“When compassion awakens in your heart, you’re able to be more honest with yourself.” – Mingyur Rinpoche
Do you lie to yourself? Maybe just a little? Maybe a lot? Whatever the answer, you’re not alone. Most people tell lies, rationalize at times, trying to reassure themselves with a self-talk that’s more wishful thinking or revisionist in nature than actual truth.
Sometimes, that’s not all bad. If you need to embroider what happened with a brighter colored thread to get past it, maybe that’s healthy.
For the most part, however, learning to be honest with yourself is the more proactive approach. How do you get there? Does it take a long time to be comfortable with honesty? What steps can you take today? Here are some thoughts.
Try to see things from the other person’s point of view.
What might look black and white on the surface to you is probably quite different from the way the other person looks at the same set of facts or circumstances. After all, how we view a situation is always colored by our prior experiences, our upbringing, values and other factors. Therefore, each of us has a world view that is somewhat unique. You may see as failure not being able to accomplish an objective, while I may regard it as a learning experience and be less put off by it or feel the need to justify it with lies. By putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, so to speak, you may help increase your sense of understanding and compassion. In so doing, you’ll increase the likelihood that you’ll be a bit more honest with yourself. It’s certainly worth a try.
Accent the positive.
Find one good thing you did today and be grateful for the chance you had to make a difference. It doesn’t need to be a life-changing act to qualify. Just highlight some positive effort you made today and this will help frame your outlook to do more of the same. For example, if you went out of your way to brighten the day of a co-worker who’s experiencing family difficulties, that’s a positive act on your part, one that you did with no requirement for reciprocity. You can and should feel good about what you did. In fact, the more good that you can do, the more honest you’ll tend to be about yourself and your capabilities. After all, this is a habit that pays handsome dividends in the long run.
One of the reasons people lie to themselves and others is to escape the consequences of wrongdoing — or failing to live up to their responsibilities. To be able to move forward from past misdeeds or lack of appropriate action, however, you must first forgive yourself. It may feel strange to do so, yet self-forgiveness has a powerful aftereffect. Once you take ownership of what you did in an honest and forthright way (to yourself), and forgive yourself, you’re ready to move forward in life. This will help make self-honesty a little easier to incorporate into daily living.
If you feel that you want to help others, that’s compassion awakening in your heart.
Instead of always thinking of excuses or trying to gain an edge, if you begin to feel like you want to do something to help another, that’s often a good sign that you’re beginning to feel compassion. And that’s a very positive development. Make it a point to nurture compassion, rather than trying to squelch it as uncomfortable or requiring you to actually make good on the feeling. Honestly, who doesn’t need compassion? It helps both the person who feels it and the recipient of the powerful emotion.
Remind yourself that honesty is important.
Research studies at UCLA and MIT have found that a simple reminder to be honest works most of the time, with or without religious context. If you want to train yourself to be honest, you can do so with self-reminders. If you value the truth, insist on telling the truth — or say nothing at all to avoid lying. This is also applicable to how you employ self-talk.