very least, because it will bring some sanity to my soul knowing I’m not keeping it locked away inside my head or in a hidden journal.

“Works of art are of an infinite solitude and no means of approach is as useless as criticism.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

I live by this quote and make it my goal to read "Letters To A Young Poet" at least twice each year, or whenever I experience writer’s block.

I think it’s a sign I’ve reached a level of comfort and ease. It’s a sign I need to push myself to be a little more honest. It’s a sign I need to regain focus and make art for myself first and an audience second.

I’ve noticed that when I’m unable to genuinely create, I’m torn between pushing the envelope and becoming more authentic, and remaining comfortable and creating something I know others will like or relate to.

I also notice these are the times when my personal relationships face the same obstacles. My choices are dare to be vulnerable or stay stagnant for the sake of acceptance and comfort.

I know I can’t be the only one.

I’ve read articles about why you should delete a picture off Instagram if it doesn’t gain a certain amount of likes within 15 minutes.

Rappers and singers boast about how many followers they have in their lyrics. Some, despite their fame, take the time to bark back at Internet trolls who don’t contribute to their long list of praises.

Do we long to express ourselves, be challenged and take a risk at failing or being wrong? Or do we only exist to be heard and affirmed?

Our generation's obsession with acceptance is killing any sense of vulnerability and authenticity. Not just in creative art, but also in relationships and friendships.

Obsession with acceptance produces comparison, which kills joy. We delete pictures and statuses that don’t accumulate enough likes or shares. I even do this with blog posts. I check views, shares and likes.

It’s an unspoken, deadly competition. It’s an unfortunate fascination to wonder what others will think about my thoughts, words and form of self-expression.

It’s an unfortunate fascination to be obsessed with angles, lighting, hashtags and everything being on fleek. Or even being sure I'm using the term fleek so I’m up to date on the lingo. (Is “lingo” up to date?)

Art is an expression that tells the world a story, and it should not remain hidden.

Likes, shares, swipes to the right and retweets are all ego boosts, not constructive criticism. They’ll have an immediate impact on temporarily boosting our self-esteem, but only genuine art, expression and vulnerability -- that comes without expecting acceptance -- will cure shame and challenge individuals to grow surer of their identity apart from the approval of others.

Dislikes, snubs and rejection are all necessary for self-evolution and solitude.

We don’t grow from continuous accolades and approval. We don’t engage in real relationships with people who agree with our every move, like our every picture, read our every story or snap to our every poem.

We’re refined, and over time, we become genuine with a bit of discomfort and tension. This is what helps us stay true to ourselves every step of the way.