Always Project an Image of Confidence and a Hundred Other Ways We Keep Ourselves from Being Honest
Most of us are pretending most of the time. We’re play-acting our life away by simply not reporting what is actually so for us.
We pretend we’re happy when we’re sad, attentive when we’re bored, compliant when we’re mad. We keep up the steady fiction of who we want to be, who we think we should be, and who we want others to think we are.
This phony image is usually a more confident, happy, smart, understanding, brave, engaged, forgiving, unaffected person than we actually are in the moment. If we emphasize our positivity and “fake it ’til we make it,” we may just get there, we’re told.
“Always project an image of confidence!” Carolyn yells to herself in the car during an emotional breakdown in the film American Beauty. She imagines that it’s her weakness and her character defects that keep her from success. If only she can pretend with sufficient vigor to forget she is pretending, then maybe, she might reach the promised land.
But perhaps our effort to project the best version of ourselves are ultimately like shooting ourselves in the foot, repeating more of the pattern of pretending we do all the time.
When we do so, we keep ourselves from experiencing our actual life. And this, in our humble opinion, is the source of much of our troubles and dissatisfaction in life.
The alternative to pretending is to tell the truth about our experience, which both allows our feelings (like anger) to come and go, and develops our capacity to be with our experience.
Connection Comes from Telling the Truth
Telling the truth about our own experience to another person creates an opportunity for connection and aliveness that isn’t possible when we are pretending.
Telling the truth interrupts our learned pattern of lying and pretending and is fundamental to real transformation.
In Radical Honesty, telling the truth means something so simple, it’s difficult to do.
We simply notice what is true for us and then report it unfiltered and out loud rather than attempting to convince others of the rightness of our opinions or our interpretations of the world.
This is the essence of being radically honest: getting to the root of what is real for us and then sharing it. The benefit of this sharing allows for the possibility of growth, learning, connection, forgiveness, and love.
The Resistance of the Mind to Honesty
So, how do we stop ourselves from being honest? Our mind convinces us that it’s in our best interest! The mind is often a neurotic, self-serving, anxiety-ridden mess that looks to keep itself safe at the expense of the whole being. So, beginning to notice the ways it tells us to withhold and follow orders is the first step in retraining ourselves to tell the truth.
The Most Common Ways We Stop Ourselves from Being Honest
We tell ourselves:
- There’s no need to. I’m content with things as they are.
- I just don’t want to.
- It’s not worth it. I have more important things to do.
- They aren’t worth it.
- I don’t want to be that intimate with this person.
- I’m scared of what will happen.
- I can’t handle it, it would be too intense.
- They can’t handle it.
- They won’t hear me/understand me.
- There’s not space for me to be honest. They won’t allow it.
- There’s not enough time to express it.
- They won’t change anyway.
- It’s not safe.
- It’s too risky.
- They’ll never forgive me.
- What they don’t know can’t hurt them.
- I don’t want to hurt their feelings.
- I don’t want to embarrass myself.
- I don’t want to look petty.
- I don’t want to go there/deal with it.
- I don’t want to waste my time and energy.
- I don’t want to rock the boat.
- I don’t want to lose my job for saying what I really think.
- I don’t want my friends to judge me.
- I don’t want to get kicked out of the group.
- I don’t want them to ridicule me.
- I don’t want them to leave me.
- I don’t want them to stop having sex with me.
- I don’t want my family to disown me.
All of these thoughts are justifications that our mind creates in order to continue our comfortable patterns of pretending.
It’s normal, it’s automatic, it’s the way we’ve been taught our entire lives, and we think that by maintaining the fiction, we’re keeping ourselves and others safe.
What we end up with instead is keeping ourselves from learning, growing, and experiencing a life that is truly alive.
Pretending Doesn’t Really Work Well
Luckily for many of us, at some point, we figure out that pretending doesn’t work very well. We realize that the game we thought we had to play doesn’t give us the payoff we thought it would. All this pretending we were taught just keeps us disconnected, stressed, scared, and uninspired.
When we look around, we may see that we have friends who don’t really know how we think and feel, families we’re still hiding from, and jobs that reinforce our silence.
The Taboo on Anger
One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves and others is that we’re not mad when we really are. Or that we shouldn’t be mad when we are. Or that we shouldn’t express being mad unless we have a damned good reason.
This subject is a BIG one and we’ll go into more depth about the taboo on anger in a later article, but for now, we’ll just list a few of the ways that we convince ourselves that we shouldn’t tell someone else that we’re angry at them.
- I’m not really mad at them, I’m just irritated.
- I’m not really mad at them, I’m just sad.
- I’m not really mad at them, I’m just tired.
- I’m not really mad at them, I’m just disappointed in them.
- I’m not really mad at them, I just don’t feel like talking about it.
- It’s not a big deal, I’m not that mad.
- I’ll just let it go.
- I’ll get over it on my own.
- I’ll just spend less time with them.
- Getting angry at people is wrong.
- Being mad is unattractive/annoying.
- I should be over it by now.
- I’m a peaceful person and expressing anger to another is violent.
- I’m above being angry. My highest self chooses love over resentment.
So, if you didn’t already have enough reasons for lying your ass off, we’ve just armed you with a few more! Or, rather than sticking with these excuses, you could try a new approach to life that we think works pretty damned good, most of the time: telling the truth.
You’re Not Convinced
Even if you’re not convinced that sharing your anger directly rather than shutting it down with the thoughts listed above is beneficial both for you and the other person, we think it’s at least useful to recognize that all of these reasons are ways our mind convinces us to continue our pretending. We can be honest about that together. We get mad and convince ourselves we aren’t.
And yes, we may not want to get angry (although we can learn to value it as an important inner guide), but what if the way to get over anger isn’t by following the lies above but by learning not to resist it? What if the way to not sweat the small stuff is by actually sweating the small stuff consciously?
From Lying to Truth-telling
Changing a lifelong pattern of lying to a new pattern of truth-telling takes some work and practice. If you’re anything like us, you’ve been lying your whole life and you’ll need help from some friends.
We encourage you to share this article with the people who are important to you and have a conversation about it. Chances are they’ve been operating under the same pretenses you have been, telling the same sorts of lies, maintaining the same types of fiction.
Knock it off, already!
Make an agreement to be honest!
Tell the truth about what you’ve done, who you are, what you think, and what you want. Experience the liberating aliveness and transformation of getting real and being honest.
What’s missing from our list? How else do you stop yourself from being honest? Tell us in the comments, below.
1. Get over your pretending by talking about it with others in a dedicated community by joining an upcoming Honesty Lab Workshop or Radical Honesty Intro Night.
2. Watch our Radical Honesty Intro video.
3. Sign up for our weekly Honesty Inspiration newsletter to get more articles on how to live your life out loud.
Article communally written by Honesty Lab Trainers Lindsay, Mak and John.