November 12, 2017
“I’d always thought telling the truth to other people was hard, but maybe that was a snap compared to telling the truth to yourself. Sometimes we just refuse to know what we know.” Deb Caletti
Your inner compass won’t let you down, but getting to it can be tough. It means changing your relationship with the truth. By change, I mean telling yourself the truth about yourself.
We are not who we wish we were, and even more disturbing is that we are not always who we think we are. We are at times more and at times less. On automatic pilot, which for some of us is much of the time, we are what everyone else has shaped us to be. And we don’t even know it. It happens so slowly, over years and years of conditioning by family, friends, media, educational institutions, and our cultural heritage, that it takes some digging to notice that there’s more to us than we think.
Doing the work of learning to tell the truth to ourselves can be profoundly uncomfortable. It can shake the foundation upon which we’ve built our lives.
We all pretty much like to think we’re kind, generous, loving and that all we want is the best for others, right?
The problem is that sadly, regardless of my aspirations, I am not always kind, generous and loving. Sometimes I’m an ass. Not because I’m a bad person, but because I’m human. And the natural state of humans is to be on automatic pilot and believe whatever our thoughts are telling us. But my thoughts aren’t always grounded in reality. And in order to be real, I need to be grounded very firmly in reality. Otherwise, I start defending and blaming and dancing around the truth. And most importantly, I start abdicating responsibility for managing myself. If I’m not the problem, it must be you! And another dance begins…
Here are some examples of not telling ourselves the truth, by refusing to know what we know:
Maybe you haven’t worked through your history of trauma so your unfinished business is bleeding onto all your current relationships, leaving you believing you can’t trust anyone. I can’t promise much, but I can promise this – there are people out there who are trustworthy and sincerely want the best for you. Once you allow yourself to trust that, they’ll start showing up. This one I know from personal experience.
Maybe you needed to leave a relationship the moment you saw that it wasn’t going to work, rather than spending the next ten years convincing yourself that you could change your partner or your friend. The truth is that it may not be easy, but you can leave, and you don’t have to be pissed off to do it. Nor do you need to position yourself as a victim. You can admit that it was your decision to stay for your own very good reasons. And if it’s time to leave, you can do it with class and grace. Or you can stay, restructure the relationship in healthy ways, and start living the life that you were meant to live. (Always the caveat is the exception that if you’re in danger, get help.)
Maybe you need to see and accept that people have some warts that look different than yours. And they’re not so bad, just different. (Yours are probably just as annoying as theirs!) If you can accept each other’s warts you can probably move forward pretty quickly in the direction of the relationship you want. Satisfying, and yet imperfect as it will inevitably be. In order to accept theirs you first need to see and accept your own. That’s just how it works.
Maybe you sacrificed everything for your kids only to see that they didn’t actually appreciate it and they don’t visit much anymore. Stop trying to get them to do something they don’t seem willing to do. Bring your attention back to you. What interests you? Do that. You may find that as you become more interesting and interested, they become more interested in you.
In each of these life clips, vision was distorted. It’s so much easier to tell the truth about ‘them’ rather than dig for the truth about us. We humans have an uncanny ability to see through others’ BS, but when it comes to our own, it can be a real struggle.
The good news is that under all our defenses and hot air is an internal compass that is just waiting to point us in the direction of our most authentic selves.
One way to get in touch with it is to simply PAUSE. Breathe all the way out. Soften your body. When you’re in touch with your body you’re in touch with reality. And then ask that internal compass ‘What feels right in this moment?’ Not what feels right to anyone else, but to you. And then give it time to offer an answer that leaves you feeling enlarged and clean and loving. Often it’s as simple as that. Asking yourself for the truth. And then owning it.
Then consider telling that truth to someone you respect and admire. See what kind of feedback you get. Sometimes what you’ll hear will be disappointing. It will mean facing an uncomfortable truth or two about yourself. Or, maybe you’ll hear that you’re not the bad guy you thought you were. In either case, telling the truth will require acting from the truth. That’s where the rubber hits the road.
The next important question to ask yourself is ‘What do I need to do, say, think or feel that is different from what I’ve been doing, saying, thinking or feeling?’
Finally, I think we more easily get in touch with our internal compass when we stop relying so heavily on labels. Stop calling ourselves or others too nice, or too naïve, or too anything that hides the fact that there are things about ourselves we don’t want to see. The vast majority of us are doing the best we can and when we drop the defenses and the blaming and dancing around the truth, we are actually pretty amazing. It just takes a huge leap of courage to take the first step of telling ourselves the truth.
And here’s the best part. We like each other so much more when we’re real and owning our own stuff. Even when we’re falling apart and pathetic and don’t have the answers. Because most of us have been there, and we simply want to help. We are drawn to people who tell the truth. We can’t help ourselves.
I hope that if and when we meet we will have a sense of knowing each other, a sense that here is someone who has learned to tell the truth. We’ll know each other because we’ll feel safe.