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4 Tips to Tell the Truth About Yourself and to Yourself

“Our lives improve only when we take chances and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves.” ~Walter Anderson

There’s almost nothing I hate more than honesty.

I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in. You may be doing a double-take, thinking “did she mean there’s nothing she hates more than lying?”

I wish.

Most people probably think I’m an honest person, and in general, I suppose that’s true. I am honest with many people. However, I’m rarely honest with the person who matters most—myself.

As someone whose drug of choice is food, I’m familiar with all matters of sneaky and lying behavior. The best I can pin-point, this probably started for me around the age of six. In other words, I’ve had a long time to practice.

And I have to admit, I got pretty damn good.

I could wolf down an entire meal from McDonald’s on my way home from work, dispose of the trash on my way, and then sit down and eat another dinner when I got home.

I wasn’t as good at hiding candy wrappers when I was a kid—stashing them behind the couch where, surprisingly, my mom did occasionally clean. But I perfected the art over time, learning how to wrap one inside another inside another and then squish them down to make them look like one—instead of fifteen.

Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure I’ve even started a new art form called Trash Arranging. (I should probably trademark that.)

Here’s the thing: I like hiding. I don’t like spilling the beans about myself to a new friend (aka someone I’ve known for five years). I’m squeamish about social events, and if I can avoid the details of where I’ve been or what I’ve been doing, I will.

I realize what you’ve read until now makes it sound like I’ll soon have my own reality show akin to Hoarders, but I promise that’s not the case. What I’ve discovered about my own issues is that we all have them.

Mine’s food, but yours might be something else—shutting down at the holidays, drinking too much coffee, or working just a little (an extra 35 hours per week) too much.

Over the past few years, I’ve started to lift the rock up off my life. With the help of therapy, life coaching, more journaling than anyone probably thought was possible, and an extremely patient partner, I’m taking some steps into the sun of my own experience.

Telling the Truth

I’ve learned a few things about honesty along my path. And as much as I’d prefer to keep them to myself, I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works. So here we go:

Honesty can be hard.

This is the first thing to know because it’s super-duper true. If you’re not used to being honest with yourself, you can’t imagine the suckitude you’ll experience when you start. The good news is that you’ll probably only be able to dish it out in small doses, so you can get used to it over time.

You have to do the work.

If, like me, you are convinced that if you have a problem with honesty, it’s only a teeny-tiny one, hang on for a fun ride. Most of us are deceiving ourselves in any number of ways every day. Not all are dramatic as mine, but all require a commitment to the process.

The results are unbelievable.

Remember the depth of suckitude I mentioned? Well, that’s only rivaled by the heights of awesomeness you feel when you lift the oppressive burden of your lies. Sometimes you only glimpse it for a moment, but that feeling isn’t something you’ll forget.

For me, it’s not dissimilar to the high I feel after eating a really great cookie (or 20). But the difference is that the high of the truth isn’t laden with shame and guilt, which—I don’t know about you—are typically things I prefer to avoid.

Honesty sets you free.

I’ve been on 65 diets in my life. Yep, that number’s correct. But you know what? I swear I still thought I just hadn’t found the right one. That is, until I got really honest with myself and realized that the work I needed to do was internal, not external.

Making it Happen

Now, this honesty thing isn’t only theoretical to me. It’s also for-real concrete, which is really what it has to be if you’re hoping for some change in your life. So not to worry: I won’t leave you hanging without some thoughts on how to peel the layers to your own truthy core.

You got a pencil? (Or mouse to copy and paste?) Okay, here we goooo…

1. Find something to write on or with.

You’re going to need to do some serious excavating, and there’s no place better to start than with your own thoughts. Ask yourself some questions: “Why am I doing X behavior?” “What don’t I want my best friend to know about me?” “What’s my next step?”

As you start to write on questions like this, some interesting things may come to light, which brings us to our next step.

2. Seek help.

No, you don’t need a therapist, life coach, or whoever because you’re messed up. You need outside assistance because you want to undertake a process to set yourself free. And that’s really best done with an objective ear and skills.

I mean, I know your Uncle Frank is a great listener, but seriously—his training may not be quite what you’re looking for.

3. Keep coming back.

Telling the truth about yourself (especially to yourself) isn’t a linear process. It requires coming back and coming back and coming back—even, and especially, after you eat a whole box of doughnuts (if you’re like me).

4. See yourself in the future.

As I mentioned, once you get a taste of the freedom of honesty, it’s hard not to want more of that. So set your sights on a time when you’re living fully into your life, and then go from there—making that reality present a little more every day.

After all, if setting ourselves free in this lifetime isn’t our primary work, what is?

Photo by Esparta

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About Anna Guest-Jelley

Anna Guest-Jelley is the Founder of Curvy Yoga, where she writes and about yoga as the foundation of a live well-lived. She is also the co-teacher of 30 Days of Curvy Yoga and author of Rockin’ Your Curves: Pose Options for Curvy Yoga Practitioners and their Teachers. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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  • Jack foley

    They say the secret of a successful life is to know thyself..

    This is so true .. You can’t be preaching to anybody else if you are not walking the walk..

  • The Vizier

    Hi Anna,

    I agree honesty can be hard.  We all have things that we try to hide.  We all have things that we are not proud of.  But all this hiding is positively draining.  There are times when we just have to face our problems and fears and deal with them.  It works out best in the long run.  I love the 4 tips you have shared to help us become more honest.  Here are my thoughts on some of them.  

    1.  Find something to write on or with

    This is to me the most important step for being honest.  Unless we identify the root cause for our behaviour, we won’t be able to come up with solutions to address it.  But once we have clarity and know why we do what we do, what to do next becomes clearer.  Clarity is vital to making good choices in life.

    3.  Keep coming back

    I agree.  If we could just snap our fingers and get over it, it won’t be a problem we have to deal with.  We should work at it at our own time and pace.  The key is to deal with it in manageable pieces and to never give up.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article!  

    Irving the Vizier

  • shinigamipunch

    I enjoyed this post, I can relate to it a lot.  I have a lot of food allergies and still to this day I will tell myself: “A little bit won’t hurt me” or “It’s so tasty it’s worth potentially risking dying!” as silly as that sounds, it’s true.  It’s not something I enjoy talking about and my boyfriend has kind of gotten to the point where he just sits there and waits for the allergic reaction to wear off (in case it doesn’t and I have to go to the ER).  I’ve been trying to be more honest with myself about that and the reasons why I think I can still eat these things that will kill me.  I’m finding out it really has nothing to do with the food item and everything to do with me not wanting to be a burden to other people.  Thank you. :)

  • barbara

    truth hurts

  • Kerry

    I’m not one to comment on blog posts. But, after reading yours, I feel compelled to let you know that I sincerely admire not only your new honesty policy but also your willingness to put yourself out there to share your lesson with us in quite a vulnerable way. Best of luck to you as you continue down life’s long and winding road.

  • Turtle

    I really enjoyed this today. It is a timely message I needed to read. Congratulations on your quest for honesty…as the saying goes “the truth shall set you free.” I relate to so much of what you expressed…not the food part, but the wanting to hide, not disclosing things about myself (not trusting easily), hating social situations. I recently started to seek help from a professional in regards to wanting to hide. I live with alot of “what if I tell them who I really am and they judge or worse reject me.” I hate feeling like everyone else has “the magic” and lives their lives happy and care-free, while I turn down that invitation to that event due to my OWN negative self-talk and judgement. Often times we are our own worse enemy. Perhaps some of us are TOO honest with ourselves, to the point of inventing horrible things about ourselves. I too journal alot and it is extremely liberating. Thank you again!!!! Keep up the good work!!!!!!

  • Marion Williams-Bennett

    I find your honesty so beautiful, and thank you for sharing it with us.

    I’ve gone through a process of being honest about who and I am why I do what I do. It’s not easy, and you’ve done wonderful work – both in the process and writing about the process.

    I equate the process of being honest with yourself with wearing pants that don’t fit. It’s an uncomfortable and awkward feeling, but then we grow into the right size, grow into who we are supposed to be. 

    I love your tips, especially the part about needing outside help. 

    Best of everything to you in your journey!

  • Jenn

    I completely agree with this post. Honesty changed my life.

  • Sage

    Very true. I always feel better when I tell the truth, even if I’m scared of what people might think. I’m estranged from my biological family, and it’s always a little awkward when people ask about my family. But I just take a deep breath and admit that I haven’t spoken to them or seen them in a decade and I’m OK with that. Most people are fine with it and don’t make it into a big deal. Of course, it’s always affirming to me when someone looks at me and exclaims, “ME TOO!”

    We may not want to tell the truth about ourselves, but everyone else is hiding something too…and sometimes you’re hiding the same thing.

    Great post.

  • owlbina

    thank you for your honesty! this hits especially close to home for me. food is also my DOC, and i have myself become quite clever at hiding it from others. on occassion, i’ve even gone so far as to order 2 beverages at the drive thru in order to protect myself from the truth and potential judgment for ordering enough food to feed 2 or more people. food for me has always been an escape, a crutch, a high, and has more recently become a way to procrastinate and delay other things that i should be doing since i’ve begun working at home.

    and my truth is only ever hinted at through my weight, the fit of my clothes, or my insessant removing of tags from pictures of me that have been posted on facebook. but i don’t own it, and often avoid it, even when it’s glaring back at me from the mirror. i do whatever it takes to squash it, keep it from the surface. forever hiding it.

    i have been on nearly every diet known to mankind. i also exercise regularly, but it only ever is enough to somewhat offset my high-calorie intake. i can’t imagine what i’d be facing now if i didn’t manage to excercise.

    as a step forward, i recently purchased Thich Nhat Hanh’s book “Savor” in order to learn to eat more mindfully, but have clearly overlooked an essential first step to changing my ways – and that is the learning to be honest with myself about why i am eating the way i do. 

    thanks so much for sharing!

  • shinigamipunch

    Sometimes too it helps other people if you’re honest to them.  I’ve known people who have wanted to become estranged from their family, but didn’t because they thought it was unacceptable.  Hearing your honesty about your family situation might help them to understand it’s possible and sometimes necessary.

  • Alannah Rose

    This was very interesting for me to read, as I am someone who has always been “honest to a fault” so it’s almost the opposite for me.  This was such an open (and, well, honest) piece and it really touched me.  Thanks for sharing yourself & your experience here – it’s obvious that it really resonated with many people!  Best wishes to you.

  • Otterspace2001

    We are as sick as our secrets (recovery saying). To own those aspects of ourselves that we deem bad or wrong and feel shame about,  is necessary to grow into your own wholeness and your health. Another recovery saying is “more will be revealed”. The process of coming clean with yourself about yourself is gradual and needs to be gradual. One layer of the onion at a time. Honesty and self acceptance is hard work and we need to rest a bit between revelations. Be gentle and reasonable with your self.

  • S P

    What a insighful and truthful post, loved it, thank you!

  • Anna Guest-Jelley

    Thanks for your thoughtful feedback! I think your point about clarity is so spot-on. I know that for me, as I get clearer about what’s really at the root of what’s going on in  my life, I’m better able to make the choices I need to live the life I want.
    Thanks again!

  • Anna Guest-Jelley

    Oh, I am SO with you on this! I also have a couple allergies and tell myself the same thing. Mine aren’t life threatening, but they definitely make me feel terrible. I think the burden component is really key — and that the more I can see that for what it is, the more I can remember that when I’m on the other end, I’m happy to accommodate people. And I’m sure they feel the same way.

    Thanks for your comment!

  • Anna Guest-Jelley

    Gosh; it’s so true, isn’t it? What I’ve been finding more and more lately, though, is that it really hurts in the moment, but in the long run I feel better than when I’m in hiding mode. 

    Thanks for your comment!

  • Anna Guest-Jelley

    Thank you for sharing your experience, Turtle. I related to it so much — especially the part about negative self-talk. I wonder if, instead of that being too honest, it’s rather us not being honest enough. I know that when I’m in negative self-talk, it’s easy for me to just fall further and further in — to the point of just making up things that are pretty clearly untrue, like you said. The interesting thing I’ve been working with is finding a way through those moments to the real honesty (as I see it) — that I’m hurting, or angry, or whatever other emotion might be going on at the moment.

    I’m glad that you find journaling liberating; it has been such a gift for me. Thanks again for your comment!

  • Anna Guest-Jelley

    Thank you for your sweet wishes, Marion! I LOVE your analogy of not being honest like wearing tight pants. I think many of us know that feeling — it’s icky and you just want to put on something that feels good. That is so right-on as to how I feel when I’m not being truthful with myself.

    All my best to you!

  • Anna Guest-Jelley

    That’s awesome, Jenn! Thank you for your comment!!

  • Anna Guest-Jelley

    Thank you, Alannah! We really have to approach our honesty with self-care, don’t we? I know that for me, it’s key to being able to stay with the practice. And it sounds like it may be true for folks who tend to fall on the other side of the spectrum, too. 

    Best wishes to you, too!

  • Anna Guest-Jelley

    Beautiful! Thank you for sharing these recovery gems. And thank you also for creating some space for all of this to unfold exactly as it should — one loving step at a time.

  • Anna Guest-Jelley

    Thank you so much! Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Anna Guest-Jelley

    Couldn’t agree more, Jack! Thanks for your comment!

  • Anna Guest-Jelley

    Kerry! I am so touched by your sweet comment — and that you took the time to share it. All my best to you!

  • Anna Guest-Jelley

    Thank you for sharing your story, Owlbina. It resonated with me SO much; I know that “trade-off” cycle so well. 

    I love that you have Savor on hand. I think that mindfulness is such a powerful tool for addressing these issues. And I think you’ve hit the nail on the head when you identified that it all starts with awareness — mindfulness of the “whys” (as in what else might be going on with you) as well as the “hows” (as in savoring your food).

    Thank you again!

  • Anna Guest-Jelley

    Ah; I think that’s so true, Sage. I’m always shocked by how much freer I feel telling the truth — even when that’s the last thing I’m expecting to feel. 

    Thanks so much for your comment!

  • Anna Guest-Jelley

    I really believe that, when we’re ready to tell them, we help each other — and ourselves — through our stories. Thanks for this reminder!

  • Anonymous

    Girl, every time you post I think we’re long, lost, equally-messed-up relatives. Hahah! Loved your insight, and the “what don’t I want my best friend to know about me” is definitely getting journaled tonight. :)

  • Jennifer Bailey

    Love the honesty of the post, Anna.  (Is it ironic to be so honest when writing about dishonesty?) 

    I think many of us would call ourselves “honest”, but what we really mean is we don’t outright lie to other people.  But I think many (most?) of us tell lies of omission to others and certainly lie to ourselves. 

    So many of my clients express they are half living and that they’ve been in denial about it (aka: lying to themselves) for years. 

    Thanks for starting the conversation.

  • Call me Kate :)

    Anna – Thank you for sharing your journey and your process. I appreciated your sharing the level of suckitude that first comes from learning to really ‘see’ yourself in an honest way. It’s important to know the roadblocks ahead for those new to the self-honesty path so when they butt into that suckitude they don’t give up!

  • Anonymous

    Great post. I’ve done the ‘hiding food wrappers’ thing, and sneak-eating, although I’m extremely fortunate to be a naturally-super-slow eater who savors each bite–I’ve not had a whole meal before a whole other meal, but I’ve had too much dessert instead of a meal, for sure. Empty calories, whee! ;p

    Seeing the comment about recovery principles reminded me of something I learned from my therapist, many years ago–when you’re uncovering painful stuff, you do have to move around it slowly, like a bowl of hot rice–if you have some from the middle right away, it’ll burn you, but if you slowly move around the edges, working your way in patiently, by the time you get to the middle it won’t be steaming-hot anymore. ;D

    I don’t *think* that food is “really my problem”–I come from a family of emotional eaters, but I don’t generally have a dysfunctional relationship with food. But there are other things in my life, where more self-honesty would improve my overall state of being. So thanks for the reminder. ;p

  • Anna Guest-Jelley

    Oh, lovely! I love the bowl of hot rice example — SO true. Thank you for sharing that!

  • Anna Guest-Jelley

    Ha! So true, Kate. That’s something I wish I would have known earlier in my own journey; it kept me derailed for a long time not knowing how challenging this work can be at times — and also how you can move through it. Thanks for your comment!

  • Anna Guest-Jelley

    My pleasure, Jennifer! I agree; I think so many of us are affected by this, regardless of how it shows up in our life. Thank you for your comment!

  • Anna Guest-Jelley

    Awesome, Amber! And yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s true. :)

  • Conquer59

    I like your post and certainly see myself in there. Something I’ve learned is that we’re already free – we just have to wake up to that truth. Here’s a quote from one of my favorite teachers:
    “Enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing 
    through the facade of pretence. It’s the complete eradication of everything we 
    imagined to be true.” 
    ― Adyashanti

  • Karma Lodro Senge

    Absolutely great Insight. I loved it, thanks so much

  • Vs

    My feedback- I think the article is wonderfully written.The mix of serious and life changing lessons in a humorous shell is outstanding.

  • Vs

    Need to ask this- do you think hiding or not disclosing a potentially hurtful truth is equivalent to lying?
    I read somewhere t”there is enough misery in the world already and lets not add more to it by avoiding it whenever we can” Say if you you dislike somebody, how straightforward (honest)  would you be in expressing your opinion?

  • Dlacaria63

    Hi very interested about this. Is there a book I can buy about To Tell The Truth? I really need to read because I want improved myself. I got myself in trouble. I want changed to be honest than lying.

  • David

    TED Talks, the power of vulnerability takes a much more in depth/scientific look into the value of just that, vulnerability and telling the truth. Amazing talk.

  • Robin Rosenblatt

    I have problem with honesty. I am honest. In this society that is a personality disorder.

  • Christopher

    As a male, I love female singers. That includes Lana Del Rey, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Paramore, and some others.

    I also like Linkin Park, Shinedown, Lil Wayne, Five-Finger Death Punch, Slipknot, and many other rock and metal bands.

    There are also several songs on Pandora that are piano based with no lyrics that I LOVE. I have, quite possibly, one of the strangest musical tastes ever.

    With all that said, I have never admitted publicy that I LOVE the Lana Del Rey album, Taylor Swift, and Katy Perry, and I sing all the songs, even the ones talking about boys. Chances are, nobody would even care. They might call me strange, but that would be that. Still, for some reason, I don’t bring it up.

  • David cz

    a pen writing of thoughts seems to me as helpfull,i will give a try.
    Thank you very much

  • dis cover

    fat or thin, we all have covers- the un truth of our thoughts. i send you love. just
    the way you are, now. the process of un covering the lies we have fed ourselves in
    why you are here. the pay off is beyond being thin or happy or what ever you think
    you want.

  • lisa

    I am a drug addict trying to hide it from everyone. I lie to myself and say I have it under control. My whole life is a lie. I lie everyday to the people who love me the most. I sneak around buying pills or stealing pills. I lie about why I don’t feel good or why I’m going to the doctor. I lie about everything and would love to have freedom from that

  • Frederic Kahler

    Buddha is not interested in your money. Each of these intertwined articles leads to a soft-sell adventure that will cost you at least $147.00, and I have shared this realization on Facebook already. We know that we carry masks, we know we insulate ourselves, we know life can be cruel. We also know instinctively what we need to do, to respect the Buddha in our own temples. And that costs nothing; indeed, you will save a lot of money in your lives from now on. Good words cost nothing. Good luck and much love – Frederic Kahler, Apalachicola, FL USA