Can I be honest with you?
Today's article is inspired by the Netflix rom-com 'Love Hard' that I watched earlier this week. The film follows an L.A. writer, Natalie, who after meeting her perfect match on a dating app, learns she's been catfished when she flies 3,000 miles to surprise him for Christmas.
So why did I want to share my questionable choice in films with you? Well, the film had a really good message about the importance of honesty.
Often the tendency to people-please, over-give and over-function in our relationships with others can lead us to mold and contort ourselves to fit in so that we can avoid the negative consequences of displeasing, disappointing and upsetting people.
We stay silent, say yes (when we want to say no), take on too much, and do things we don't really want to do in order to be liked, keep the peace and not rock the boat.
We might even roll our eyes and think 'anything for an easy life'... yet life probably feels anything but easy! Whilst our intentions are usually good, the hard truth is this is still a form of dishonesty...
Now I know this may be a bit triggering as none of us likes to think of ourselves as dishonest, in fact, we work really hard to be seen as kind, thoughtful and good people.
So I invite you to stay open and curious as we explore why we can find it difficult to be honest sometimes and how we can start to build our courage and confidence to speak our truth and be true to ourselves.
You're a great person but then your insecurities creep in, so you make just a slight exaggeration, it's still you, just a shinier version. You like it, so you tweak it just a little more until the real you, which was probably pretty great to begin with, is unrecognisable.
- Josh (Love Hard, Netflix)
Why do we struggle to be honest?
We all have our own inner 'rule book' full of the do's and don'ts we have picked up over the years about how we 'should' be or what we 'should' do to feel safe or ok. These messages came from a variety of sources:
- how we saw others behave
- how we saw others treated
- our family messaging and belief systems
- the roles family members took
- general family dynamics
- experiences with authority figures
- significant relationships outside of family
- cultural and societal messaging
People pleasing, perfecting, over-giving and over-functioning are some of the behaviours we may have learned to use to feel safe and accepted. And it makes perfect sense that these rules (or beliefs) become our blueprint because they work... until they don't!
As an example, if we have learned that being good, quiet, compliant and not making a fuss equals praise or enables us to fly under the radar and avoid any negative reactions or consequences, this tends to become our default for how we navigate life.
When we go against our default rules or beliefs, it feels unsafe, wrong and can elicit strong emotions such as anxiety, guilt and even shame about who we are or what we did.
Being honest in these situations is hard and can feel incredibly vulnerable. This can cause us to lie in order to feel safe again or to hide a part of ourselves that we think will be unacceptable or could change someone else's perception of us.
This can be especially true if we have had experiences of being punished, shamed or castigated for telling the truth in the past. In the words of @the.holistic.therapist "Where there is shame, there is lying."
Speak your truth
Back in 2015, I went on my first solo trip to a yoga retreat in Ibiza. I wasn't a massive 'yogi', I just had a desire to go on holiday and come home feeling healthier than when I went!
I didn't realise that there is a hippy side to Ibiza before this trip but I've always liked a little bit of 'woo' so once there I decided to fully immerse myself in the experience.
This included booking a 'spiritual massage'. I didn't really know what to expect but the people that went before me floated out of the room with the most serene look on their faces and I was too intrigued not to give it a go!
I was welcomed by a lovely man that straight away put me at ease. The massage itself was amazing and to this day, the best massage I have ever had.
What was different was that before he started he did a little ritual to summon the angels and help me to let go of things that weren't serving me (I didn't tell him what those things were!).
I have to admit I was slightly sceptical at the beginning but I went with it and what stuck with me most about this experience was when he shared his insights from 'the angels'.
At the time I was feeling quite lost following my divorce and was full of self-doubt and shame. Divorce wasn't in my rule book - my parents have been married nearly 50 years, so when I walked out on my husband it sent a tsunami through my foundations and left me floundering in a sea of wreckage.
I didn't have the tools back then to manage these difficult feelings so instead, I stuffed them down, put my attention on others and kept tweaking myself to fit in so people would like me.
So when the divine guidance he received from the angels was to encourage me to 'speak my truth', my immediate reaction was "hell no!" He explained that I was very tense and that I had to stop internalising everything and start letting it out otherwise it would continue to create 'dis-ease' in my body.
As I let this guidance sink in I realised he was right. I wasn't speaking my truth. I wasn't being honest with others because I wasn't being honest with myself. My shame was corroding my self-esteem, influencing the questionable choices I was making and how I was showing up in my relationships with others.
It's fair to say that it wasn't a linear process learning to 'speak my truth'! It involved a great deal of trial and error, self-reflection, personal growth and imperfect action over time. However, as a result of this 'divine intervention' and leaning into the idea of speaking my truth, it really has changed my life and relationships for the better.
On the same yoga retreat, I was also introduced to the work of the awesome Brene Brown, specifically her iconic Ted Talk on The Power Of Vulnerability. It was another aha moment on what was turning out to be a very transformational week.
In this video, Brene defines shame as the fear of disconnection: Is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, that I won’t be worthy of connection? What underpins this shame is the fear that "I'm not good enough. I’m not thin enough, rich enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, promoted enough.”
Brene identifies that the difference between those of us that have a strong sense of worthiness and those that really struggle for it is a belief that we are worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. We just have to believe we’re worthy. Sounds so simple right!
She also identified that this sense of worthiness went hand in hand with a sense of courage, which she defined as coming from the Latin word cor, meaning heart — to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.
What this means in practice is that these folks have the courage to be imperfect. They have the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly.
Lastly, people with a strong sense of worthiness have a connection with others as a result of authenticity - they are willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they are.
I'm not suggesting for one minute that any of this is easy. Vulnerability can feel excruciating when we are used to hiding the messy bits of ourselves, and often requires us to risk the things we fear the most.
If this article resonates with you and you'd like some support with building your courage, confidence and communication skills to become 'responsibly selfish' I would love to offer you a complimentary 60-minute coaching session.
There will be zero obligation or pushy sales patter and if after the session you decide you would like to discuss working together we can book another call to discuss this. Just hit the email me button below or book directly via my website.
I'll leave you with one more quote from the film 'Love Hard'...
In order to find true love I need to be honest about who I am. And maybe that's been the problem all along. I've been so focused on other peoples dishonesty that I never really stopped to look at my own, and maybe if I did I'd finally see what's really in front of me and maybe the ending to my story might be different.