Anyone who has engaged in psychological work though psychotherapy, meditation, and self-help practices knows that choosing to be honest with ourselves is incredibly hard. It requires that we develop enough self-esteem to tolerate the truth and to change once the truth is acknowledged.
Our first step in becoming more honest with ourselves is self-awareness—we become observers of ourselves. Do this without judgment or criticism. Just observe. As we observe, we need to pay particularly attention to our emotions, behavior, and thoughts because the way that we feel, act, and think is a direct reflection of who we are in some way.
– When you have a strong emotional reaction to something, pause. Ask yourself: What is this emotion? Can I identify it? What is causing this emotion in me?
– When what you say doesn’t match how you act, pause. Ask yourself: What does my behavior say about me? Why am I acting this way? What underlying emotional pain is it reflecting?
– When we hold negative attitudes, pause. Ask yourself: What words am I using to describe myself and others? Where are these attitudes coming from? What is the effect of these attitudes on my feelings and behavior?
Action and Change
As we choose to become more honest with ourselves, we are confronted with a choice: to change or not to change. Choosing to become more honest with ourselves demands action. When confronted with the truth, we must push ourselves to change in ways that will lead us to live more fulfilling lives.
In addition, with self-awareness comes responsibility; the more self-aware we become, the more responsible we are for our choices. When we are confronted with the truth and choose not to change, that is a choice. For example, if we realize something negative about ourselves but we don’t change, we will pay the price of knowing that we have a problem and are not doing anything about it—and that will be our own fault. Our choices will now hurt us more because we knew better.
As we become more self-aware and honest with ourselves, there is no time like the present to change. We must take action. We can choose to change starting at this exact moment, today.
Find a Great Therapist
Considerable stigma exists around mental illness and psychotherapy. People frequently say things like, “I don’t need therapy—that’s only for crazy or weak people who can’t help themselves. I was in therapy as a kid and it didn’t help at all, so I don’t believe it works anyway.”
I am going to argue the exact opposite: it takes tremendous courage and strength to be completely vulnerable to another person. Furthermore, it is probably the only relationship that you will ever have in your entire life that exists solely to benefit you. We would all live more fulfilling lives if we gave ourselves that gift.