I WAS the last of my friends to lose his virginity. For years they would talk about girls and sex and I would sit there, terrified that the conversation would get directed to me.
I thought I’d say something dumb and be exposed (‘yeah I love boobs, right guys?’), so I would always make up some quick lie (‘so, this girl last weekend…’), and move the conversation on as fast as I could.
It was a miserable way to live.
Not only was nobody fooled by this, but I was constantly in fear of my own lie being found out. Because of how much importance I put on the lie, the amount of anxiety that was born out of it compounded on itself until being exposed seemed like the worst thing in the world.
But this was just one way in which I was dishonest:
I was unhappy with my social life, but I told myself and others that I didn’t care. I was unhappy with my work life, but I told myself and others that I was fine. I was terrified of girls, but I told myself and others that I wasn’t terrified of girls and was, in fact, good at talking to them (??? – This one baffles me to this day).
I was full of shit and miserable.
But it taught me a valuable lesson.
Lying to prevent pain doesn’t actually work. All it does it cause more pain. When, instead, you’re honest about what you’re trying to hide, people’s reactions are often a lot better than you’d think.
When people found out I lost my virginity older than they did – nobody cared. When I told my best friend I was scared of socializing, he admitted (amazingly to me) that he was too, and helped me get better at it. When I admitted to myself that I was terrified of girls, I started taking steps that led me to be able to have a solid dating life.
Honesty wasn’t just a step in the process, it was the most important step in the process.
Research shows that people lie in casual everyday conversation. Often for reasons they think are compassionate. But research also shows that when people start being more honest, there is a considerate positive effect on their health that comes in tandem.
If you want to live a happier, healthier life – It turns out it’s better to cast aside the silver tongue after all.
THE BODY HAS A MIND OF IT’S OWN
The parts of you that drive you to be dishonest are always the ones that are most focused on short-term, easy gains.
But it is this focus on short-term, easy gains that prevent us from having the long-term, hard-won well being that we actually want.
The way I like to look at it is this. If you’re honest with yourself, you always seem to know what you should do. Whether you call it your conscience, your daemon, your soul, or the voice of God – something inside you always seems to be directing you towards what you ought to be doing.
But that thing is always within you, inside your head. Your body, on the other hand, has a mind all of its own.
You want to be social, but your body fills you with anxiety so you don’t. You want to be faithful, but your body fills you with lust so you don’t. You want to be hardworking, but your body is lethargic and distracted by you don’t.
The immaterial thing inside your head always wants X, but your body, equally, always wants Y.
It is within this dichotomy that the skill of honesty is acquired.
HONEST IS JUST ANOTHER SKILL
It is from this that everything percolates. The skill begins with understanding the motivations of your body and what is true, separating the two, and acting on the latter.
Whilst one might feel better in the moment, you begin to recognize that one is better. You aren’t applying universal rules or judgments to your behavior, you’re using your judgment in the moment to determine what is the honest course of action.
In other words, you tell the truth.
You’ll very quickly learn that honesty is a conscious choice. One that always seems to go in the opposite direction to which your body compels you.
In the beginning, this is going to trigger a lot of uncomfortable emotions in you. Being honest with yourself invites anxiety, shame, regret, anger – a whole swathe of difficult emotions. Being honest with others triggers them even more.
This is why it takes hard work.
But it’s in being honest with others that you learn that these emotions and your dishonesty were always misguided.
HONESTY IS AN ACTIVE PRACTICE
You don’t decide to be honest and then suddenly start walking around spouting truths and baring your soul.
That doesn’t happen. Honesty is an active practice. Because left to autopilot, you’ll just end up casually neglecting information and being dishonest.
This isn’t done maliciously, it just happens. So much so that once you start actively practicing honesty, you’ll be amazed at how much bullshit you allow to just casually stroll out your mouth.
Being honest is like meditation.
You don’t just sit there, hum a few mantas and then live in bliss all day. You have to carry that practice around with you, returning to the present moment and noticing when your mind has floated off into thinking about that hot girl on the weather forecast.
Like meditation, honesty requires an active attention to your behavior and weighing up whether that behavior is actually truthful, or if it’s just a momentarily beneficial lie.
This is both easy and hard to do. Easy because the mechanism of observation is simple, but hard because you’re actively emotionally invested in not always being honest. Sometimes for personal gain, other times for reasons as seemingly benign as compassion.
Honesty isn’t just about deceiving others. It’s first of all about deceiving yourself.
UNCOVERING THE WAYS YOU LIE TO YOURSELF
Every now and again I get emails from guys asking me to solve a problem in their life. They’ve had a breakup, they’re scared of girls, or they can’t focus enough to achieve their goals. So they send me an email like I’m some guru, sitting in the lotus position on a mountaintop, holding the answer in my navel.
Photo of me yesterday
But this isn’t the case. Whilst I give them an answer based on my personal experience and experience as a dating coach, I always find the concept of any kind of guru kind of laughable.
Because I suck just as much as anyone else. And everyone no matter who they are sucks on some level.
Sure, I can focus better than before, and I have a solid dating life – but I’m also lazy, have a weird attention span that gets distracted by literally anything, I’m sometimes completely crap on dates, get rejected for reasons that are entirely my fault, and I’m often wracked by self-doubt.
It’s not something I try to hide. In fact, this is littered throughout my blog.
As I said at the start of the article, being honest about my (many) shortcomings is the only reason I’m in any position to manage them. It’s the only reason some people read this stuff and see themselves in it.
If you want to be honest with others, the first thing you have to do is unravel the ways you’re dishonest with yourself.
The first way that most of us do this is that we conveniently forget what we ought to remember. Not only is our memory unreliable – we also neglect to remember what would make our lives uncomfortable, no matter how true that memory may be.
I see this all the time in guys who are angry at women, say they don’t need anyone and are quite happy pretending to be a tough guy on their PS4. Behind all their justifications they’ve conveniently forgotten that, like anyone else, they need human connection.
That’s certainly how it was for me.
Not only do these guys end up being dishonest with themselves, but they send up dishonestly viewing, and engaging with an entire gender of people.
Likewise, whenever I hear one of my female friends talk about how they’re done with their boyfriend, one of the first things I notice is how they conveniently neglect all the positive shit about him and only focus on the negative.
They do this so much, that eventually, all they remember is the negative.
This is exactly what I’ve done when I wanted to move on from a relationship for whatever reason. I’ve chosen to ignore all the things that don’t justify that decision.
This, again, isn’t just being dishonest with ourselves, but it’s a dishonest way to interact with someone we claim to care about.
Whenever we have feelings we don’t want to feel, our brains concoct ways of convincing us that we should avoid whatever it is that is triggering that feeling. Our brain deceives us into taking a course of action we don’t really want to take, and in doing so, defends us from uncomfortable feelings.
Psychiatrists call these defense mechanisms.
I’ve written about these extensively before, but the main gist is that your behavior isn’t as trustworthy as you’d think it is. And neither is your identity.
A lot of what you think is true, and a lot of what you think is you are simply complex patterns of behavior designed to protect you from uncomfortable thoughts.
Apathy, blame, repression, intellectualization, childishness – these are all ways in which we defend ourselves from what it is we’re afraid of. Perhaps an external ‘threat’ or an uncomfortable realization about ourselves.
So we get lost in our defense mechanisms, and, over time become so attached to them that they’re just part of our identity.
Which, if you haven’t guessed, is hard to unravel.
When we familiarise ourselves with the studied patterns of defense mechanisms and consider our actions, we will slowly bring awareness to the ways in which we are deceiving and misrepresenting ourselves.
Although this might not seem like it impacts others, when we stop tricking ourselves, we tend to stop trying to trick others as a result.
The way we choose to perceive ourselves and others are ways in which is train ourselves to be dishonest.
Just like a girlfriend who has chosen to only see the flaws in her partner, the way we choose to listen and see ourselves and others has a huge impact on our deceptions.
What we know is wrong is typically much harder to resist. So we extrapolate ways of justifying it, using logic, argument, and whatever we can find in real life to act as evidence.
But rather than being an impartial detective, we actively motivated to ignore what’s contrary to what we want the evidence to suggest.
Take this example:
A guy who has neediness issues is afraid of women and thinks they believe he’s worthless. Whenever his girlfriend yells at him, rejects him for sex, or complains to him about something, he takes this as evidence that she believes he’s worthless.
As it stands, that might seem fairly irrefutable.
But what he doesn’t notice is all the times she acts contrary to this. Whenever she’s nice to him, kind to him, or attracted to him – he overlooks this in favor of all the evidence that lines up with the neediness he’s attached to.
Despite what might be true, he’s only focused on what he feels is true.
As a result, his behavior with his girlfriend is inauthentic, and his relationship falls apart.
We tend to think that seeing and listening are infallible tools, rather than something we use to perceive what we want to perceive.
Bringing awareness to what’s actually going on around us – what’s actually being said and what details are there to perceive – helps us make more honest judgments.
But more than that, it helps us provide evidence that, rather than the other person being bad news, it might just be us.
HOW TO BE HONEST
Being honest with others first requires being honest with yourself. Not only does this involve presence of mind, but it also involves digging through your identity and examining your issues. Paying attention to your perceptions and seeing if they really line up with reality.
This is an everyday practice.
The art of honesty lies in this practice, but also in the acceptance that you’re going to get it wrong.
Being honest isn’t about being truthful 100% of the time. You’re fallible after all. It’s about paying attention to where you should be being truthful but also checking to see whether what you’ve done and what you’ve said lines up with is actually true.
This doesn’t just involve presence. This involves active thinking. Questioning whether your assumptions are correct, or whether they’re just convenient.
Liked this article? Help me make an impact, and SHARE it on social media.
If you want to go into more depth with any of the topics I write about and build a structured plan for applying them to your day to day life – then check out my Dating and Personal Development Coaching service for a free 15-minute consultation.
And be sure to check out my free ebooks on dating and anxiety.
If you want an easy way to stay up to date on the latest content, like me on Facebook, and you’ll always be the first to know.
If there’s anything in this article you want to go in more depth on, or you just want to get in touch – drop me a message here! It’s completely free.