Recently one of my close friends told me about something that I always considered to be only my battle – the simple fact that all things wrong and all social problems that she faces seem to come from too much honesty.
Throughout the course of my life I have pondered over it a good deal already. Coming from a position that honesty constitutes one of the crucial ideals that one should aspire to does come with a little… hurdle in that not everyone appreciates your honesty, not everyone wants your honesty and your honesty can be misunderstood as, well, a severe lack of manners. Not that I have many of those manners, you know, even outside my too direct speech. You’d think I would come up with a solution, right? Especially since I live in the land of the not-so-trustworthy politeness.
But no. Being too honest for my own good is something I still struggle with – and something I will never stop struggling with unless I take drastic action. I am afraid it is intervention time – for me, for my friend, and for all of you who might have caught this unfortunate honesty condition somewhere along the way.
Interventions are fun, no?
Why honesty matters?
I wouldn’t be myself, of course, if I didn’t start this post by stressing exactly why I feel like honesty is the best policy in general.
In my book, the single best thing one can do for oneself is to be as honest as possible. Sure, we all fall into the trick of denial – but if we at least try to stay in an honest relationship with who we are, things like self-pity and shifting the blame on others are easier to avoid. Not only that; if we are honest with ourselves, stretching to reach for our dreams is way way easier, as we skip the awkward I want to but I am too embarrassed to as well as the I don’t know what I want phases.
And honesty amongst each other … Putting aside the moral implication of any lies, even the whitest ones, so many conflicts can be avoided by owning up the truth. Lies or misinformation make simple things complex within the blink of an eye. Just close your eyes and think of the last time things got out of control because someone didn’t say something or said something completely different to save their skin.
On the most selfish level, honesty works better in the long run. Lies always come back to bite us in our sneaky bums; and even if it seems like they don’t, they influence us in other ways that are very hard to predict. Every action has a reaction. All magic comes with a price. Et cetera.
In Poland we say a lie has short legs. It will only take you that far. Honesty is the only long-term solution.
When honesty goes wrong
But as lies carry their own consequences, so does truth – and honesty can sometimes be a very bitter pill to take.
First and foremost, no matter how pristine your intentions are, you may just be rude. Trust me, I am rude all the time although I just assume I am somehow helping people. I have a right to say all the things I want to say, but I need to accept the fact that some people may find it unkind and in return, have a bad opinion of me.
Honesty taken to the extreme, the way I do tend towards, can turn you into a villain. Or at least the sort of person it is not that fun to have around. You know, the moaner. Judge. Critic. Someone who doesn’t bother with all the fluff we call human relationship management and always just gets to the cutting point.
It can get you into trouble too, although I actually… don’t mind that one. Not that I like being punished for what I do, one way or another – but I do feel like this is necessary. Maybe it’s my catholic schoolgirl thinking chipping in, but getting away with things is not my style. I’d rather accept the consequences of what I have done here and now than worry whether one day I will get caught – or even worse, watch someone take the blame for me.
Finally, honesty with oneself can be soul shattering too and, although necessary, should always be applied with caution. Too much of it at once, if that is not something we’ve been generally subscribed to, may give you a punch that may knock you off your feet… for a very long time. It has happened to me a few times, this sudden realization that I have been wrong and I have done very wrong things – and I am not sure I quite recovered from any of these.
On balancing honesty and kindness
Empathy is something I severely lack – my dad always jokes that I am as empathic as the Red Army itself – but it is probably the most important thing when it comes to this unfortunate too much honesty condition.
You see, luckily for all of us – not everyone is me.
For all of you that may be a very straightforward observation, but I do have a problem with actually applying it into practice. Yes, I do KNOW, on the rational level, that not everyone is like me. But in my everyday life I kind of assume… the opposite, no matter how ridiculous it sounds to me on paper.
Being very thick skinned, arrogant, madly in love with myself and the kind of person who does prefer the bitter truth to a sweet lie, I find it hard to believe some people just don’t. More than that. I find it hard to understand why anyone would need any of that, you know, sweet nonsense. So not only do I not stop myself from making harsh comments, I also don’t go out of my way to say positive things if they are too obvious to me.
That’s a no no.
I am trying to work on it, I promise, it is just very hard, remembering other people’s needs can be so drastically different than mine. But if you do struggle with people thinking you’re rude or too straightforward, that is exactly what you need to focus on – finding this balance between honesty and kindness.
Perfectionism doesn’t help as well
The lack of empathy aside, there is one more good reason why I may be… a bit too hard on the people around me, especially people working with me – I suffer from a very serious case of perfectionism.
Not that I apply different standards to others than I do to myself; that would be very much not a-okay. And I also don’t think I am some sort of excellence measure when it comes to all areas of life. I am just that – unforgiving to others’ and mine mistakes.
I hate when things go wrong. It stresses me out to see even a minor underperformance.
And since I do believe in being honest with others on all sorts of things, I do end up complaining maybe a tad too much about things that others have done that have disappointed me. It is as much an empathy issue as a simple need to let go and take a step back. The world is not going to fall down just because someone forgot to put a full stop at the end of their sentence. I hope.
.. and it applies to oneself too
Because the truth is… the truth about us is not always, well, THE truth.
One can get lost in honesty as one can get lost in a lie – and completely dis-attach oneself from the reality of the process. And since honesty with oneself has only one point of reference – and that is who we want to be – it is prone to a great many exaggerations.
Holding oneself to too high a standard would be the most obvious one. I do this all the time. Give myself benchmarks that in no way, shape or form could be ever achieved in the time given – or, you know, by me in general. And then I go through the process of being honest with myself the completely wrong way; instead of honestly realizing my goals were unrealistic, I honestly tell myself off for screwing up.
The solution? I feel like the safest option would be to find oneself a touch point in the form of another human being. I know, I know, life is tough and trust is tough too; and sometimes there just isn’t anyone around and that is the heart of the matter. If that is the case, maybe at very least writing our thoughts down and reading them again after a few days, once we calm down, or to-do lists with easily measurable items on them, or anything that would give us data, concrete proof of what we do and how we’re doing it, maybe that could do as a substitute.