“I’d rather be damned by my honesty, than caged by my lies.” – Omega Maverick
We’re all aware of the importance of being honest in our dealings with others. This is an ethical principle that we’ve all been raised with and constantly encouraged to practice – and rightly so.
But not many of us have been schooled in the art of self-honesty, which is a subset of honesty. This is where we turn the lens of honesty inward and we use it to take an objective view of ourselves. It means acknowledging, accepting and reflecting on the truth of our lives and to see us for who we really are.
Self-honesty is a tricky business because it’s primarily based on subjective interpretations. Our minds are master rationalizers with the gift of creating stories and narratives. We’re like movie directors who can choose which movie reel we’re going to project onto the screen of our psyche, based on what suits our needs. We often choose the ones that provide instant gratification and don’t always portray the truth.
For example, if you’re embroiled in an abusive relationship, you might choose that storyline of a passionate martyr who’s sacrificing his/her needs for her lover. The pain feels good because it’s being done in the name of love. This may seem like an obviously dysfunctional story to an outsider but to the person experiencing it, it seems perfectly acceptable. They don’t realize that their fear is running the show.
Self-honesty is hard for this reason – facing the truth of our lives requires us to deal with the ugliness. Looking at our lives from a genuine and unbiased perspective can be hurtful and often requires us to change our ways and life situations that aren’t working for us. We might have to initiate tough conversations, leave relationships, change careers, relocate or change an old behavior pattern.
These are hard things to do because it goes against our natural preference for sticking with what’s familiar to us. We instinctively feel safer and comfortable when dealing with what’s known to us, even if it doesn’t serve our highest good. We deflect the need for change by making excuses, rationalizing, numbing ourselves with food, alcohol, smoking, working too much, and any other form of escapism.
Another reason why no amount of logic can sway people to see the light when they’re emotionally invested in facts that support their existing reality is because of a psychological phenomenon known as “cognitive dissonance”. Cognitive dissonance is defined as “the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values”.
This cerebral phenomenon confirms the fact that we don’t like hearing information that doesn’t align with what we already believe to be true. We don’t want to be skeptics who willingly turn their world upside down after receiving more knowledge and insights into our situation because it requires us to go within and address the underlying emotional fears that are causing our resistance to facing the truth.
You have to bypass your rationalizations, fears and natural inclinations to overcome that resistance. It takes strength, courage and tenacity to go through the discomfort (the good kind) that comes from aligning your life with your truth and pushing past all the fear-based debris that falls out in the process. But how do we get to this place where we willingly commit to this practice of radical self-honesty?
I believe that it begins with a strong desire for a better way of living. It comes from an unwavering belief that we deserve the best and that every moment that we spend being in denial and lying to ourselves is time wasted on a life that does not fulfill us on the deepest levels and allow us to live out our purpose.
True healing cannot take place unless we acknowledge our feelings of dissatisfaction and restlessness. We have to come to a place where the pain of denying the truth is more painful than facing it. We need to develop the moral backbone and ethical mindset that make us “warriors of truth” – individuals who aren’t satisfied with tidy explanations or maintaining the status quo to avoid ruffling anyone’s feathers.
The lantern that we use to shine a light into those dark places is our intuition. Your intuition is your inner-sage or your “inner BS meter” that will let you know when you’re not in integrity with the truth of who you are. Each one of us has direct access to this wellspring of wisdom but we have to navigate past our monkey-mind, which might interfere with its rationalizations and confabulated stories to alter facts.
Every single one of us is gifted with these gut instincts that unfailingly lets us know when we’re off course, but we seldom take its counsel. The consequence of not following our intuitive guidance, besides making unwise choices, is a significant drain on our psychic energetic level that weakens us. People living a life of lies can suffer from physical symptoms, and from various illnesses and chronic conditions.
That’s why it’s essential that we avoid deceiving ourselves and ensure that we consciously shape our perceptions so that it accurately reflects on reality. Deal with the truth and only the truth and you’ll feel empowered to change your life for the better. Here are some ideas on how you can encourage self-honesty within yourself and make it a natural part of your being:
- Develop strong self-awareness: Self-honesty begins with knowing who you are at your core and getting in touch with your basic essence. When we take the time to get acquainted with our intrinsic qualities, proclivities and what’s important to us, we solidify our individuality. Self-knowledge is indispensible as it sheds a light on our values, standards and purpose, which essentially provide a template for how we prefer to live. In this way, we’ll be able to infer whether we’re acting out from a place of truth or a place of fear. I’ve written about how to develop stronger self-awareness in this post.
- Stay connected to your inner world: Self-exploration necessitates us to constantly be in touch with our inner world. It’s easy to get distracted by the busyness and noise of the outside world; therefore, connecting with ourselves will require a conscious effort on our part. Carve out some time during your day to relax and engage in solitary activities such as meditating, journaling, going for walks in nature or to simply remain quiet and still. This will give you the space and time to focus and hear your inner voice.
- Have a support system: Engaging in self-honesty is not easy and can seem intimidating, which is why it would be beneficial to have people around us who can offer us support whenever we need to have those reality checks. Your support system should consist of people who have your best interests at heart and who aren’t afraid to be firm and express tough love if that’s what will encourage you to face your fears and instigate change. This group should include people who you can trust and whose advice you find credible, such as a wise friend, family member, a therapist or a coach. At the same time, you want to stay away from dominating individuals who have an agenda to control your life with their ideas and who don’t honor your feelings, thoughts and preferences. They will only add more noise and distract you.
- Do regular life assessments: Just as we do health check-ups, we need to be doing “life-check-ups” where give ourselves the opportunity to check the pulse of our current existence. This provides us with the chance to honestly evaluate the situations, people and circumstances that we’re facing. Taking stock of your life on a regular basis will allow you to see what is and isn’t working so that you can make necessary adjustments to steer you in the right direction. I recommend doing these life assessments on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis as a journal exercise. Of course, you can choose the frequency and medium that works best for you. What matters is that you regularly reflect on how you’re progressing.
Practicing radical self-honesty will feel like you’re releasing any shackles that have been holding you back from reaching your highest potential. You’ll find that facing the shadowy corners of your persona, no matter how scary they may seem, will ultimately liberate you to live out your dreams.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: What are your thoughts on the importance of self-honesty? Is it something that you strive to do?