Advertising
Advertising

Can You Be Truly Honest?

Can You Be Truly Honest?

20090909-pinnochio

    Honesty, we say, is the best policy. And yet, it’s hardly news to anyone that in much of our lives, dishonesty rules. Salespeople lie about the benefits of one product over another, or about how useful those “extended service plans” really are. Partners lie about whether they liked dinner, or about what they did last night after work. Employees lie about the reason a project is overdue, or about how much money is in the register. Customer service people lie about what your warranty covers, or about how reliable their products are. And of course politicians lie about… the color of the sky and the existence of stones.

    We look down on dishonesty, but we do it all the time. We all know that “little white lies” are a kind of social lubricant, making everything run that much more smoothly. Why have a fight with your spouse over an outfit when it’s so much easier to just say “you look great, honey”? Why make a friend feel buyer’s remorse over their new car purchase by telling them all the terrible things you’ve read about it’s reliability?

    Advertising

    It’s hard to be completely honest. And yet, I wonder if we don’t let ourselves get so deep into the habit of saying things that are convenient rather than true that we lose sight of the truth in every area of our lives? And whether in losing the ability to be truthful for the sake of being truthful, we don’t lose a little bit of ourselves?

    What is honesty?

    On the surface, honesty is a fairly simple thing: the accurate representation of the way the world is, at least from your perspective. This is easy enough to comprehend when you’re stating a fact: “the sky is blue” is either true or false; honesty means saying the true thing. It’s slightly less clear when talking about opinions: “the babaganoush is tasty” is not true or false in any absolute sense – it is only true in relation to the taste of the person reporting on it. In this case, honesty means declaring your actual opinion – even though to another person, it might be wrong.

    But beyond the dictionary sense of what the word itself means, there’s the way that being honest acts in the world. Honesty isn’t just a word, it’s a characteristic of an act, behavior, or personality. It’s the difference, for example, between an “honest living” and a dishonest one – the criminal might not tell a single lie in the course of his or her day, but we wouldn’t necessarily call him or her “honest”.

    Advertising

    As a way of being and doing in the world, honesty is about trust – it’s about convincing others that we are to be trusted, and it’s about trusting others to be able to deal with the truth as we report it. Consider some of the situations that might lead us to be dishonest:

    • We want something from someone, and have nothing to offer in return.
    • We are afraid we’ll be punished for something.
    • We are afraid we’ll hurt someone’s feelings.
    • We don’t want someone to think badly of us.
    • We don’t want someone to do better than us.
    • We are protecting someone.
    • We are protecting ourselves.
    • We are protecting other people’s image of ourselves.
    • We are protecting our own image of ourselves.
    • We dislike someone.

    These are all purposely vague, and possibly overlapping depending on particular situations. The point isn’t to catalogue every possible reason for lying, but to demonstrate that most often, dishonesty is provoked by fear and danger.

    Thus, the salesperson lies because he is afraid of losing a sale. The significant other lies because she is afraid of hurting his or her partner’s feelings (and thus possibly losing the partner himself). The employee lies because she is afraid of getting fired, or of getting arrested. The spouse lies because he is afraid of breaking up his marriage. The student lies because she is afraid of failing a class. The criminal lies because he is afraid of being arrested, or of calling down revenge on himself. The doctor lies because she is afraid the patient will sue her (and she could possibly lose her license). The politician lies because he dislikes everyone – and because he is afraid of losing the next election.

    Advertising

    Think of all the times you might have been dishonest, even just a little, even just by telling a little white lie? What were you afraid of?

    How does it feel to live in fear? How does it feel to give in to it?

    Fear and Loathing on Life’s Path

    I said before that honesty is about trust. When we are dishonest with people, it is because we fear something. We fear that being honest will allow them to hurt us in some way, or we fear that being honest will hurt them in some way (and that, in turn, would hurt us – after all, we have no problem honestly listing the faults of people we dislike!).

    Advertising

    Ultimately, honesty makes us vulnerable, and dishonesty protects us. But at what cost? Every dishonesty is an admission that we don’t trust the person we’re lying to – we don’t trust them not to hurt us, and we don’t trust to trust us enough to know we don’t intend to hurt them. Either way, a lie says you think little of the person you’re lying to. It may not say it out loud – most of the time we lie because we are reasonably certain the other person will never find out the truth – but even if they don’t know, we know. Can you really think highly of a person you don’t trust?

    That’s harsh, I know, and I’m not necessarily advocating we give up every tiny white lie and less-than-full-disclosure; more, I’m suggesting that we think good and hard before allowing ourselves even the smallest dishonesty, lest it become a habit – not just a habit in the sense of the way we act, but a habit in the way we see other people, especially those close to us.

    This applies especially to the lies we tell ourselves. If dishonesty stems from a lack of trust, what does it mean when we lie to ourselves? And how much damage does it do us in the long run to not trust our own feelings, our own actions, our own being? Most of the time we know when we’re lying to ourselves – we see the truth behind our own actions and we excuse or justify that truth away.

    Can you be truly honest? Do you have what it takes to approach the world full of trust? Not stupidly or naively – you don’t have to tell your social security number to everyone who asks. although you don’t have to lie about why you won’t disclose it, either – just honestly. And if you could be totally honest, at least with the people who matter most in your life, what would change? Would it be better or worse? Finally, if you could be totally honest with your own self, would you be happier or sadder? I think these questions are worth examining – honestly.

    More by this author

    How to Learn Something New Every Day and Stay Smart How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques 3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively How To Stop Procrastinating and Get Stuff Done Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Trending in Communication

    1 Why Is Life So Hard? 4 Things You Can Do About It 2 5 Things to Do If You Don’t Want to Get Back to Work 3 Take Back Control of your Life with Positive Emotions 4 Had a Bad Day? 7 Ways to Rebound From It and Feel Good Again 5 I Don’t Know What to Do With My Life! 5 Steps to Get Unstuck

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on October 14, 2020

    Had a Bad Day? 7 Ways to Rebound From It and Feel Good Again

    Had a Bad Day? 7 Ways to Rebound From It and Feel Good Again

    Today didn’t turn out as you planned, but it doesn’t mean you’re weak. It simply means that you’re human, and you’re not bad just because you had a bad day.

    “Not everyday is a good day but there is something good in every day.” -Alice Morse Earle

    It’s not the end of the world when you find yourself thinking “I had a bad day,” but it can feel like it. You may have had plans that fell apart, experiences that set you back, and interactions that only did harm.

    You may have started the day thinking you could take on it all, only to find you could hardly get out of bed. When you have a bad day, you can forget to look at the good.

    Sometimes, self-care helps us to remember why we are worth it. It helps us to recharge and reset our mindset. It helps us to know that there are still options and that the day isn’t over yet.

    Love yourself today, no matter how hard it’s been. That’s the way to find yourself amidst the hardships you have. That’s how you center yourself and regain focus and live a more meaningful life. Give yourself some credit and compassion.

    Here are 7 ways to rebound from a bad day using self-compassion as a tool. If you had a bad day, these are for you!

    1. Make a Gratitude List

    In a study on gratitude, psychologists Dr. Robert A Emmons and Dr. Michael E. McCullough conducted an experiment where one group of people wrote out gratitude lists for ten weeks while another group wrote about irritations. The study found that the group that wrote about gratitude reported more optimistic mindsets in their lives[1].

    Overall, having a gratitude list improved well-being and made one truly grateful by counting the blessings in their lives.

    Write a list of what you are grateful for if you had a bad day. Make it as long as you like, but also remember to note why you’re grateful for each thing you write.

    What has given you the most joy? What has set you up for better days? Keep a tally of triumphs in mind, especially when you do have the bad days.

    Advertising

    The day doesn’t define you, and you still have things of value that surround you. These could be material things, spiritual connections and experiences, relationships, basic needs, emotional and mental well-being, physical health, progress towards hopes and dreams, or simply being alive.

    Here are some other simple ways to practice gratitude.

    2. Write in a Journal

    Journaling affects your overall mental health, which also affects physical health and aids in the management of stress, depression, anxiety, and more[2].

    All you need is a pen and paper, or you could do an online, password-protected journal such as Penzu. The key is to get started and not pressure yourself on how polished or perfect it is. You don’t need to have prior experience to start journal writing. Just start.

    Write out everything that is bothering you for 15 minutes. This helps with rumination, processing problems, and can even aid with brainstorming solutions.

    However you approach it, you can find patterns of thinking that no longer serve you and start to transform your overall mental state. This will impact all areas of your life and is a great coping skill.

    3. Meditate

    Meditation can help you overcome negative thought patterns, worrying about the future, dwelling on the past, or struggling to overcome a bad day[3]. It shifts your mentality and helps you focus on the present or any one thing you truly want to focus on.

    Here is an example of a meditation you can do:

    Get into a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Rest your body, release tension, and unclench your jaw. Tighten and release each muscle group in a body scan for progressive muscle relaxation.

    Focus on your breath, taking a few deep breaths. Let your belly expand when you breathe in for diaphragmatic breathing. Empty yourself completely of air, then return to normal breathing.

    Next, focus on the idea of self-love and let it erase negative thoughts. Think about the ways you’ve been judging yourself, with the narratives coming up that your mind may create.

    Advertising

    Give yourself unconditional love and release judgment. Take your time meditating on this because you matter. This is particularly important if you had a bad day.

    Check out this article for more on how to get started with a meditation practice.

    4. Do Child’s Pose

    Yoga Outlet says:

    “Child’s Pose is a simple way to calm your mind, slow your breath, and restore a feeling of peace and safety. Practicing the pose before bedtime can help to release the worries of the day. Practicing in the morning can you help transition from sleeping to waking.”[4]

    When you do Child’s Pose, it can be between difficult positions in yoga, or it can be anytime you feel you need a rest. It helps you recover from difficulties and relax the mind.

    It also has the physical health benefits of elongating your back, opening your hips, and helping with digestion[5].

    To do Child’s Pose, rest your buttocks back on your feet, knees on the floor. Elongate your body over your knees with both arms extended or tucked back, with head and neck resting on the floor[6].

    Had a bad day? Try Child's Pose.

       

      Do this pose as a gift to yourself. You are allowing yourself to heal, rest, get time for yourself, recover, and recharge. When you’ve had a bad day, it’s there waiting for you.

      5. Try Positive Self-Talk

      Engage in positive self-talk. This is essentially choosing your thoughts.

      Advertising

      When you have a negative thought, such as “I can’t do this,” replace it consciously with the thought “I can do this.” Give yourself positive affirmations to help with this.

      Negative self-talk fits into four general categories: personalizing or blaming yourself, magnifying or only focusing on the negative, catastrophizing or expecting the worst to happen, and polarizing or only seeing back and white[7].

      When you stop blaming yourself for everything and start focusing on the positive, expecting things to work out, and seeing the areas of grey in life, you reverse these negative mindsets and engage in positive self-talk.

      When you speak words of kindness to yourself, your brain responds with a more positive attitude. That attitude will affect everything you do. It’s how you take care of yourself if you had a bad day.

      Check in with yourself to know when you are having negative self-talk. Are you seeing patterns? When did they start to become a problem? Are you able to turn these thoughts around?

      6. Use Coping Skills and Take a Break

      Use your coping skills. This means not letting your thoughts take control of yourself.

      You can distract yourself and escape a bit. Do things you love. You can exercise, listen to music, dance, volunteer or help someone, be in nature, or read a book.

      It isn’t about repression. It’s about redirection. You can’t stay in thoughts that are no longer working for you.

      Sometimes, it’s okay to get out of your own way. Give yourself a break from the things going on in your head. You can always come back to a problem later. This may even help you figure out the best course of action as sometimes stepping away is the only way to see the solution.

      If you had a bad day, you may not feel like addressing what went wrong. You may need a break, so take one.

      7. If a Bad Day Turns Into Bad Days

      “I believe depression is legitimate. But I also believe that if you don’t exercise, eat nutritious food, get sunlight, get enough sleep, consume positive material, surround yourself with support, then you aren’t giving yourself a fighting chance.” –Jim Carrey

      If you’ve been feeling out of control, depressed, or unstable for more than a few weeks, it’s time to call a mental health professional. This is not because you have failed in any way. It’s because you are human, and you simply need help.

      You may not be able to quickly rebound from a bad day, and that’s fine. Feel what you feel, but don’t let it consume you.

      When you talk to a professional, share the techniques that you have already tried here and whether they were helpful. They may tell you additional ideas or gain insights from your struggles of not being able to rebound from a series of bad days.

      If you’re having more than just a bad day, they will want to know. If you don’t have the answers, that’s okay, too. You just need to try these tools and figure out how you’re feeling. That’s all that’s required of you.

      Keep taking care of yourself. Any progress is progress, no matter how small. Give yourself a chance to get better by reaching out.

      Final Thoughts

      If you had a bad day, don’t let it stop you.

      Know this: It’s okay not to be okay. You have a right to feel what you feel. But there is something you can do about it.

      You can invest in yourself via self-care.

      You are not alone in this. Everyone has bad days from time to time. You just need to know that you are the positive things you tell yourself.

      More Things You Can Do If You Had a Bad Day

      Featured photo credit: Anthony Tran via unsplash.com

      Reference

      Read Next