We fill many conversations with subtle deceptions. I loved that movie too! Of course it’s no problem if you arrive half an hour late, even though I’m already here. Your veggie lasagna is THE best I’ve ever tasted. None of these are true, so why do we feed each other these types of lies? It’s one thing to throw out a white lie here and there, but if you never speak your truth, how do others get to know who you really are?
Lies at the ice cream shop
A little while ago, my partner and I went for a day trip to a cute little town near Madrid called Toledo. It was a beautiful sunny, summer day and we had been walking around for a while, so I decided I wanted some ice cream.
Beautiful Toledo, Spain, home of the ice cream dilemma.
I stopped at the next ice cream shop to check out what flavors they had. I had a look, saw that they didn’t have any of my favorite flavor, bubble gum, so I told the girl that was waiting to serve me “Oh, thanks, but no thanks. None of the flavors you have are really calling my name. Thanks. Bye”.
After we walked away my partner ask me “Why did you tell her that? Why didn’t you just tell her that you decided that you didn’t want ice cream anymore?”
It seemed obvious to me, I told her that because that’s what I thought. I’m looking for bubble gum ice cream and she didn’t have any. There’d be no reason why telling her that should be a problem. No?
I asked him why he thought that was weird and he said that she’d probably be offended.
No matter how long I thought about it, I just couldn’t understand why. I mean, it’s nothing personal towards her that she isn’t serving bubble gum ice cream, so why wouldn’t I tell her. In fact, maybe if she hears enough people tell her that they’re looking for bubble gum ice cream, she’ll start selling it and make a killing!
Since that random day, I’ve thought about this situation a lot. In fact, my partner and I now mention the “ice cream situation” whenever we refer to useless white lies we tell the world to avoid hurting their feelings.
My odyssey through the wild world of honesty
I’ve always been very honest. So much so that when interviewers ask me about my best strength and worst weakness my answers is usually “the answer to both is that I’m extremely honest”. Ya, I know, it’s a cheesy answer, but it’s true. What can I say, the whole being too much of a perfectionist answer just doesn’t work for me.
As a kid, I was always allowed to say what I thought. I rarely held back what I felt to protect other’s feelings. I have 2 brothers, a tough Canadian dad and a mom that loves honesty as much I as do. Thick skin was a highly valued trait in my home.
Although hearing opposing/conflictive judgments about myself or the things I think could cause a bit of pain, discomfort or conflict, there’s nothing wrong with feeling a bit of these “negative feelings”. It’s only through feeling these not-so-great emotions that you build strength, self-confidence, and acceptance of yourself and of others for who they really are.
Ultimately, being allowed to speak your truth and letting others speak theirs leads to growth and each person’s complete freedom to be themselves.
There’s no ONE truth
As I grew up and learned more about honesty, I understood that nobody’s truth was more powerful than anybody else’s. We each carry around our own thoughts, feelings, and understandings of the world, and they’re surely very different from everybody else’s. And that’s ok.
Find your truth, speak your truth but be open-minded to the truths of others.
Maybe I’d be the only person in the world who loved bubble gum ice cream and that’s ok. I don’t have to convince anybody else to love it. They can tell me about their top ice cream choices, I can agree or disagree and that’s totally cool.
By speaking honestly about what I think and feel, people can better understand who I am. Then, they’ll be honest with me, I’ll understand who they are, which can help us build a real connection. We can debate topics, agree, disagree and all is fair game as long as the truth is spoken respectfully.
Be aware. Speak your truth with caution
And so, as I grew up and started using this honest approach of conversing with people outside of my home, I realized that not everyone liked this way of interacting.
So, I learned to dilute the truth I spoke.
But diluted or not, my truth stayed in my words, mixed in with a side of pleasant wording to help sugar coat it a bit.
Once I started to travel and live in different countries, I realized that different cultures had different outlooks on honesty. In most places, my very honest approach to communicating wasn’t taken any better than back home. This became something that I struggled with regularly, even to this day.
How to speak your truth abroad
When I think of struggles I’ve had with honesty, it often makes me think of a situation I regularly experienced while living in Peru.
I had come to understand that when someone invited you to a party, for example, it was considered very rude to say you couldn’t make it, even if you knew you couldn’t. So, the custom was to say “Sure, great, I’ll be there. See you then!” even if you knew very well that later that night you already had dinner plans. Then, the next time you saw them, the norm was to simply make up some lame excuse as to why you weren’t able to make it.
And so, you can imagine how well an honesty addict like myself would deal with this situation. Not very well.
I didn’t understand why they would take my honest answer “Sorry, I can’t make it, I have dinner plans” or “I don’t like your ice cream flavors” so personally. It wasn’t about them. And by telling them my reasoning, I thought it clarified that it wasn’t about them. But somehow, the norm, in most places around the world is to hold in your truth. Keep it in so that you don’t hurt people’s feelings. And if you do decide to speak your truth, be prepared for uncomfortable moments, awkward explanations and mumbling gossip about you happening in the background.
The issue with dishonesty
The problem with creating a life of not being allowed to speak your truth is that it then creates a world where deceit becomes the norm. Due to the fear of hurting everybody’s feeling, no one is really expressing the things they have inside.
We create a world of people bottling up emotions, not able to let them out freely because we are too concerned with hurting each other. When in fact, this holding in of emotions is doing just that, hurting us. It hurts us as individuals and hurts as a society.
Feelings are something we all experience. The more honest that we can be with ourselves about the things we feel inside, the better off we are. Honestly allowing ourselves to experience the things we feel is a beautiful tool that helps us understand ourselves. And it is through our understanding of our own selves that we can learn to appreciate how kick-ass we all really are, individually and as a whole.
For me, it’s this is the main tool for developing self-confidence.
The equation goes like this:
And it’s exactly that lack of self-esteem that makes us react to the truth so unpleasantly. Honestly, think about it, why should it hurt the ice cream shop attendant’s feeling that I’m not feeling her flavors. What is it about that comment that could possibly hurt?
Another way-to-common interaction where honesty is shunned upon goes something like this:
- Someone is telling me about their recent holidays to the beach.
- I listen.
- They then ask me, “What about you? Do you go to the beach a lot?”
- I would automatically answer “Oh, I’m not a beach girl at all! Too much sun makes me tired and I hate finding sand all over the place for weeks afterwards. I usually spend my holidays in the mountains.”
This is how I respond because this is exactly what I feel. And as I’m trying to converse with the other person to have them better understand who I am and to help build a connection with them, I believe that telling them about my love of mountains is a great idea.
Note, I didn’t say “People who like the beach are idiots”. I just spoke my truth.
Have you ever been in this type of interaction? To be clear, this isn’t about the beach or the mountains. The conversation can be about anything. The point is that your opinion is different from the person’s you are speaking with.
Would you have said what I said or would you have said, “Oh, I like both. I prefer the mountains, but the beach is cool too” even though it’s a complete lie? It, unfortunately, seems like most people would go with option B. Lie a bit to avoid seeming as though you don’t like their vacation itinerary.
But since when did it become an insult to have different likes and dislikes from other people? This is the beauty of the world. The vast amount of different tastes we all have about all types of different things.
Why even lie a little when there seems to be no reason at all for it? Especially when we can gain so much from saying what we think and being who we really are.
My final proposal about speaking our truths
Well, I for one am taking a stand. I want to live in a world with more honesty.
There’s true value that comes from being able to speak your truth without it needing to be about other people.
Often times, we make things other people tell us about ourselves when they aren’t about us at all. Whether I prefer the beach or the mountains shouldn’t be something that insults anyone. If you are comfortable with yourself and truly take ownership of the things you believe, your likes, your dislikes, and your life choices, then you shouldn’t need me to agree with your vacation destination.
You can like whatever you like, we don’t have to agree, and that should be ok. Everyone’s gotta be ok with their love of a random ice cream flavor without needing others to agree.
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