It’s 2011 and I’m at a bonfire with friends. I’m about to leave for a 10-month trip and we’re all drinking and eating in honor of my impending travel.
Talk turns to dating-while-traveling. A married friend takes a long swig of his beer and levels his eyes at me across the fire.
“Aren’t you afraid that if you keep traveling you’re not going to meet a nice guy?” he asks loud enough for everyone to hear.
I blush and mumble something unintelligible, but by now I should be used to questions like these.
This not-particularly-polite-question is an example of the authenticity tax. It’s the price we pay for living a life that’s right for us.
The truth is, anytime you make a choice that’s right for you but runs counter to expectations, you’re going to get pushback. Family members are going to ask you about it at Thanksgiving. Friends might elbow you after a few drinks. Co-workers will look askance. Maybe the neighbors will talk.
These questions and comments are frustrating, condescending, and sometimes downright hurtful. But the truth is, they’re usually par for the course if you’re living your life on purpose.
If you do something on your own because your friends + family don’t ‘get’ it, you’ll pay the authenticity tax
Maybe you’re the only vegetarian in a family of carnivores. Maybe you’ve started going to church while all your friends are devout Atheists. Maybe nobody has the time/money/interest in joining you on your Southeast Asia backpacking trip, so you’re going it alone.
It can be surprisingly hard to even acknowledge you like things that nobody else in your life likes! Doing things on your own requires a lot of courage. It’s always worth it (even if your brother mocks your meat-free meal every Thanksgiving.)
If you make a surprising life choice, you’ll pay the authenticity tax
Have you ever left an impressive, corner-office job? Or broken up with a Great Person all your friends liked? Did you sell your house and go back to renting?
Congratulations! You’ve probably already paid the authenticity tax in the form of judgmental comments and gossip you weren’t even aware of!
If possible, remind your nosy Aunt Marge that your life choices are not a commentary on hers.
If you take a stand about something that’s important to you, you’ll pay the authenticity tax
Fun fact! In the last year, as I’ve become more vocal about my political views, I’ve been trolled, lost social media followers, and been unfriended on Facebook by people I’ve known for 10+ years.
And maybe the same thing happened to you when you called out someone for using offensive language or propagating sexism. Maybe family members are upset that you keep trying to talk about politics.
If something’s important to you, it’s worth speaking up about. Will people disagree with you and be uncomfortable with your stance? Yes! Should you do it anyway? Also yes!
If you evolve as a human, you’ll pay the authenticity tax
If you’ve ever quit drinking, smoking, or gossiping you’ve probably experienced the heartbreak of realizing some of your friendships were built around these things.
If you’ve ever made big, positive changes in your life – you got really healthy or upleveled professionally – you’ve probably experienced people being uncomfortable with your success.
Not everyone in our lives is comfortable with change, particularly change within the people we love. When you evolve, you’re showing the people in your life that change is possible. A lot of us would rather continue to bask in our bad habits. We’d rather roll our eyes at tryhards than, ya know, do anything.
When you become a better version of yourself, a few people will drop out of your life. That’s the price we pay.
Paying the authenticity tax isn’t fun, but it’s cheaper than living an ill-fitting life. Click To Tweet
As strange as it sounds, I find this concept incredibly comforting. The same way I can look at my income and know that 28% of it is going to the government, I can look at my life choices and know that at some point, someone’s going to judge me or comment on it.
Now that I know it’s going to happen, I budget accordingly.
I want to hear from you! Have you ever paid the authenticity tax? What for and how did it look? Tell us in the comment so we know we’re not alone!