Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Matthew West has a confession: He's an expert at being a pretender.
Growing up as a pastor's kid and raised in a Christian community, the "Broken Things" singer knew how to appear perfect, saying and doing the right things -- even when his heart wasn't in it.
"I know how to 'fake it till you make it,'" he admitted to The Gospel Herald. "I know how to make people around me think, 'I should be more like Matthew, he knows and says all the right things.' But, I've gotten to the point in my life where I don't want to be that way anymore. I want to be the most authentic version of me."
West shares what he's learned from his own journey to discovering his true, God-given identity in his new book: "Hello, My Name Is: Discover Your True Identity", released in April by Worthy Publishing.
Writing the book, West said, was anything but easy, as it forced him to take a hard look at his own life: "I never want to write a book or song unless it's honest and authentic, and at times, that requires vulnerability, which is very much what I struggled with," he said.
"I realized, while writing this book, I was tempted to do the very thing I was encouraging people not to do," he added. "Quit pretending, and ask how you can become the most authentic version of you and display that to the world. I was able to dig into my own identity and have God show me some areas of my life where maybe I had been believing a lie about myself."
Finding his identity in Christ - and not in his reputation - completely changed the perspective of the award-winning artist.
"I realized that, on my best day, I am not defined by the good stuff," he shared. "I am known as a child of God. On my worst day, the day I wish I could rip out of the story of my life, God still loves me and hasn't changed. If I feel distant from God, it's not because He's moved. It's because I've moved."
The inspiration behind the book? A hit song West wrote a few years ago: "Hello, My Name Is." That song impacted many with its powerful and compelling lyrics, including the lines "I am no longer defined/By all the wreckage behind/The one who makes all things new/Has proven it's true/Just take a look at my life."
"The way people responded to that song, I realized it was a message that resonated with a lot of people and one that I needed to grow in my own life," said West. "I felt I needed to unpack it on a deeper level than just a 3-minute song."
The artist, who was recently named Billboard's Hot Christian Songwriter of the Year, acknowledged it can be difficult to put forth the most honest version of yourself -- particularly in a culture steeped in social media and self-promotion.
"This book is for anybody with social media at their fingertips," he explained. "Everything about Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, it feeds our internal desire to push away the less-than-perfect parts of our lives and push to the forefront what we like about ourselves, or what we think sets us apart. What it leads to is an inauthentic life because we're more focused on our highlight reel."
The key to taking on an authentic life, West contended, is to realize that there's only one identity that never changes: "I am God's child. He loves me. He wants me to come to Him. He wants to spend time with me. He has plan, no matter how bad I've messed up."
When we adopt that mindset, we are unshakable.
"Our foundation is unmovable as a child of the one true King. Then, we are equipped to live a more authentic life and fight off the false identity that is always threatening to take over our lives," he said.
"That's what God wants you to be, and that's what this world needs to see," he continued. "Not a perfect, inauthentic version of you who's acting like you have it all together, but someone who can say, 'I'm far from perfect, I've made mistakes. But, I have found a perfect God who is working on me.'"
You can learn more about "Hello, My Name Is: Discover Your True Identity" here.
Here is the music video for Matthew West's newest song "Broken Things."