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Why is it so hard to be truly honest with yourself?
So many of us spend our time disillusioned with how we feel, what we think, and what we want out of life.
Sometimes it’s because we don’t know what we want. Other times we do know what we want, but we are too afraid to admit it or feel like we might not be deserving of it.
Maybe we just don’t want to accept reality because the truth is unpleasant. And quite often, the truth is unpleasant. The truth can be downright ugly and painful, particularly if you’ve spent a lot of time lying to yourself about things big and small.
But why is honesty with yourself so important? Why can’t you just brush aside your own misgivings, ignore the truth, and embody the saying “Ignorance is bliss.”?
The answer is that you have to live with yourself 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the rest of your life. And if you can’t rely on yourself because you aren’t in tune with your truth, you will end up making yourself miserable.
You must be honest with yourself in order to figure out what you want out of life so you can actually put forth the effort to build it. How can you do that if you refuse to admit you’re unhappy? Or not acting in tune with what your soul is telling you?
You can’t. It really is that simple.
The solution is to work on the skill of self-honesty, because it is a skill. It’s something you need to teach yourself, practice often, and correct yourself on when you feel like you’re not following your path. The more you do it, the easier it gets. The important thing is that you practice regularly.
How do you be more honest with yourself?
1. Embrace radical acceptance.
“Radical acceptance” is a rebranding of the old Stoic philosophical idea to accept everything exactly as it is, not how you want it to be or how it formerly was. It’s to look at your present and see it for what it is instead of clinging onto the past, pining for a better present, or fantasizing about a future that may come to be.
Radical acceptance is an astounding thing that can help bring you peace in the moment and empower your self-honesty. Instead of making excuses or lying to yourself about how things are, you push those thoughts away and look for the bare truth of the situation.
For example, consider a relationship that you’ve been in for years. The relationship started off brilliant, loving, and passionate, but that new relationship shine has started to wear off. You tell yourself that it’s still just as brilliant, loving, and passionate because you may not want to accept that the relationship is changing.
But all relationships change over time. Some evolve into a deeper, more beautiful connection with some extra work. Others fall apart because one or both partners are not putting in the work that is required to make a relationship truly flourish.
It does no good for either partner to lie to themselves or each other about the emotions the relationship is invoking. They must both accept what is so they can work on the relationship or work on themselves.
The act of radical acceptance can be used with every aspect of your life: work, family, hobbies, physical and mental well-being, among others.
2. Take time to reflect on your day, every day.
Many people don’t take the time to reflect on how they conducted their life during their day. It’s not really anyone’s fault. We’re just busy. We have things to do! Jobs, chores, family responsibilities! All whilst navigating the other aspects of life that require attention, so everything stays running as smoothly as possible.
But we must take a few minutes of every day to consider how we acted throughout the day.
What did you do right? What did you do wrong?
Did you make good decisions? Did you make bad decisions?
What could you have done better?
Were there any points where you did not act in tune with your actual feelings and desires?
Could you have spoken up and advocated for yourself better?
Or was it a situation where speaking up may not have been a good idea? What can you do to fix the situation? What can you do to better navigate the situation next time?
That sounds like a lot, but it really only takes about 15 minutes a night to examine the day once you get used to it.
Journaling can be immensely helpful for sorting through your feelings and actions of the day if you have a difficult time doing it mentally. Plus, journaling lets you go back and more easily examine what you’ve experienced, how you’ve been progressing, and identify patterns that you need to break.
3. Admit and own up to your mistakes.
Admitting when you are wrong is one of the best, most noble things you can do. Not coincidentally, it’s also one of the hardest. Society, and sometimes family, beat the idea into us that it is weak to admit you’re wrong. Admitting you’re wrong may make you vulnerable or portray this idea that you just don’t know what you’re talking about.
The problem is that the exact opposite is true. Hiding behind deceit and lies is weak. And not only is it weak, but it will absolutely come back to bite you later when people figure out you’re being dishonest. Shifty, untrustworthy people are typically the ones most concerned with obscuring the truth because they have things they are hiding. They wouldn’t have to live that way with all of that stress if they would just embrace and accept the truth.
Another great byproduct of admitting your mistakes and owning up to your faults is creating a reputation of honesty with the people you deal with. When someone points the finger at you for something you didn’t do, you can say, “That wasn’t me. I always own up to my own mistakes and what I did.” And people will be more likely to believe you because that’s what you’ve regularly demonstrated to them.
The more you accept your faults, the easier it is for you to learn and grow from them instead of agonizing over them. They will cease to have a hold over you. Don’t make excuses to yourself or anyone else. Embrace the truth.
4. Acknowledge your feelings.
Your feelings are signposts on your journey to truth, peace of mind, and happiness. They are trying to point you toward a path that makes sense for you based on how you view the world. As you work on yourself and your self-honesty, your emotions will do a better job at serving as those signposts because you won’t be muddying up the waters of your mind with the cloudiness of deceit.
Consider how your experiences and decisions make you feel. Do they make you feel good? Do they make you feel bad? Do you feel like you are doing the right thing? Do you feel like you are doing the wrong thing?
And most importantly: why do you feel the way you do? Understanding why you feel the way that you do will help you get in tune with yourself. Once you understand the why, you can then make different and better decisions about a situation.
It’s important to think of emotions as signposts, something more like a general guide than a hard and fast rule. The reason is that emotions can be wrong or not accurately reflect reality. Doing the right thing doesn’t always feel good. Sometimes it can feel downright ugly, even when you know that it’s the right thing to do.
Some people have mental health concerns that can disrupt or twist their emotional landscape. For example, anxiety can make everything feel overwhelming or irrational even when it’s not. Depression can strangle and dampen emotions that would normally help us find the correct path. You may need some time to figure out whether or not your emotions are accurately reflecting your reality or not.
This may seem like an impossible thing to do if you have a mental illness that messes with your emotions like that, but it’s still worth doing. You’ll gain more familiarity with your emotions and how they flow the more you practice at them. The more familiar you are, the easier it is to tell when your mental illness distorts your emotions. And then you can identify when you shouldn’t be making decisions or sort through them much easier.
5. Avoid excessive dwelling and rumination.
Considering your thoughts and feelings for a little while each day is important to developing your honesty with yourself. However, there comes a point where that consideration will cross over into overthinking and rumination.
There’s only so much you can get out of some particular thoughts. At some point, you will find yourself turning the same thoughts over in your mind, which isn’t going to help you be more honest with yourself.
Furthermore, you may end up overthinking the situation into something that it’s not by looking at arbitrary details that aren’t actually important. A person who looks hard enough for negative patterns will eventually find them, whether they exist or not.
Rumination is an unhealthy practice where you constantly dwell on the bad or negative things. It can be healthy to think about things and talk about them. However, it stops being healthy when you use those thoughts and feelings to tear yourself down, convince other people you are negative, or hurt yourself.
Punishing yourself is not part of being honest with yourself. To be honest with yourself is to also accept that you are a flawed human being who will make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone. No one is so special that they can avoid this very normal part of the human experience.
What makes relationships and friendships thrive is accepting those mistakes, fixing them, and growing as people. In fact, navigating difficulties in relationships is a glue that helps strengthen those relationships. In addition, it helps demonstrate that you are willing and capable to work on things.
Not everyone is like that.
6. Accept that you can’t know everything.
You are a flawed, fallible human being. You can’t possibly know everything about everything. As a result, you’re going to make mistakes based on your perception of the events. Sometimes you’re going to be wrong.
And that’s absolutely okay.
You will need to be honest with yourself when you make those mistakes. You don’t need to make excuses for yourself. It’s not a matter of being smart or wise enough. It’s not a matter of you not being good enough. If you didn’t know, then you didn’t know. Don’t try to deceive yourself or talk your way out of the fact that you just didn’t know.
This idea is powerful because it eliminates a lot of self-deceit. You’re not wasting your time coming up with flimsy excuses to make yourself feel better. You’re not trying to obscure the truth and making it harder to be honest with yourself by burying yourself in falsehood.
You not knowing something is a perfectly valid reason for making a bad decision. However, once you know better, you can make better decisions. That’s called growth.
7. Listen to your gut instinct.
You may already have an important tool for being honest with yourself: your gut instinct. Many people feel an instinctual pull of right and wrong in their gut when they do something. Doing the thing may make you feel good, or it may make you feel bad. Sometimes, it can be quiet and in-between, something more like, “Hey, wait a minute…”
The noise and busyness of life can make it easy for us to drown that instinct out. Instead of listening to it, we listen more to our conscious thoughts and the rationalizations we make up for choosing to do the wrong things.
“Well, everyone else is doing it…”
“Why shouldn’t I take X? I earned it after all…”
“I should be a jerk to XYZ because they were mean to me…”
These are all just flimsy rationalizations that don’t necessarily reflect reality or honesty with oneself. And then, after a person makes the bad decision, they waste more time lying to themselves that it was okay. But it’s not okay.
Not everyone feels that gut instinct. You may also not feel it every time you’re about to do something wrong or that you’ll regret it. It’s perfectly possible that you actively think you’re making the right decision based on the information that you have.
But if you do feel that pull in your gut that you’re making the wrong decision or doing the wrong thing, it’s a good idea to stop and think about why you have that feeling. Don’t ignore it, brush it off, or rationalize it away. Instead, listen and see what your gut has to say.
8. Practice, practice, practice…
Learning to be honest with yourself is a long-term project that you will likely need to work on. It’s hard to break old, unhealthy patterns of behavior that keep you locked into negative habits. It’s difficult to unmake those habits of lying to yourself or covering up your bad decisions.
It’s okay, though. All you need to do is practice, practice, practice, and practice some more. The more you exercise those muscles by accepting the truth, the easier it will get.
You will also find that your quality of thoughts, peace of mind, and peace in your life improves too. Deception is a lot of stress and work, particularly when you’re trying to obscure the facts to yourself.
Once you let that go, you free up that mental and emotional energy for more positive things or simply being. No agonizing over a truth you don’t want to accept or looking for excuses for your bad choices. Just accept the truth and embrace it, no matter how painful it is. That gives you more freedom than you can possibly imagine.
Still not sure how to be completely honest with yourself? Speak to a counselor today who can walk you through the process. Simply click here to connect with one.
You may also like:
- 7 Highly Effective Ways To Be True To Yourself
- How To Be Yourself: 5 Tips For Being Real, Authentic, And Not Fake
- How To Trust Yourself: 20 No Bullsh*t Tips!
- What Is Self-Reflection And Why Is It So Important?
- 36 Important Self-Reflection Questions To Aid Introspection
- 6 Self-Awareness Activities That Really Make A Difference
- 12 Radical Acceptance Coping Statements To Deal With Difficult Emotions