When we were kids we were told how to behave even when it didn’t match up with our true feelings or findings. We heard things like:
“You can’t say that.”
“Give Auntie a kiss, don’t hurt her feelings.”
“Don’t make your father mad.”
“That’s a bad word.”
“Don’t you talk back to me!”
First of all, it is not, and never was our job to make the people around us happy or make their lives easy. Being threatened with punishment or the withdrawal of affection and approval stays with us long after childhood.
We were all taught far too much inaccurate bullshit about what we have to do to manage the emotions of others. Before we were old enough to understand, we were told to shut up — and as we get older are never given the permission to unlock our mouths and let the truth come out.
Kids are blunt. They say what they see and what they think. Empathy arrives on the scene a little later, but by the time it kicks in, we have already been indoctrinated into thinking we are responsible for everyone’s feelings. We are not. We have been taught that the happiness of others depends on whether or not we please them. This is a lie. For some, it is a terrible and sometimes crippling life sentence.
Unless we recognize and reject what we were taught, we maintain a lingering fear of telling the truth when it would serve us (and those around us) best if we spoke up. We are rarely rewarded for telling the truth. So we accept lying to avoid uncomfortable situations. We lie so well that we often don’t notice we are doing it. If when we happen to catch ourselves, we rationalize it away because we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
Part of being a grown-up is getting over our own anger and hurt feelings instead of placing the blame on others. In fact, if we’d quit lying to each other, getting over stuff would get a whole lot easier. No confusion. No mixed messages. No mind-reading games. No secrets.
Just. The. Effing. Truth. Makes you breathe easier just to think of that. Right?
We still are trying to avoid our fear of triggering anger or sadness. When we were kids, it felt like a threat to our survival. But it is not. No one can send you to your room or take away your toys. Even at work, you can realize when you’re turning your boss into your parents (or your teachers) and instead, treat them as a fellow adult, not an authority figure to be feared or kept happy.
Start small. Notice when you say you’re happy when you’re not. When you give somebody a compliment that you don’t feel. When you say you’re willing to do something that you really don’t want to do. Undo the reaction you have to avoid the truth. With practice you will be able to say what you mean and mean what you say most of the time. You will become trustworthy, rather than another average crowd pleasure.
At the end of the day, notice when and how you lied. And the next day go clean it up. Go back and say, “You know yesterday when you asked me if I was okay with _________? Well, here’s what I’m thinking now…”
Don’t tell a story, apologize or explain why you changed your response. Skip all of that. Just tell the truth. Be afraid, take a breath, and tell the truth. The more you do this, the easier it gets.
Being Radically Honest means being honest at the core of your being. It is about taking on responsibility for your own happiness rather than whining or manipulating others. And it is about allowing others to manage their own upsets, rather than pretending that it’s your job. You make yourself happy. Others make themselves happy. Those conflicts that you try to avoid will resolve themselves faster and with greater ease. Honesty is about the joy of being alive!