…Authenticity – what is it? vulnerability, courage, shame, compassion, blame… oh, tough stuff! – le Bulletin – Conversation

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What is ‘real’ these days

This last week I came across this and it started me wondering…

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A fallen branch: hollow, shattered & exposed


Almost daily I walk through the gardens near my home and I frequently enter via a pathway under this tree.

The strong healthy green tree!

The strong healthy green tree which is now exposed as having NOT been totally authentic.

What in the heck am I talking about?

Well, let me put it another way.

Until the moment that branch shattered off the tree and smashed to the ground, it appeared healthy.

To the best of my knowledge no-one knew that it was not as it appeared.

No-one knew that that large branch was hollow, empty!

And all it took was a little wind for it to shatter, not a big storm, just a little wind, for it to be exposed, as a fraud.

… You see the fallen log was hollow!

It had, probably for a long time, been holding on to it’s ‘healthy’ guise.

Who’d have known, not even the park rangers it seems!

This tree had fooled everyone, including me as I walked under it almost daily…

So what? you may ask…

Well, it had me wondering… on a number of levels…

For some time I’ve been concerned about social media and the pressure, it creates, especially Instagram and now Snapchat. The pressure to be visually and publicly perfect! The implication being that if you’re not perfect you’re not ‘good enough’…

When in this frame of mind last week I came across an article that disturbed me greatly.

It didn’t shock me.

It didn’t really surprise me.

But it certainly disturbed me, and I’d like to share that story with you.

What is authenticity? does fear play a role here?

Stick with me here for a moment and then later I share a podcast and I’d love to discuss authenticity with you

But, for now, I quote from an article about life in Beijing: “What researchers call the “online-celebrity economy” — which includes e-commerce sales driven by personalities, virtual gifts and sponsorships — totalled 52.8 billion yuan in 2016, research firm Analysys International estimates. That is bigger than China’s film box office.

Young women used to come in with photos of movie stars they wanted to look like, says Luan Jie, a 30-year veteran at the Plastic Surgery Hospital of the Chinese Academy of Medical Science in Beijing. Now they show him ­photos of stream queens.

“Successful online stars have a big impact on the aesthetics of our society, especially on the younger generation,” says Luan. The ‘online-star’ face, with its attention-getting features, is turning women into cartoon characters, he says, and many look the same.”

Meet Den Qian from Beijing and here is her story and that of DJ Liu Shuang Read it here..
(The photos and story are credited to DJ Liu Shuang)

Liu Shuang, a 20-year-old music DJ in Beijing who uses social media and live-streaming for promotion, blames the online-star face for her career struggles. Her solution: further surgery — a 12-hour procedure last month to give her what she calls “a mixed-race face”.

“Most girls get plastic surgery that makes them look Japanese or Korean. Mine is more exaggerated, so more differentiating,” she says.

Liu got a discount for the procedure, which she says would ordinarily cost more than 300,000 yuan, by allowing the clinic to use her before-and-after photos.”[Note: that’s roughly Euro 40k]

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - Authenticity - le Bulletin - Conversation

Before, during & after


Ms. Deng and Ms Shuang are trying to stand out among some six million live streamers, most of them women, appearing on more than 200 platforms in China.

Deng Qian has had more than a dozen cosmetic surgeries, to slim her arms, enlarge her breasts and change almost every part of her face.

“Everything above my belly button is fake,” she says.

Above the neck, Deng’s aim was an “online-star face” — big eyes, long nose, high forehead and sharp chin, a look pursued by young women seeking online ­celebrity and the big income that can follow.

Why are we afraid of being vulnerable?

When I read articles like these and others & when I spend time drooling over ever perfect Francophile images I find myself wondering why we are so afraid to expose our real selves? Our imperfect self?

Why are we not more comfortable in our own skin – as it is?

Why are we afraid to be vulnerable?

… And then I came across a podcast that I want to share with you.

This one is by Brené Brown and I’d call her a collector of stories more than a storyteller.

She would refer to herself as a researcher and more recently as a vulnerability researcher.

But, I suggest that she tell you that story

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - Authenticity - le Bulletin - Conversation

Let’s discuss…

Let me know your reaction after you’ve had time to listen & think it through.

Brené’s TedTalk took me back to thinking about the fallen branch: hollow, shattered and exposed!

  • Hollow for how long?
  • Hiding without courage under the guise of ‘health’
  • I found myself thinking a lot more deeply about authenticity and what it really means – what about you?

And, from Brenés ‘Power of Vulnerability‘ talk, here are some of the concepts & discussion points which fascinated me – let’s chat below: –

  1. Connection: What do you think about Brené’s premise that ‘Connection’ is why we’re here – and how important that is?
  2. Vulnerability: The fear of vulnerability and her thoughts on its connection with shame fascinated me – what about you?
  3. Whole-hearted: Do you feel you are worthy of love and belonging? Would you describe yourself as ‘whole-hearted’?
  4. Courage: Do you have the courage to be imperfect? How does vulnerability sit with you? Do you struggle with it?
  5. Compassion: How do you show compassion to others? Are you kind to yourself?
  6. Blame: What do you think of her finding that blame is described as ‘a way to discharge pain and discomfort’? Do you agree with Brené when she says it’s important for us to believe that we’re enough! Because when we work from a place which says “I’m enough”… then we stop screaming & start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.

 That’s all for this week see you in the comments below

au revoir

Judy xx

PS: Catch-up

If you missed any of the recent le Bulletin ‘Conversations’ you can play catch up here and now!

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About the Contributor

Judy MacMahon

Experience FRANCE beyond the CLICHÉ with MyFrenchLife.org MyFrenchLife is for Curious Savvy Francophiles wherever you are. Meet Francophiles in France, online, and/or wherever you live. You’re very welcome to join us - Judy MacMahon - MyFrenchLife.org

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  1. Otir Apr 30, 2017 at 8:47 AM - Reply

    It is such a great topic, Judy! and you surely delved into it deeply and with lots of thoughts.
    I follow Brené’s work and almost signed up for her latest class a week ago (but it would not have been reasonable in my current schedule).
    It took me (too) many years before accepting vulnerability. I am still working on it. I agree with Brené that being human is connecting: I agree so much that I made it my mission: I believe we are all part of a whole, and that only disconnection is the source of wars and fears and hatred. When we finally understand that what we all have in common are our differences, then dots get connected and we stand together.

    Yes, fear of vulnerability goes hand in hand with the feeling of shame. It may have stemmed – for me – in being unheard when I was a child, and certainly later, being abused and victimized. The feeling of shame is very powerful when one dismisses your pain or blames you for what happened to you that certainly was not in your control!

    Women know all too well this feeling when they have been the victim of sexual abuse. I started healing when I was able to write about those experiences and be vulnerable at least in writing. Thanks to blogging! It helped me grow and finally feel I was enough!

    • Judy MacMahon May 8, 2017 at 9:15 AM - Reply

      Oh Otir, my heart goes out to you! Thank you so much for sharing your personal challenges and interest in being as vulnerable and authentic as possible. I wish you all the best and value your regular contributions to our ‘Conversations’.
      À bientôt

  2. Jan Leishman Apr 30, 2017 at 7:19 PM - Reply

    Oh yes. I had seen this TED talk before and really connected with it. Perhaps not so much my self of today, but the younger, vulnerable one that was ‘not good enough’ on so many fronts. I was always encouraged by my parents and teachers, but I devoured fashion magazines which told me otherwise. There are so many pressures on young women, women in the workplace and women as mothers, it’s hard to avoid the shame and vulnerability of not measuring up. The courage to be imperfect takes many years – and confidence – to grow.

    • Judy MacMahon May 8, 2017 at 9:12 AM - Reply

      Hi there Jan
      I like your contribution ” the courage to be imperfect takes many years – and confidence – to grow”. From my recent experience and conversations with many of our members, I’m becoming aware that many more mature women are coming to this realisation later in life. Bravo to you to have achieved this awareness earlier.
      And life today does present different pressures on young women. The question to me is are those pressures greater or are they just different and perhaps more public?
      À bientôt

  3. Debra Finerman May 6, 2017 at 9:24 PM - Reply

    Thank you so much Judy for this. Your essay about the actual and metaphorical fallen tree trunk and the need for authenticity really touched me. I watched the TED talk and felt compelled to take down notes on some of Brene’s ideas. Lots to think about and ponder. Many of us are encouraged from childhood to make ourselves as “good” as possible at whatever we attempt in life. If we accept that we start off as already “good enough” as Brene suggests, and then allow our authenticity to shine, even if imperfect, I’m sure there follows a sense of self-acceptance and further, a sense of peace.

    • Judy MacMahon May 8, 2017 at 9:06 AM - Reply

      Bonjour Debra
      Merci mille fois ! Yes, I too, really relate to the ‘good enough’ baseline and then focusing on working on your strengths to ensure you’re as authentic as possible – ‘the best you’ you can be…
      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts – it’s an interesting conversation.

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