Blog Short #80: Are you honest with yourself?
Photo by zsv3207, Courtesy of iStock Photos
How would you answer that question? I think most of us would say either “yes” or “pretty much.” Fewer would say “no.”
Why? Because it’s hard to be completely honest with yourself. Our egos have a built-in need to self-protect, and honest assessments of ourselves often clash with that need.
A second reason is that once you admit to something, you can’t put it back in the box. It’s out there. It begs for attention and keeps nagging you to do something about it.
Let’s face it, being completely honest with ourselves is hard! So we’ve come up with ways to get around it.
We deny truths even when they stare us down. We use some of the ego’s favorite defenses to get around it:
- Rationalization. You come up with reasons why you can’t do what you should or why circumstances keep you where you are. The favorite statement here is “I can’t.” Or “I don’t know how.” Or “No one will help me.”
- Projection. It’s not me – it’s you! Someone else has that problem. I don’t.
- Blame. You made me do it. Circumstances made me do it. It’s not my fault. It’s my parents’ fault. My boss’s fault. My husband’s fault. It’s the President’s fault!
- Denial. It’s simply not true. ”What, are you nuts? I’m not like that!”
- Magical thinking. If I think positive, it’ll go away on its own.
Those are just some, but I think those cover the main ones we use. To boil it down to a single idea, it’s this:
When you don’t want to look at something or be honest with yourself about something you need to fix or change, the response is:
“I can’t.” – which means “I don’t want to.” – which means “I won’t.”
The problem, of course, is that you can’t hold down or put away forever what’s true. By ignoring, denying, or putting off being honest with yourself, you risk creating an insurmountable stack of problems that will cause you much more pain than the effort to face up.
But, here’s what you get if you do face up and decide to be honest – brutally honest – with yourself.
1. You become your authentic self.
There’s a congruency between who you are and how you perceive yourself. In other words, your perception reflects reality. You have a core identity and a solid sense of self, and you can get comfortable with who you are.
Instead of having different parts of yourself warring with each other, you can bring them all together to approach your problems, deal with what is, and accept yourself as a worthy person, warts and all.
Most importantly, it feels good to tell yourself the truth. It’s relieving to not have to hide from you or anyone else for that matter.
2. You preserve your emotional energy.
It takes a lot of emotional and mental energy to hang on to defensive untruths about who you are, what you think, and how you feel and act. When you fess up to what’s true, you free up your energy to focus on how to conduct your life and explore new possibilities.
3. You develop self-compassion.
If you can be honest with yourself, you can develop self-compassion as you hold yourself accountable for your actions. If you hide out, you maintain a persistent critical voice that threatens to demolish you when you fall.
4. You have improved relationships
Dishonesty creates distance from others. Either they see what you don’t want them to see and know you’re denying or ignoring it, or they’re confused about who you are and can’t get as close to you as they might hope to.
When you practice honesty, you’re more capable of engaging in close, intimate relationships because you can present the real you. You can love and receive love with greater capacity.
5. You build confidence.
Being honest and befriending yourself makes you less receptive to those who are overly critical. You’re able to assess your strengths and weaknesses realistically. You can build on your assets without fear of recrimination and use yourself as the yardstick for measuring progress rather than comparing yourself to others. You gain confidence in yourself.
How to Do It
I have two suggestions.
1. Conduct an inventory.
The first is to do an inventory right now of things you’re aware of that you’ve been pushing down or skirting around. These would include issues that keep coming back to haunt you and cause distress – things you don’t want to face.
Write it out.
- Describe the problem.
- List actions you need to take to see the problem in its entirety.
- List things you can do to make changes or resolve these issues.
2. Cultivate these practices.
Realize that you don’t know everything and seek information or help from a knowledgeable source. This could be a person, book, forum, course, program, etc. Getting help makes it easier to stay on track and follow through.
Don’t suppress your feelings.
Allow your feelings to surface. Feel them, listen, and sort them through. What can you learn from them?
Own up to mistakes.
Own up to your mistakes without beating yourself up. Admit, analyze, learn, and repair.
Create a craving for reality.
You can do this by actively observing your thoughts, behavior, and defenses as they arise. At first, just practice correcting ideas that aren’t accurate. If you’re used to lying to yourself, it’s an ingrained habit, and as you know already, it takes time to subdue a pattern and create a replacement.
So for a while, you’ll need to “identify and replace” repeatedly until you get to the point where telling the truth is your first impulse rather than shading it.
Consult someone you trust and who’s compassionate and has your best interest at heart to call you out or help you review your process.
Examine your motivations.
There’s always a perceived gain to lying. What is it? Are you avoiding someone else’s reaction to you? Is there a bad habit you don’t want to let go of? Would facing something interfere with the narrative you’ve created and pretend is real?
Get very serious about this one, and give yourself free rein to delve into what you’re protecting with your dishonesty. Motives have a lot of power. You have to dismantle them.
Look at the “big three” and ask yourself if they apply:
- “Not Good Enough Syndrome”
If any of these are primary influences on how you think about yourself, then being dishonest is wrapped up in them. All three threaten your sense of worth. Who wouldn’t try and avoid them?
Keep an eye on avoidance.
Avoidance and dishonesty with yourself go hand in hand. They’re partners in crime. When you curb one, you restrain the other. If you’re more honest, you can’t avoid as much. And when you stop avoiding and look at things, you’re more honest.
Truth is ultimately relieving, even though human beings work hard to avoid it. That avoidance is fear, and the silly thing is, the fear’s unfounded because the more honest you are, the less afraid you are, and the better you feel. Keep working at it.
Have a great week!
All my best,