When was the last time you told a lie? Why did you tell it? And what effect did it have on you, and the person you told it to?
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about honesty, because as a yoga student and teacher I try to practise satya, or truthfulness. I’ve also been inspired by the book Radical Honesty. This book argues that the illnesses and stress we suffer from are caused by us not being honest – with ourselves or with others.
So, in the spirit of being honest, I’ve worked out that the lies I’ve told in the past have generally fallen into one of the following categories:
White lies – I’m defining these as the lies you tell to avoid hurting someone else’s feelings. “Of course your new haircut suits you.”
Guilty conscience – These are the lies you tell if you feel threatened in some way by the truth. Maybe you want to avoid getting into trouble, damaging a relationship or simply looking bad. “I’m sure I checked that there was enough milk in the fridge before I left.”
Storytelling – Ever catch yourself adding details to a story to make it funnier, or exaggerating to emphasise a point? These are the little lies that enhance the narrative to suit our purpose. “I’d literally been working for twelve hours straight, when…”
Hiding your feelings – Sometimes you might lie to hide your own hurt, discomfort or even happiness. “No don’t worry – of course I wasn’t upset when you said…”
How can you be more truthful?
The last three categories are the lies I’m trying to minimise. They’re generally motivated by ego, and thinking that your actions, behaviours or feelings aren’t ok just as they are and need hiding or distorting. They are sustained by the belief that being yourself is not good enough.
Holding yourself accountable for your actions is intrinsic in living more truthfully. I’m finding the more I own my mistakes, my weaknesses and my flaws the better I feel, and actually the more I trust myself to do the right thing. As for storytelling, I remind myself to be as fair and truthful in what I say as possible. Even if that means the story isn’t quite as funny…
But I’ve found the hiding your feelings lies to be the hardest to avoid. I don’t like admitting that I’m hurt or sad. It’s one of the reasons sometimes I find writing this blog so hard, because I try to always write with honesty, and that can leave me feeling vulnerable. But I think maybe these are the most important. If you can’t be honest with others about how you feel, then you’re only allowing them to get to know a representation of you. Maybe you even start to believe in that representation too for a while, but ultimately I don’t think you can hide from yourself and be truly happy. And when you’re honest with others, you encourage them to be honest with you, hopefully leading to more transparent and genuine relationships.
Being honest starts with being honest with yourself. Every time you are tempted to lie, or every time you do, ask yourself, “Why do I want to say that?” And if it’s because you believe you’re not good enough as you are or you’re ashamed of something you’ve done, take a deep breath and try speaking the truth instead. You might be surprised at the difference it makes.
What about the white lies? Watch this space for a whole other blog post to come on those…
Wishing you all a week of courage and honesty!