Step Ten: Be honest with yourself and others
Asking for What We Really Want & Saying What We Mean
As I've gotten older I have come to the realization that we each are the gate keepers to our own paths in life. What I mean is... the direction we ultimately go in is dictated by us. It's taken me far too long to post this post, but with life, graduate school, website building, and other obligations, I hadn't found (or taken) the time until now to finish it. The truth of the matter is that we have control over our lives and even our experience of it, and whether or not we take that control and use it to our advantage, it's still there.
Like a magician and his assistant, we all want to be trustworthy and to trust those around us. But where does trust come from?
Truth and honesty, of course. It should be simple right? These two very loaded words have great importance to us all. We expect it from other people, or at least hope for it. We strive to possess both ourselves... at least most of us do, most of the time. But it can be difficult at times to live in truth and honesty, especially when what we want to express or say could lead to discomfort or heartache (whether our own or someone else's). It's easy to be honest when the truth is relatively benign or when we know it will be well received, but what about those situations when what we have to say puts our hearts on the line?
In order to truly live a blissful life we have to not only be honest with other people, we have to be honest with ourselves. It is definitely true what they say "the truth will set you free", and here are five powerful ways truth and honesty can be used to take control of our lives and enhance our experiences of it.
The Truth of the Matter:
1. Lower your expectations for what you think other people should already know.
Over the years I have had many conversations with both friends and relatives about the expectations we place on other people. The truth of the matter is that we expect others, generally those closest to us, to be able to read our minds and understand our needs without us having to say anything about it to them.
When they don't give us what we want, (whether it be, a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear; advice; an invitation to something or somewhere other friends are being invited; quality alone time together; being a support system in our lives and goals; remembering our birthdays; or simply doing or not doing something we'd consider commonplace), we get upset at them for not innately knowing what it was we wanted from them in the first place. We hold out, waiting for them to come to the realization that they've disappointed us for not doing (or knowing) what we wanted or even why we're upset. But this passive-aggressive behavior isn't going to get us what we want, only clear communication and honesty will.
When we expect others to know what we want, but haven't taken the time to make our needs or wants known, we are in fact the real root of our own frustrations. We can't control other people, but we can control ourselves, how we communicate our needs and feels, and how we react to others and situations. Remember that everyone thinks and doesn't things differently, and there's nothing wrong with that. Here is the really important part of all this: There is nothing wrong about haven't expectations, however, there is something unhealthy about expecting other people to know or even abide by our expectations without clear communication and mutual understand, as well as agreement from both parties that this expectation exists and that we are both going to live by it. All you can do is let your friend or loved know now how what ever the situation was made you feel. By just releasing that feeling through communication (not an argument or accusation) you'll feel a whole lot better.
Simply put, ask for what you want, say what you need, express how you feel, and communicate with clarity. But still remember even after you've expressed what you needed to doesn't obligate someone to do or see things your way. However, un-communicated expectations lead to hurt feelings, but how can we blame someone for not knowing what we haven't told them?
2. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
Sometimes it can be hard to find the right words, and other times we know exactly what we want to say, but actually saying it (whatever it may be) is something different entirely. We skirt around what we want to say by using filler words and half-truths and end up never getting our point across. This goes back to the importance of clear communication. If you don't say what you mean, how could anyone truly understand you? And if you don't mean what you say, how could anyone truly trust you? So, if you're invited to hangout with friends, but aren't planning on showing up, don't say that you're on your way and not come. Be the person others can rely on to be honest, trustworthy, and reliable.
3. It's perfectly acceptable to say "No" and standby that "no", when asked to do something you simply don't want to do.
Why is it so hard for us to say "no" to people, when "no" is what we mean or need to say? Sometimes we don't want to go out with friends, sometimes Netflix and a bowl of air-popped popcorn sounds like the best Friday night of our lives. Sometimes we don't have time to take on another free project that our friends or relatives think will be great "experience" for us because we're artists and love doing what we do, so that somehow means we shouldn't get paid for it. Sometimes we have to pinch our pennies and can't go out for Sunday brunch; or we're working hard to eat healthy so we don't want to go to a bar.
There's nothing wrong with saying "no". What is unhealthy is saying "yes", when we mean "no" and then resenting people for "making us do" something we didn't really want to do in the first place. No one can make you do anything, you have full control of your words, so use them wisely. The truth of the matter is we let our own guilt about hurting someone's feels or letting someone down, trump our feelings of not wanting to do something or needing to do something else for ourselves. There's nothing selfish about taking care of our own needs first, especially if whatever we're being asked to do is something that either damages the relationship (because of resentment) or damages our well-being (risky behavior).
Though also take into consideration why we are saying "no", and remember that sometimes it's good to leave our comfort zones and experience something new. Which I talk about more in Step Nine: Say "Yes" to Opportunity. Check it out if you haven't already!
4. You don't know everything, you don't have all the right answers, and that's okay!
There's a line in a Life House song (yes, I like Life House... don't judge me too harshly), that says "Honesty is a hard attribute to find when we all want to seem like we've got it all figured out.... But let me be the first to say that I don't have a clue, I don't have all the answers, but god I pretend like I do. Just trying to find my way." There's so much truth in just those few lines. The vast majority of us spend our days going through life pretending that we know it all and cross paths with other people pretending the same thing. And not just that, we'll defend to the bitter end even our most flawed "so-called facts", beliefs, and opinions as though they are truths even in the face of a better argument, documented evidence, and even the truth of the matter itself.
We've all been there, standing amongst a conversation, either actively participating or over hearing, someone who without a doubt in their voice relayed falsehoods as though they were the facts. This individual will argue their point vigorously without a doubt in their mind everything they know about peanuts because they scrolled past a facebook headline talking about peanuts, and figured the catchy tagline was all they needed to know about the story to be the bona-fide expert on the subject. Sadly, sometime it's our own voice we're hearing, jabbering on about something we simply don't know much about. But why? Why do we feel the need to press upon people facts and beliefs we ourselves know we know little about?
There is nothing wrong with not know everything and not having all the answers, and in actuality it is impossible to know everything and have all the answers. There is so much knowledge and information out there that it is impossible for any one person to know it all, to have experienced it all, and to have seen it all. And further still, it's healthy for us to be able to admit that we simply don't know everything. Remember that you may not know all the facts about something, so be open and willing to hear out someone who may have further insight into the matter. Free yourself and just be. See strength in being honest about what you know and don't know, and life will be so much more peaceful. Be receptive to new information and learn more about the world and other people's opinions, and once you have all the facts, make up your mind for yourself about what know to be true for you.
5. Stop lying to yourself, you already know the truth.
And finally... Stop lying to yourself. We all do it, we make excuses for ourselves; for our behaviors; for our actions; and reactions. We tell ourselves and others it was a justifiable response to someone or something else outside of ourselves, like a Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde sort of deal. But in situations where our actions, reactions, and behaviors are questionable at best and offensive or dangerous at worse, we know there were better options or a 'higher road' we could have taken. While we can't change the past we can see it as it truly happened and learn from those experiences and situations, so that the next time a similar situation arises we'll be able to do what we know we should.
Simply put. Seek truth, live in honesty.
- Happy Thursday!