What is Authenticity and Are you Authentic?

What is Authenticity and Are You Authentic? | Sedruola Maruska

I was stalking browsing my Instagram feed the other day when something I read stopped me dead in my tracks.

The reason I stopped wasn’t because I was so in awe of the information, but that it slapped me directly between the eyes. The whole tableau was wrong which is why it knocked the air out of me for a few moments.

Here was an influencer (judging my the number of followers they had as well as likes & comments) saying something to disparage other influencers. It was a simple sentence “these people out here trying to say they’re authentic with their curated feeds, makeup and clothes.”

What? In looking through her feed it was clearly ‘curated’ because it was lovely. But why question someone else’s authenticity, hold yourself up as ‘better’ when you’re doing the same thing?

The Question

So, I since I’m on a journey of self-discovery this year, I began to ask the question. What is authenticity? How do I know if I’m being authentic or not? We’re all out here doing our thing. You may be all about makeup while the next person is all about curing disease, is one more authentic than the other?

If my area of expertise asks that I dress a certain way most of the time and you happen to catch me “out of character” does that make me inauthentic?

What is Authenticity and Are You Authentic? | Sedruola Maruska

I grew up in a religion with many rules one being no jewelry. Mind you people could wear expensive watches, brooches and other adornments, but shame on you if your ears were pierced. What’s the difference? It always perplexed me, but I digress. When I was 26 I started my downward spiral personal walk and decided, against all inner-programming to pierce my ears.

When I’d go to church (because I was not yet the heathen person I am today) I’d wear my earrings. There were two reasons for that: 1) I didn’t feel in my heart that wearing earrings were “bad”; 2) I wasn’t trying to be something I wasn’t. There were times I thought of not wearing earrings to church because I hadn’t worn them all week, but I’d always wear them. I knew that had one of the good church folk seen me wearing earrings, and I took them off for church (out of respect) I would be labeled a “hypocrite” the ultimate in inauthenticity. That was not me, so I wore them (maybe to their offense) to church every week.

To me, being true to myself was more important than what the ‘good’ church folk would think. But to them, was I being inauthentic? Did they look at me and think I was not being true to myself because I was not being true to the church teachings?

The Definition

As I pondered the question I realized I needed to consult the oracles at Merriam-Webster. Although I felt I knew the definition of the word, having someone so strongly berate others made me feel I knew nothing.

Authenticity – Noun – Form of Authentic – true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character is sincere and authentic with no pretensions

Hold up! Did you read that? “True to one’s OWN personality, spirit or character…” What does that mean?

It means that being authentic is being true to yourself. If you’re putting yourself out there in a way that is true to who you are, your character, values, ideas so on and so forth, you are being authentic. The only person who can know if you’re being inauthentic is you.

Being authentic is not based on what I think you should be or do, but on what YOU think you should be or do. When we encounter inauthenticity we know. Something in our spirit tells us. If we’re listening, we tread lightly, if not, we get burnt.

Inauthenticity is when you portray your marriage as the one to be aspired to, but you’re in hell on earth. Inauthenticity is when who you are and what you portray do not align. It’s not when someone looks at you ans says you’re not authentic based on what you’re wearing.

The great James Baldwin says “I can’t believe what you say. Because I see what you do.” Being authentic is when what you say and do are aligned.

My Conclusion

So, after I pondered the post, consulted the oracle and explored my psyche I came up with this: What we say, do or criticize always says more about us than it does the other. Although I knew where the poster was coming from, they showed their insecurity more than anyone elses’ inauthenticity.

We don’t need for others to fail in order for us to succeed. If we stay true to ourselves we’re better off. If I don’t like what someone is sharing, thankfully, I can stop following. I’m also free to stay the course on what I’m working to accomplish. Throwing shade on what you’re doing, because it’s closely aligned to my venture, doesn’t make me better. It means I’m distracted.

In the end I examined myself and found being true to me is my authenticity. Speaking, living & sharing my truth is being authentic.

Go, speak, live and share your truth, no one can tell you you’re not authentic if you’re being true to yourself.


It’s Free Money, Grab It

It's Free Money, Grab It | Sedruola Maruska

It’s free money and it took me a year to decide to grab it!

Have you ever contributed to a fundraiser when they’ve said your donation will be matched? That means, if you donate twenty dollars, someone else will donate twenty dollars on your behalf making your complete donation forty dollars. Those are the best times to donate because your money grows.

That’s why I don’t understand why of the 50% of us that have access to a 401K plan only 30% of us are using them. Why? But then I look at myself and I’ve had access to a 401K for over a year and I just joined. It took me a year to do something that is a no-brainer.

Reason’s Joining a 401K is a no-brainer

Why do I say its a no-brainer? Let’s consider these:

  • It’s free money! Your employer has said “I’ll help you with your retirement investment, but you have to do your part. Whatever you contribute up to ___% I will match. Your employer wants to give you extra money because you’re making an effort.
  • It’s easy money! You don’t have to think about your 401K contributions and when to sent them. All you need to do is start the process, pick your investments and live your life. It’s all done automatically with input from you once a year.
  • It’s smart! Having a 401K that grows in the background is a smart way to invest in your future automatically. In his book The Automatic Millionaire David Bach talks about how you have to pay yourself first automatically before you pay anyone else. It’s not about having tons of money, it’s about investing it automatically & regularly.
  • Tax Breaks! Investing in a 401K is a way to alleviate your tax burden because the money you invest is tax free. You’re only taxed when you take the money out, and that may mean you’re taxed at a lower rate later when you’re in a lower tax bracket.
    Right now, according to AnnuityDigest, 80% of these tax breaks goes to the top 20% of the population. . . let that sink in. . . a tax break that many can get, but only 7% goes to the bottom 60% of the population. The rich get richer because they continue to invest in themselves and get tax break associated with their investments. . . we can too!

It's Free Money, Grab It | Sedruola Maruska

Reasons we don’t join

With all this free money sitting around, why aren’t 100% of the people eligible for 401K programs, not taking advantage of the free money?

I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself:

  • It seems like a hassle. As silly as it sounds it seems like a hassle to have to think of one more thing to get done in your day, week or life.
  • Thinking about retirement is scary. We all like to think that we’re going to be young forever. Why do we need to think about retirement when we’ll live forever? As irrational as it seems, we all think it. We believe if we don’t think about it, we won’t get old. Think again.
  • I can’t afford it. Using the word “investing” always elicits a feeling of “oh my gosh, I don’t think I can afford to invest.” We think we don’t have the money to invest now, maybe next month, next week or next year. Right now we have too many bills to catch up on, we can’t send any to an investment.

There are other reason that aren’t mine but that I’ve heard or seen such as:

  • I’d rather give my money away
  • I’m making tons of money, I don’t need to worry about that
  • We’re rich, I don’t need to worry about that
  • I’m self-employed I don’t have access
  • I don’t want to lose money

There are counter arguments for all these scenarios which boil down to, “you can’t afford not to invest in your future while you can.”

Why I invested in my 401K

So I come to the place where I invested in my 401K this week because:

I’m young, but I’m also almost 50! I have two young kids and the free money is on the table but I’m letting it sit there. It’s not very smart or kind not to have some sort of safety net so your kids won’t have to support you in retirement.

The amount I would be investing I’d never see. I calculated that if I invested up to the amount my company will match (I wouldn’t go above that except to use another vehicle) it would amount to such a minimal amount we wouldn’t even feel it’s affects. Do you want to know how little it would be? Let’s take an example: You’re making $62K a year, your investment percentage is 5%, which is the maximum your company will match. That means you’re investing $3,100 a year ($6,200 with your company match). It breaks down to $258 a month. There are ways to adjust so the $258 won’t be missed.

If that seems like more than you can handle, here’s another way to do it. Start as soon as you can with 1% then allow your investments to grow by 1% a year. What happens then is any raises you get will offset the investment amount and you’ll never feel the pinch.

We have a lot of things we’d like to do now and later in life. If we want to live our preferred lifestyle, we’ll need to have enough squirreled away to draw from. I’m not getting any younger (although I still feel 35) and I don’t want to look back with regrets.

It took me ten minutes to start the process of investing in my 401K plan. No hassle at all!

What to consider / Action Steps

It’s time! It’s time for you to get a handle on your financial situation and think about how the decisions you make now will affect your future. The future is formed in this moment.

  1. Find out about your companies 401K plan
  2. Start your investment right away
  3. Invest up to the amount your company will match (invest in other things with extra money)
  4. Be aware of the time it takes to be fully vested. That means, for the first year, if you are no longer working a the company, only the amount you put in will go to you, but if you stay for 5 years, both your investment and the companies investment will go with you if you leave.
  5. If you change jobs you can: 1) Rollover your current investment to your new company; 2) Rollover your investment to a private IRA account; 3) Liquidate your funds but get a hefty tax penalty.

It’s free money, start investing then do more research if you’d like. If you research you can find all kinds of reasons why you should or shouldn’t invest in your 401K. Decide what’s best for you, but in the meantime, start your investments then educate yourself. If you find it’s not for you, roll it over to an IRA and keep moving.

In the end it’s your money and it’s about getting into the habit of paying yourself first automatically. Start paying yourself on a regular basis. It’s important for you and your children.



Christian Doctor? Thanks, I’ll Pass

Christian Doctor? Thanks, I'll Pass | Sedruola Maruska

There was a time when I thought having a Christian doctor was beneficial. Growing up Christian I felt they were more likely to be kinder, gentler, more compassionate, understanding and in the favor of God. I’ve grown up.

I went to a small private Christian university in Michigan. Let me back up. I went to a small private Christian high school. I had many friends and no boyfriend. That transitioned to going to a small Christian university where I had many friends and no boyfriend.

Unlike some “Christian” girls I’ve read about who’ve made pacts to stay virgin, yet do everything else, I made no pact. By the time I graduated from college the most I’d done was kiss a boy. To be completely frank, I didn’t so much as get fondled. So, I was truly a virgin by the time I graduated college.

The Rash

In my sophomore year of college I developed a rash on my torso. I developed an itchy, burning, painful rash that makes you question your ability to stay sane through the discomfort. After a few days of dealing with the rash, I noticed it was spreading, I went to the campus doctor to find out what it was and what I could do.

“Well, have you been in cheap motels?”
“No.”
“It looks like scabies, are you sure you haven’t been in a cheap motel.”
“Yes.”
“I’ll prescribe some ‘kwell lotion’, but you should be more careful where you go.”

Remember when I told you I was a virgin? Well, I also would never stay in hotels because it wasn’t my norm. I had no money and in college you have friends to bunk with for vacations and weekends away. No hotels needed.

The implication was rude and a bit over my head. I didn’t understand why the assumption would be that I was in a cheap motel. . . until I looked up “Scabies”. My doctor was essentially implying that I was going to cheap motels to have sex and that I picked up this parasite in said motel. YUK!

Christian Doctor? Thanks, I'll Pass | Sedruola Maruska

No Help

The “kwell lotion” used to treat scabies & head lice made things worst. The rash exploded and became even more itchy. When I went back to report the results, the good “Christian” doctor dismissed me. You see, I must have been some kind of harlot getting what I deserved.

Let me pause here to say this, I was also a black female at a predominantly white Christian university. I was expected to be promiscuous . . . racially speaking (but that’s another post).

Fast forward to today and Christian doctors, the ones I thought would be filled with love, compassion and have a direct line to God, are refusing service to patients. They feel morally challenged if their patients are gay, in need of an abortion or they’re transgender. These so-called Christian doctors are taking people’s lives into their hands and playing judge and jury, when what they’re supposed to be are healers.

In Texas, Senate Bill 25 legally allows doctors to lie to their patients based on their “moral” convictions making it harder for parents to make an educated and vital decision about theirs and their baby’s future.

This gives me pause. I look at it and I understand what happened way back then in college, and at times along the way. My eyes are open to the piety.

I’m more likely to trust a doctor who isn’t “Christian” rather than one who is. The one who believes himself to be morally “better” may cause me harm for the “good” of . . . ?  I’d rather trust a doctor who sticks to science, facts and integrity to treat me and mine.

Oh, remember that rash? Turns out it was a physical manifestation of the stress I was under that year. One of my best friends lost her sister that year. We were roommates, I was the closest person to her, so I bore the brunt of her pain. I understood her challenge, I bore her pain, which in turn manifested in a rash.

How do I know? Because as I went to counseling to deal with the pain and hurt I was feeling the symptoms subsided. To this day, when I’m in a situation where I feel unable to vent my feelings, the rash reminds me to release my angst.

The guilt and shame I was made to feel because of my “lacking morality” distracted the doctor from finding out the root cause of my discomfort. Instead of judging me, he should have taken me as a young patient, in school struggling with a very painful situation. He never took the time to talk to me. He didn’t care to distract himself with my case.  I was left to fend for myself and figure it out.

My sophomore year in college was the year I realized  “Christian” doctors did not extend the love and grace of God, they sat in moral judgement of those they treated. I don’t look for Christian doctors. I look for compassionate doctors. I look for doctors who’ll treat me as a human rather than a “woman” or even a “black woman” and give me the respect, compassion and understanding due all humans. To me, that’s not found in a “Christian” doctor, but in a compassionate human.

Let me be clear, I do not believe all Christian doctors are pious, I do, however, believe that they are more likely to treat me from a place of moral piety. When I meet a doctor, if he comes off as “too Godly” I move on, I have no time for that kind of judgement upon my life.