A big theme in my writing has been how to maintain healthy relationships with yourself and others, and this article is no different. I like to draw from my everyday life and the things I come across in conversation with others. A conspicuous topic this week was maintaining honest communication.
No matter what kind of relationship you have with someone, honesty is so important. Being honest could be the difference between life and death, between salvaging a relationship to make it stronger and ruining it completely, between maintaining others' trust and losing them forever.
Now, I'm not saying that if you tell a small, white lie that you'll die alone, but if these small lies weave into a convoluted web it'll be hard for people to take anything you say seriously (cue thoughts of the boy who cried wolf).
Here's an example that could go for either a friendship or a romantic relationship: say someone hurts you either directly or indirectly. The correct thing to do would be to tell them that whatever they did made you upset, but too many people try to protect themselves from being hurt or want to give their friend/significant other the benefit of the doubt. So, they don't say anything.
(Hint: Don't do this.)
If you are not honest in this moment, that pent up feeling will sit in you and make you even more upset. If you do it because you're angry and want to be petty or spiteful, you won't get that feeling of closure or resolution because the issue won't be resolved. If anything, your partner might not even realize that it was something that hurt you so to completely disregard it for this reason or any would be foolish on your part.
Another example: say you're with someone and you've been having reservations about continuing the relationship. If you ignore your gut feeling and hesitation about being close with them, it can put a strain on the relationship. Your partner won't know why you're acting distant, and you'll eventually feel guilty for hurting them in the process.
A big part of being honest is just ripping the band-aid off and being vulnerable. We've talked about vulnerability before and how hard it is, but at the end of the day, it really is necessary. If the other person is especially perceptive to when someone might be admitting certain truths, it'll make everything all that much worse and might force you to come clean on their terms instead of your own. It's so much easier to just tell someone how you feel or about something that happened without a sit-down moment where it gets forced out of you.
Sometimes, being completely honest with others is harder than it should be. For me, it's almost always been this way. I'm not a compulsive liar, and I tell the truth much more than I don't, but there are times when I omit certain truths to protect myself and the people around me. For example, I'll say I'm somewhere that I'm not so my loved ones don't worry about me, or I'll say I did something that I have yet to do so I can't be yelled at and have more time to procrastinate.
The majority of my issues with honesty come from my own issues with being honest with myself. I've always been someone with an overactive imagination, creating scenarios to help myself cope with the undesirable circumstances around me. I would give myself reasons to be happy, avoiding whatever was truly hurting me. This tactic, while helpful in the moment, has proven pretty damaging in my current life. By ignoring the bad then, it's all I can think about now. Without an even balance of facing the good with the bad, it has become hard to discern what exactly my truth is. Is everything really that bad? Am I a bad person for not always seeing the good? What's the truth?
The hardest part is facing my mistakes. Believe me, as a human being, I've made plenty. Thinking that I have faults that could disappoint the people I want to impress the most makes me more scared than anything, so it's almost been a defense mechanism to paint myself in a certain light that will make me appear more appealing.
It's so tiring, though. I'm at a point in my life where if the things I like and the things I want don't align with someone else's, it's not a big deal. If it is to them, then it's their loss. The more secure I become within myself, the less reason I have to not be honest with those around me. This doesn't mean that when someone politely asks how I am that I'll be telling them my life story. I realize, however, that if I want to maintain close relationships with those I care about, I have to be honest with myself and how I feel first and foremost. I need to be honest with myself about how someone makes me feel both positively and negatively, about what I expect from them and what I expect from myself.
Vulnerability puts us in an awkward, frightening place. I feel the most vulnerable when I'm being completely honest with people I deeply care about, even if it's something I've said many times before. Recognizing this, like recognizing unhealthy coping mechanisms or actions within relationships as I talked about in my last article, is only part of the battle. It's up to us to put ourselves in these uncomfortable moments so that they can begin to be less and less daunting... so we can finally live our truth.