The Christian artist says living an authentic life shouldn’t be measured by the number of likes you get on your selfie.
What’s the key to living an authentic life? GRAMMY nominated Christian artist Matthew West thinks he has the answer—and it may not look like what you see online.
“I find myself, and I think a lot of other people find themselves not necessarily being the most authentic version of yourself on social media, but rather creating your own highlight reel, so that the world can see and be introduced to the version of you that you want them to see, and nothing more,” West tells Guideposts.org.
“Our uniqueness isn't found in getting the perfect angle on our selfie,” he says.
Instead, West advocates rooting one’s identity in something greater than your own abilities – God’s love for you.
West shares this idea and tackles questions of identity—what it is, where we find it and how it impacts our life and faith--in his new book Hello, My Name Is. The book is a collection of stories of struggle and triumph from fans he met while on tour and how faith helped them manage in hard times. The book’s title is inspired by a song he wrote years earlier for fans whose lives had been negatively impacted by the labels put upon them. The song tells the true story of a young man named Jordan – a preacher’s kid and an All-American college athlete who spiraled into drug use after a career-ending injury.
“That's when he wound up with some names on his name tag that were a little less flattering than All-American,” West explains. “He wound up battling drug addiction.”
In rehab, Jordan “was reminded that, thanks to his faith in a God that loves him, he doesn't have to be defined by his successes or his failure,” West says. “If we rely on that to identify us, our whole life is going to be a seesaw. We're up and down, depending on how we feel about ourselves, or how others feel about us.”
Through this song and his new book, West hopes to help his fans sort through all of the things society says they should care about or be and realize “[t]hey don't have to rise and fall by what others think of them.”
West has learned this from experience and explores his own his own identity issues in the book, including the pressures of maintaining his public image and what he discovered after losing his voice due to vocal chord damage, a story he shared with Guideposts four years ago. West had to go seven weeks without speaking after doctors removed polyps on his vocal chords and during that time, he worried not only for his career, but for the future of his family. The experience taught him to find his worth, not in his work, but in his faith. "It gave me a chance to really unpack some of the baggage that I've carried with me in the form of false identities.” It also taught him that God wanted the singer to use his gift to share blessings, which is why he made the decision to write songs and craft albums from real stories about struggles and triumphs sent in by fans.
Though he does want the book to help others, West doesn’t consider it a “self-help” book.
“A self-help book encourages the reader to think that everything he needs to change and become a better version of you, you hold inside,” West says. “So if you look within, you'll find the answers that you need. This book is the exact opposite.”
West instead encourages readers to go to the source of faith to find answers.
“In the book I use an example of an Apple computer,” West explains. “What if I had the option of getting my new Apple computer and getting to sit down with Steve Jobs, if he was still alive, for an hour to learn how that computer works, or I could just go home and try to figure it out on my own? Only a fool would take the DIY approach.”
Still, West says, people often take that approach when trying to answer life’s big questions.
“It's like we're literally being given the opportunity to learn from our Creator, the one who made us, who invented us, and yet, too many times, without even knowing it we say, ‘Ah, that's okay. I don't need to learn from You. I'm just going to figure it out as I go along,’” West says. “My hope in this book was just to remind people, your life is not a do it yourself project.”
He hopes that by reading these true stories of everyday people trying to live happier, genuine lives that others will be empowered to throw off the labels placed on them and find their true selves.
“Stories like Jennifer, who was the victim of verbal abuse; Cathy, who was abused by her mom and dad; Connor, who was bullied at school so severely that he wondered if his life was even worth living; Jordan, who battled addiction and the voices of his past were taking over, one by one, man, there's a battle for identity, and people are falling for a lie about who they are,” West says. “I guess that's my hope that somebody might read this book and take a look at their name tag and maybe dare to believe that God could put a new name in place of all those lies.”