As defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, authentic means "true to one's own personality, spirit, or character sincere and authentic with no pretensions." I define authentic as living genuinely by letting people see the real you. To be authentic is to be vulnerable, and allow the masquerade of perfection fall.

Modern culture doesn't value authenticity. Looking at the world around us, we see people sharing only the best parts of them rather than all the quirks and flaws who make them who they really are. In a world filled with social media, it's easy to hide behind your phone to show only your highlights and best attributes. It's easy to look at others and try to be more like them appearing prettier, smarter, thinner, more athletic, more talented, more outgoing, more popular. It's easy to try to make everyone happy. It's easy to try to become everything you are not. When we see our flaws, it's easy to try to cover them up. We want to appear perfect in every way.

Part of living authentically is realizing that you can't make everyone happy, and that altering your personality to make people like you gets nothing accomplished. Living authentically means embracing your quirks and flaws rather than covering them up to try to gain approval from others. It means surrounding yourself with people who not only accept the quirks, but love them because they are part of who you are.

Authenticity doesn't mean telling everyone all your flaws, but it does mean being you. It means embracing all of you including the parts you don't want other people to see. Authentic is crazy, scary, and messy, but I would take those things over fake any day.

Authenticity isn't comfortable, but it is real.

The authentic you is where relationships are strengthened. It’s where friendships can pass through any storm. Where you can find what you're passionate about and pursue it. It is where compassion and honesty pure joy happen. When you live authentically, you inspire others to do the same. When you live authentically, others trust you. By living authentically, you automatically become happier. You see what's really important to you. You are able to embrace others' quirks, and you can experience deeper and more trusting relationships. Authentic friendships and relationships generate pure, genuine joy that is unlike anything else in the world.

I've been blessed with friendship with some of the most amazing, authentic friends. In a world where everyone puts up a façade, truly seeing these souls has been the privilege of a lifetime, and moving away from them for college is one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do. Going forward, I cannot wait to find more friends willing to live authentically with me, and friends who are intentional about sharing how they really feel without reservation. I know my circle may be small, but the authentic love and respect from few is better than a multitude of superficial relationships.

So, allow me to challenge you to live life authentically. Allow yourself to be genuine with people, and allow others to be genuine with you as well. Know that you could get hurt, but trust that an authentic relationship will be worth the wait. Pursue you passions without reserve. Be quirky and random. Be who you are because you never know who would love that person you would hide. One of the most beautiful things in the world is bearing witness to the joy that comes from living an authentic life.