Honesty is not something that has come easily to me. I am very good at lying and the scary thing is that even people who know I've lied repeatedly about important things still appear stunned when I say that. The truth is that I am a pretty good liar, mainly because I am an expert at lying to myself. It's easy to pass on a lie when you believe it is true. I could create a lengthy list of all the reasons I've developed this ability, but that's not really the point.
The point is that I'm tired of lying. I've been tired of it for a while now and I've been working at being honest even when it is challenging. It's taken years but I'm improving and I'm very proud of that. Still, lies sometimes slip in. A week or two ago I was having a conversation with someone and they asked me a question and I told a complete lie and didn't even realize it until about 15 minutes after the conversation ended.
Ooops. It's not a big deal, stuff like that happens, but I started thinking about honesty and that thought process has been rolling around in the back of my head since.
Today something clicked and I suddenly understood something-- a pattern.
Honesty confused me (in part) because I was trying to find an objective truth and I couldn't. I didn't understand that honesty has nothing to do with objectivity, and certainly nothing to do with objective truth (which no single person can know anyway). Honesty has to do with courage and self-validation. It has to do with a specific kind of courage that requires you to stand in your own truth and say "this is what I see/feel/experience/am" even if everyone else in the world says something different... OR worse if they say that you SHOULD NOT see/feel/experience/ be whatever that thing is.
An easy example of this for me could be related to being gay or gender queer. I believed I should not be that way and I didn't have the courage to say that I was. So I lied in words and actions for years. I was being a coward and it's okay for me to admit that now because that is the truth. I'm not always a coward but when I did that I was acting like one.
That's an obvious example, but a more subtle one came to my attention based on my experience in the past week. I was getting super frustrated by a homework assignment that I had re-done 3 times (plus many other times that I didn't turn in) and continued to fail. I felt like my professor was getting frustrated with me too (I don't actually know if he was or not, I might have projected that) but in my head I kept hearing, "Why can't you do this? This is so easy. You SHOULD be able to do it!"
Then I started to feel my eyes get watery and my throat get tight and I remembered being told that as a kid.
"Why can't you talk? You SHOULD be able to?"
And finally I responded to the voice in my head,
"I can't. I can't right now. It has nothing to do with SHOULD. Maybe everyone else can, but I can't. Maybe one day I will, but not today."
And then I saw that throughout life I'd been given choices. I could accept what was (the truth or honesty in a situation) or I could strive for what "should" be. I had almost always based my decision on what I thought I "should" do/be/feel/think, etc. This became a root for so many of the bad decisions I had made and so much of the dishonesty that plagued my life.
I'd heard before that "shoulds" were bad or unhelpful at least, and thinking in "shoulds" was linked to depression. Initially I thought that link was related to a sense of obligation. I didn't realize that it was also linked to honesty. When I lie it's because I am asked about my perception/experience/ etc and instead of saying what is actually going on I say what I think it "should" be.
So, in the school example I was caught in a loop thinking: I should be able to draw a cube and I will sit here and force myself to do it because I SHOULD be able to.
But the reality was/is: I couldn't and I could sit there all I wanted and try to force myself but it's not something I could do at that moment in time.
When I realized this I told myself: I did my best, if it's not good enough, it's not good enough but I can't force my best to be better than it is.
Now the school example might seem kind of silly and disproportionate and maybe it is, but what I learned from it was that what I had done was taken what I perceived as a general perception (that it should be easy to draw a cube) and abandoned my own reality for that perception (that it wasn't easy for me) and even though there was no obvious lie there was a sense of discontinuity in my thought process that felt dishonest and lacked courage. I was trying to force myself to do what I couldn't (to be dishonest about my ability) because I was afraid to admit that I had a limitation that other people don't appear to have.
But when I was honest with myself I could see that I couldn't do it and I didn't need to add a judgement to why I couldn't or what that meant. I just couldn't and when I accepted that limitation, I could let go of the need to force myself to do what I couldn't do and enjoy the rest of my day.
So I failed the assignment. And maybe I'll end up failing out of school altogether, but it doesn't matter. I can't control that. I did my best and I'll keep doing my best. When I accept what is instead of trying to force what is to be what I think it "should" be then I can step back and look at things in a different way. It doesn't have to be painful. If I can't then I can't. I don't have to go through all the trouble of creating a scenario that makes me feel like I absolutely have to when the reality is that I can't.
If I am honest with myself then I am honest about my limitations and I can choose to explain to my teacher why I have those limitations or I can choose to just let it go. I don't have to get angry and defensive about it because I don't have to worry about having my lie exposed. There isn't a lie to expose as long as I am honest with myself. Knowing that reduces a lot of the stress and fear because I don't have to put energy into keeping up a facade. I can just be. I'm limited, so what?
There are a lot of things that other people do easily that I just can't do. But I can do a lot more now than I could in the past and maybe in the future I'll be able to do some of the things that I currently am unable to. Or maybe I won't. In the long run it doesn't matter.
All I can ever be is myself. I can try to be someone else but I will always fail. I will get where I am going in my own time and in my own way... Or I won't. But I'm going to make the best of the time that I have right now and enjoy the process as much as possible.
The last part of what I wrote was a tangent. What I wanted to share was that honesty now appears to me to be less about "THE" truth and more about having the courage to stand in your own sense of self and acknowledge where you are, what you see, and what experiences you have. Even if no one else gets it. I don't have to figure out what is objectively real, I just have to be brave enough to acknowledge my own experience.
That's all. Thank you for listening.