Telling the truth has a bad press and most of us spend a lot of time agonizing about whether or not to tell someone the truth as we see it. The fact is that there’s only person we need to tell the truth to: ourselves.
You may find this hard to believe but, actually, we lie to ourselves all the time.
I genuinely used to believe that to tell someone how I really felt, for example, sad, angry, unhappy, frustrated, offended, disappointed and so on, would upset them or hurt their feelings and I’d go to any length not to, as I saw it, rock the boat.
The cost of my self-deceptions to myself and my relationships was high. I felt resentful most of the time, unheard, misunderstood and unloved. My relationships were superficial and unfulfilling and, generally speaking, I felt lonely.
This is bad enough but it gets worse.
At the other end of the continuum are even more serious lies we tell ourselves.
Pretending that something doesn’t matter when it does, pretending we feel one thing when we feel another, lies that feed our (unproven and/or unrealistic) fears which keep us paralyzed and stuck – in a job, in a relationship or in a situation, or unproven assumptions about how other people may or may not feel which cause us to create distance between us.
When we lie to ourselves telling ourselves that we are just being thoughtful and don’t want to worry our nearest and dearest by telling them how we really feel, when we tell ourselves that things are not so bad and that trying to change anything would just make things worse, those are serious lies – lies that damage our happiness, our health, our peace of mind and our well-being.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who used to dress up my self-deceptions by telling myself that I’m just being reasonable or realistic or thoughtful.
If this chimes with you how do you dig yourself out of it?
First, of course, is to admit that you do, in fact, lie to yourself. Then you continue with a willingness to notice your inner dialogue, usually the Gremlin or your negative inner critic.
What do you tell yourself when you feel sad? Are you OK feeling sad or do you tell yourself it’s not so bad?
What do you tell yourself when you feel resentful? Do you tell yourself you’re just being silly?
You notice you really hate your job. Do you tell yourself that you have to be responsible because you have a mortgage to pay?
I have a question for you.
Do you have to stay in a job you hate to pay the mortgage? Why can’t you enjoy what you do and pay the mortgage too?
Every time you start noticing and challenging your false beliefs you will feel anxiety. That’s all right. It’s part of the process. Stay with it.
Part of the anxiety will stem from the fact that you no longer have an excuse for not taking responsibility for that situation, that relationship, your life. This insight is huge. No wonder you feel anxious.
Be patient with yourself. Start a journal. Start listening to yourself and start exploring what really matters to you.
When I first became engaged in this process and began to see how, through my lies, I was creating the very life I insisted I did not want it created huge anxiety in me. Yet, at the same time, I started to see that, since I was the one who was doing the lying, it followed that I had the power to change things and create a new life experience for myself and the people around me.
Gradually, I began to take what felt like major personal risks.
They felt risky because I always needed to be in control. More than that, I needed to be seen to be in control.
My first step was to stop pretending to myself that I felt fine when I didn’t and then I started telling friends how I really felt, sharing my confusion, my self-doubts, my fears.
The response was amazing.
Not only were people there for me – emotionally and sometimes with practical help, but they also started telling me their own truths. It was as if I held this magic key and all I had to do was use it.
That meant that I had to take the first step rather than wait for others to take it.
I discovered – and so will you if you let yourself – that authenticity breeds genuine relationships, not only with others but primarily with yourself.
You will find that being truthful with yourself opens up all kinds of options.
It will help you deepen many of your current relationships and make new friends – just as open-hearted and open-minded as yourself.
When you open yourself to the truth you will find that, best of all, you never need feel alone.
Learning to tell the truth to yourself is the start of a major process – challenging, exciting, scary and incredibly rewarding.
So here’s a question for you.
What will you do first?