How Honest Are We with Ourselves in Today's Society?

Bill Abbate

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If there were anyone you could be honest with, you'd think it would be yourself. But how honest are you with yourself? Do you always tell yourself the truth, or do you skirt it at times?

What we say and do in life shapes who we are, including lying and being honest. Which would you rather have shaping your life?

Let's take a closer look at how we lie and how we can benefit from being honest.

How we lie

I don't know about you, but I have caught myself denying the truth and deceiving myself at times. When I was younger, it was worse. At times I used self-deception to hide, trying to be something I was not, attempting to cover my insecurities and flaws. I lived in denial, which is simply another way to say I was lying to myself.

Regardless of what you may have read, there is no such thing as a little white lie. It is still a lie. And there is no such thing as a little fib. It is still a lie! A lie is a lie is a lie, yet it can go by many names.

"Every lie is a poison; there are no harmless lies. Only the truth is safe. Only the truth gives me consolation - it is the one unbreakable diamond." Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)

Most of us lie to ourselves far more often than we realize. Rather than call it a lie, we cover it over by using words and phrases such as:

  • Pretending
  • Exaggerating
  • Making excuses
  • Being deceitful
  • Justifying
  • Being in denial
  • Stretching the truth
  • False humility
  • Fantasizing
  • Addictions
  • Hiding
  • Covering up
  • Pleading ignorance
  • Unnecessary worry and fear
  • Feeling entitled
  • Being an imposter
  • Avoiding pain
  • Not accepting reality
  • Turning away from truth
  • Avoiding
  • Betraying
  • Blaming
  • Gossiping
  • Threatening
  • Rationalizing

That list is only a few ways people lie, and I am sure you can think of others. Sadly, lying is part of the human condition. It all started in the garden with Adam and Eve and has not stopped growing since.

If you are interested in learning more about why we lie to ourselves, check out this article on cognitive dissonance - Why We Lie to Ourselves.

"A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes." Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Can we ever stop lying?

Every schoolchild knows the story of George Washington saying, "I cannot tell a lie," when his father asked about the cherry tree he had chopped down. The story itself is well known as a fictitious fable created by Washington's biographer. A fable, as you know, is something made up to convey a moral, yet this one was a lie. Sorry to burst your bubble!

Lying continues to grow as our vocabulary increases, and words become redefined. Is there any end in sight? I'd be lying if I said there was, so I'd have to answer the question more vaguely - it's highly doubtful. Vague answers contain an element of untruth, do they not?

Not only do we lie in words, but we also lie in pictures and videos. All you have to do is look at Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms, and you will find lies everywhere. If you don't believe it, look at some dating sites and read a few profiles! For more about social media lying, check out this article - What Does It Say About You by the Way You Adapt to Social Norms?

Why do we have to lie so much? As previously mentioned, we most often blame Adam and Eve for planting the first seeds. What a never-ending harvest they are producing!

Sadly, the world is so full of lies we are often blind to them. This does not mean it is hopeless to make an effort to stop or at least abate lying as much as we can. Face it, we know lying is not a good thing to do, and it is best to avoid it at all costs.

What we must do is increase our awareness of lying. The greater our awareness, the more we can catch ourselves in lies and stop them. Also, by becoming aware of when we lie, you can bet we can find plenty to practice on each day!

For what reason should we curb lying in our lives? Because of the many tremendous benefits! By being honest to ourselves and others, we can:

  • Grow as a person
  • Develop better relationships
  • Become more responsible
  • Think more clearly
  • Mature
  • Lower the stress in our life
  • Live a healthier life
  • Live longer
  • Gain greater peace and joy
  • Face and accept reality
  • Accept we don't know everything
  • Become more in touch with our feelings
  • Increase our emotional intelligence
  • Become more productive and successful in life
  • Be truer to who we are

And these are only a few benefits of being an honest person. Any one of them is enough of a reason to work on the lies we tell ourselves and others.

"If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything." Mark Twain (1835-1910)

Final thoughts

With lying so pervasive in today's society, how can it ever end? While I don't know where it can end, I do know where it can begin – with you and me. With so many benefits that come to us by not lying, why would we desire to continue? Can you imagine what the world would be like if even half of the lying stopped? Wow! We would live in a different world for sure.

Of all of the advantages of being honest with ourselves and others, the greatest is we unleash the ability to grow as an individual. With that growth comes a multitude of benefits, including, most of all, better relationships and a far more rewarding and fuller life!

I leave you with some words of wisdom from a former Postmaster General of the United States:

"The best advice I can give to any young man or young woman upon graduation from school can be summed up in exactly eight words, and they are-be honest with yourself and tell the truth." James Farley (1888-1976)

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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