The painful truth
I’m learning that in order to be true to myself, I have to first be truthful to myself.
Perhaps it’s just a matter of semantics, but in a world where we can give life our own meaning, I see a painfully obvious difference between the two.
In many ways, being true to myself is easy. As a single mother of a grown-up son, it’s the first time in 4 decades I can do my own thing. If I don’t like it, I’ll say so. If I don’t want to go, I won’t go. If I mess up, I’ll own it. That’s honouring who I am.
It’s the “getting to know who I am part” where the real work lies. And it’s painful, ugly work that has spanned over 4 decades and counting.
Painful and ugly because I don’t always like what I see. But when I see it for what it is, I have the ability to change it. I think that’s one of the biggest gifts I can bless myself with as I stumble through life.
Through my stumblings, I’ve created a check-list to help me move swiftly through the drama of “I don’t like what I see” to “I’m happy with who I am”. Today, I’m feeling brave enough to share.
These are the five questions that are always difficult to answer, but make the most difference in my quest to be the best version of me.
1. Do I blame others?
It’s easy to claim that things didn’t go according to plan. But when I dig deeper, what role did I play in the plan not panning out? Was it poor judgement? Did I make mistakes? Did I not follow through with what I committed to do? Did I ignore advice from others? Should I have had a contingency plan?
If I look hard enough – and sometimes not that hard – I can find a reason why others are not to blame. That’s good!
Because I can’t change how others behave and I can’t be held accountable for their actions, but I can change how I behave. That’s my superpower.
So when I look at my failures – and I use that term lightly – there’s nothing more liberating than acknowledging I am to blame and rising to the challenge of changing it. Not by fixing the past (I’m not Marty McFly) but when I make accountability one of my character traits, being true to who I am means being accountable.
2. Do I suppress my ill-feelings?
Just because we don’t acknowledge our ill-feelings doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
It doesn’t happen often, but I’ve recently noticed that the uncomfortable muscle contraction in my lips and cheeks area is the makings of a fake smile when I’m pretending to be happy for someone else’s achievement; or when I’m being nice to someone I’d rather want to smack. Shock and horror! I’m supposed to celebrate others! I’m supposed to be real!
Yes, a real work-in-progress human being. By acknowledging that sometimes it’s easier for me to be happier for others than it is at other times clearly says more about me than it does about them. But what does it say? That’s the part I like to pay attention to.
To help me make sense of it, I’ve learnt to see my ill-feelings as a message: What is it that makes me feel this way about this person, situation, or event?
Sometimes it’s just my own insecurities. Often, it’s just me seeing things from my perspective and not theirs. Always, when I understand why, it goes away. I’m not a bad person after all.
3. Do my actions contradict my words?
It’s true that our actions speak the words we don’t say, so those who don’t say much are off the hook. It’s the ones who voice their opinions who better have the mettle to follow it through!
I voice my opinions, even if it’s just sharing memes and inspirational quotes on Facebook. Do I have the mettle to follow it through? Not always.
I haven’t always been this vocal and now I’m probably erring on sharing too much. While it’s a blessing if what I say resonates with those who listen, that’s not the primary reason I share. I share because I want to hold myself to the standards I say I have.
If I claim to love my enemies, I better love them. If my intention is to do good, I better do it. If I say that I’ve forgiven someone, I better forgive them. And if I find that my actions do contradict my words, I have the choice to either change what I say, change who I am, or admit to myself that I’m not the person I think I am. Tough call!
4. Do I look down on others?
Yes. Sadly, sometimes I do.
I’m not proud of it and I don’t do it deliberately, but it raises its head whenever I feel that little bit of impatience at someone for not having something I think they should have, not behaving in a way I think they should behave, or not understanding something in the way I think they should understand. It can even be as simple as rolling my eyes as I scroll through Facebook.
That’s what arrogant people do, isn’t it?
Do I want to be true to a me who is arrogant? No.
There are people who have, know, and do so much more than I ever will so I’ve had to learn to accept people wherever they are on their paths and appreciate those who take the time to meet me where I am on mine.
It just makes us different, not better or worse. Sometimes I just need a reality check to put things into context.
5. Do I disregard how others feel?
While I completely buy into the whole “What people think of me is their business” concept, I have to guard against using it as an excuse to mistreat others. Or to use it to alleviate my guilt when I do things I know will cause them hurt.
I care what others think of me. Not to the extent that I’ll make life-changing decisions based on it, but because I want to play a part in making others feel better. And if not better, then certainly not worse. I think it’s called “considering others” and it’s not a bad trait to have.
So, if I’m going to be truthful to myself…
On a good day, my check-list has a mishmash of “yes” and “no” boxes ticked, but there are times when “yes” gets a resounding 5/5. Those aren’t my best moments. Still, I’m pleased that I am mindful enough to notice it and eager enough to want to change it.
That’s being true to myself.
Are you up for a challenge? What are you tough questions? How would you score?
Would you like to join a community of like-minded truth seekers?
About the Author
"I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say." Flannery O'Connor