Authenticity is a popular topic. It seems that everyone has an opinion on it and practically everyone is searching for it. There was even a time in my life where I, myself, taught authenticity to young men and women on a daily basis.

What I love about the topic of authenticity is that it attempts to pull us away from the illusion of “perfect” and can teach us that we are enough, just as we are. I’m on board with that. I believe that society, social media, instagram filters, influencers, and the readily available feed of filtered, perfected comparisons has made so many of us feel perpetually inadequate. So we pump people with counterpoint messages of “be authentic,” and “you are enough just the way you are!”

Don’t get me wrong, those messages are so important. There’s a point however when messages about authenticity can become toxic, too. There was a point in my life, where I was regularly talking about authenticity – and in particular – being the “best version of yourself”. I often struggled to describe what it meant to truly be the best version of you and differentiate that from the attempt to achieve perfection.

In fact, I couldn’t really tell the difference between the two in myself, let alone describe it to others.

The best version of me often looked like someone who was trying to look perfect, dress perfect, be a perfect leader, say the perfect things, achieve the perfect outcomes – and what I thought was the best version of me, was really a perfection attempt in disguise. To be honest, I struggled a lot with the concept, with teaching it, and with defining what the best version of me really was.

It’s taken me years to figure that out – and to figure out what I really believe about authenticity. What I believe is that the “best version” of ourselves is often defined by others and their expectations of us. That’s not authenticity. Authenticity cannot be defined by anyone but you. We need to stop holding on to how others define us and start defining ourselves.

Our lives are more meaningful and we as people are more powerful when we seek to live authentically – as our favorite version of ourselves.

The favorite version is defined by you and only you. It allows you to decide what authenticity truly is. It also allows for us to give ourselves some grace. It lets us be messy, broken, and imperfect. It allows us to be fully make-uped or fresh-skinned, Nike shorts or dresses. It lets us to be our own definition of authentic – and for it to be the version we like the most in ourselves.

I feel lucky to be on a path of discovery to the favorite version of myself during my cancer journey. It’s helped me see pieces of myself that were hiding and discover new things about myself that I never knew. I feel more myself than I’ve ever felt in my entire life – and it’s because I’ve discovered the version of me that I like the best.

The favorite version of me is joyful and practices gratitude on a daily basis. I reflect on scripture and work daily to strengthen my relationship with Christ. I love wearing make-up and secretly love drawing on my eyebrows, but I am not afraid to walk out the door fresh-faced anymore. I secretly love being bald because it saves a solid 30 minutes of time on a daily basis. The favorite version of me loves being a mom, a business owner, a boss, and a crazy dog lady. I love the me that is honest, transparent, and open. The person that shares my experiences, stories, and journey in hopes that it helps others. More than anything, I love the me that fights for others – those in crisis, starting new careers, stepping boldly into new opportunities, facing bias or discrimination, or kiddos that need someone to be their voice. Most of all, my favorite version of me isn’t afraid to make mistakes, face disappointment, or screw things up.

That’s my favorite version of me.

I hope you’ll join me in defining yours.