You would think that telling the truth to yourself would be a given. After all, no one else can read your mind or know your entire history. Only you know your life, your thoughts, your feelings, your reasons…right?
Sounds so logical. And yet, even the most well-intended of us can be crafty artful dodgers in the truth department. Sometimes “telling the truth to yourself” is more a matter of “telling yourself the truth you want to hear.”
And you can’t be honest with others until you are honest with yourself.
The unconscious nature of self-deception makes it difficult to know when you are lying to yourself. The decision to embrace honesty means fearlessly, non-judgmentally observing yourself and your internal motivations.
The process of telling the truth to yourself is challenging. It is an ongoing, non-linear commitment to personal freedom and authentic relationships. However, the results, as you can imagine, are worth the effort.
So how do you get there? Better yet, how do you even start, especially if you don’t even suspect you are being dishonest with yourself?
Here are some tips for navigating that internal sea of self-deception and landing safely at a freer, more honest you:
- Grab a blank journal and use it solely for this work. You will be asking yourself probing questions and answering them in this journal where you can actually see the truth emerge.
- Seek help. A therapist or an elite coach the understands neuroscience can provide the objectivity and absence of judgment necessary for the process.
- Give yourself an objective appraisal. What do you like about yourself? What do you need to work on? Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. The key here is to do away with those psychological barriers that force you into dishonest behaviors.
- Confront things you don’t like about yourself. A big source of dishonesty is our unwillingness to confront things we are ashamed of or embarrassed about. Eliminate excuses from your thinking so you can expose those ghosts that like to stay hidden.
- Seek your internal motivations. If you’re going to start telling the truth to yourself, you have to recognize when you’re lying to yourself. And that means fearless self-observation…from the inside out.
- Notice your emotion. If you find yourself having an emotional reaction, you are being reminded of something painful, raw or unresolved. These are the areas where it will be difficult to tell the truth. So ask yourself: “What is this emotion? What is it in reaction to? And is it related to the present situation, or is the present situation a trigger?”
- Notice your thoughts. Our thoughts are not always accurate, and can reflect painful realities we don’t want to admit. Stereotypes and generalized judgments are good examples of that tendency. Ask yourself: “What words am I using? Are my thoughts accurate? How is my past shaping my thoughts?”
- Notice your behavior. When your behavior is not consistent with who you want or claim to be, ask yourself: “Why am I acting this way? What is motivating my behavior? What do I not want to admit about my behavior, and why?”
6. Create opportunities for yourself to improve. Identify specific areas for improvement and specific ways to improve yourself. Be aware of both what supports and what threatens these improvements.
7. See yourself in the future. Envision a time when you are fully and honestly living your life, and make that reality a little more present every day.
You may notice that the process of telling the truth to yourself requires going inward. You will be spending a lot of time with yourself. You might even feel as if you are in a “new relationship,” getting to know someone special for the first time. And how wonderful is that!
As the lies drop away from your existence, you will get to enjoy an emotionally lighter you. You will also get to share your new, authentic self with others, which means healthier relationships.
Are you noticing a pattern? Telling the truth to yourself is an internal validation of your inherent worth. It is an act of self-trust and self-empowerment, and ultimately a huge boost to your self-esteem. If you can handle tough truth-telling with yourself, you can handle anything!