There’s an old saying that honesty is the best policy. Most of us espouse that belief; we don’t lie, steal or cheat. Honesty is a universally admired character trait by which most of us try to live.
In spite of this, we sometimes miss the boat when it comes to honesty with ourselves. We tell more fibs to ourselves than to anyone else, and we don’t even realize it.
We can’t say “No,” to a request because it might hurt someone’s feelings, so we convince ourselves it really doesn’t matter. How many young mothers are swamped with requests from children’s teachers and playmates to bake cookies, sell raffle tickets and run carpools?
Those who are not true to themselves end up doing 90 percent of the work. We all know someone who is eternally available. Mothers who say ‘No’ may not be popular, but are true to themselves. In fact, people who do too much to please others unwittingly deprive others of the opportunity to do their share. Of course, the opposite extreme is a completely different scenario; those who totally lack consideration for others.
We are raised to please, to not disappoint or hurt anyone. Early in life, we learn to look good, and in the process, we lose touch with what we really want and who we are. We sometimes learn to discount our own feelings and needs in order to meet the expectations of others. To do so, we must fool ourselves. We end up not knowing for certain whether we act for ourselves or who we want others to think we are.
Do we want to lose weight for ourselves or to please a parent or spouse? Do we choose a job or career because we have a genuine interest or for another reason, such as to please a demanding parent, become wealthy or outshine a sibling?
These questions are important, because in the end, happiness comes only when we are true to ourselves. That does not mean having one’s own way; it is possible to follow one’s heart and still compromise when appropriate.
Motivation derives from inner passion; when we are true to ourselves motivation is not a problem. We can transcend challenges and address obstacles with equanimity, no matter how hard we may have to work. When the reason to accomplish a goal truly comes from within, it is easily achieved. When motivated and wise enough to follow our truth, we are fulfilled. We have peace of mind.
How do we recognize our inner truth? For most individuals, it comes in the form of a gut feeling that a situation or decision is right. We usually know from a deep place inside. If not, we can practice listening for that inner voice of wisdom; it is there.
We must be cautious in the realm of relationships not to become prey to our own dishonesty. Otherwise, we can make a decision to settle for less than we truly want. Again, a gut feeling is often the best guide. Although not very scientific, it may well be most accurate.
For a fulfilling, satisfying life, we must be honest with ourselves, even when it hurts. One of the best ways to know what we really want and feel is to honor our first instincts. They represent an inner wisdom that we all possess. First instincts are seldom wrong. With practice in paying attention, gut feelings become more and more clear. When we are brave enough to override our fears of disapproval and listen to that wise inner voice, we can avoid a great deal of pain down the road. We will experience much satisfaction and peace of mind.
Elinor Stanton is a psychiatric nurse practitioner on Marco Island, with 33 years of experience as a therapist, in private practice and with a large health maintenance organization in Boston. She graduated from Boston College and the University of Rochester, and is certified as a clinical specialist by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Stanton also is certified in Imago Relationship Therapy and is trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Comments and questions and may be submitted by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 394-2861.