Honesty with Ourselves

Honesty is the first step towards leading a fulfilling life. It’s important to be honest with others, but it’s especially important to be honest with yourself. The latter is fairly complicated and affects everything in your life, but let’s give it a whirl.

Self-reflection is critical to being honest and leading a healthy lifestyle, but it’s tricky because we are inevitably biased when it comes to ourselves. It’s easy looking at someone else and explaining the problem. For ourselves however, our emotions get in the way, and we have a terribly difficult time remaining neutral when judging our own situations. Still, we should always think about the choices we’ve made and the decisions we will make. Am I being honest with myself? Am I avoiding accountability? Does what I’m feeling right now make sense? Reflecting upon your actions helps you grow as a person, and if you’ve made a mistake, you will grow from the experience and become a stronger person. On the other hand if you never acknowledge and work on your weaknesses, you will never improve, and nothing will change. You should always strive to improve yourself, but it should be because you want to become better in what you do, not for others and what they think you should do. If you try to fit your life around someone else’s definition of success, fulfillment, and happiness, you will never truly experience those emotions for yourself.

Being honest with ourselves also gives us more control over our lives. No matter who or where we are, we’ll have to deal with problems, and by understanding the cause, one ideally works on a solution so that particular issue won’t be a bother again. However, we sometimes ignore the true source of our discomfort, and thus the real problem, because it’s painful. It’s easier to turn away than to look in a mirror and ask what is really bothering us.

So what happens when we ignore the discomfort? It’s like a thorn in our side that becomes more and more painful as time passes. We carry this thorn with us everywhere, ignoring it until the pain is so great we wonder how it came to this. Finally, we are forced into a wall and attempt to face it and tear it out in desperation. Why, then, do we sometimes ignore our issues instead of meeting them straight on?

It is because we fear pain and prefer to avoid its cause. As a survival instinct, pain is very useful; it’s a signal saying, “Hey, dummy! This hurts, learn from it!” But sometimes, we avoid the things that hurt us or make us uncomfortable. We don’t ask ourselves why it hurts. Whether it’s due to nature or the culture we live in, we shy away from painful experiences, and in doing so, we miss learning from the experience. We miss the lesson pain teaches us—the understanding of why it hurts. It reveals to us our weakness, which we need to face if we want to improve ourselves. Every person will go through this. It’s an undeniable fact: we all have our own crucibles to walk through. Depending on how we react, our experiences can shatter us or temper us to be more resilient and become better versions of ourselves. But we need to learn and apply our experiences for it to do us any good.

I was always harsh on myself as a kid. I was the type who strove to perfect every action and demanded more of myself than I expected from others. I had to be the best. If someone complimented me on nine different things but criticized one, that one comment would be all I could think about. I would obsess about their words over and over again, feeling worse with each mental replay until I would get depressed and feel like a failure at life. Part of it was because I took pride in my work and wanted to constantly improve, but mostly I was extremely insecure. My identity as a person also depended on whether or not I was seen as capable and useful. Rooted deeply inside was my fear of being labeled as incompetent and useless… because then people would not want me around anymore. I was terrified of that lie and was afraid it was true, so I ended up believing it for a long time. But living in fear of not meeting other’s expectations is no way to live. I needed to realize that my insecurity in my self-worth was holding me back. To be honest with myself, I needed to understand that the only opinion that truly matters is my own–because I am the one who is living my life.

Why do we sometimes rest our identity in the whims and musings of others? It doesn’t make sense really. Giving that power away to others only gives you less control over your life, less opportunity for you to discover and do the things you enjoy. To really be happy, you should find out who you are, make your own decisions, and accept the consequences of those actions. And if you don’t like something, then work on it and become the type of person you admire. Then people will come to you.

The struggles we face and the pain we feel forces us to grow as people or falter if not dealt with in the right ways. If we aren’t honest with ourselves about what’s causing the pain and what is the best solution, then we slow or halt our growth on the way to becoming better people, and in that instant, we start to decay. Negative emotions like pain are signals for us to act and improve our situation, but if ignored, they will magnify to have large negative consequences on our lives. That is why it’s so important to recognize and deal with pain the right way, rather than making excuses, blaming others, or blaming yourself. This may sound like a lot of negativity (read ‘realism’), but this honesty is the foundation to build a better you for tomorrow; it’s the first step to living a life full of happiness and fulfillment. When you’re making a big decision, ask yourself: is this what I really want? Will this make me happy in the long run? If so, go and seize it.