How Honest Are You? With Yourself?
A few years ago, there was a show that came on Lifetime that I actually really liked. It was called UnREAL and it was a take on what goes on behind the scenes of the franchise The Bachelor/Bachelorette (on ABC). Word on the street is that some former producers actually wrote for the show which meant that a lot of the storylines were based on real life situations. Anyway, because a lot of reality television is really anything but real, and oftentimes features a lot of folks who are altering — if not flat-out manipulating — storylines, it was interesting to see (in the third season) one of UnREAL's field producers and master manipulators, Rachel Goldberg, go through a course that she called Essential Honesty. Basically, via a book and some audio sessions, she was reprogramming her mind to not lie — to always tell the truth, no matter what the cost. Trust me, that was quite the mission for her. That character could lie like water.
When I sat down to write this piece, that was the first thing that came to mind. Mostly because, there are a lot of us who also manipulate, if not flat-out lie, oftentimes to ourselves, in the real world. And in order to get out of some of the delusions, distractions and lack of personal accountability cycles that we find ourselves in, it's important that we send ourselves through our own versions of essential honesty.
And just how can you know if you're someone who falls into this category? How can you know for certain that you are indeed honest with yourself most of all? If you've read the content that I've written for this site long enough, you know that I'm big on questions leading to genuine answers. Today, I've got five that could help you to get to the root of whether or not you're as honest with yourself as you should be. But first, why is all of this such a challenge for so many people?
Why Do Folks Struggle with Self-Honesty?
There's someone in my family who lies to themselves…a lot. So much, in fact, that I've had to remove them out of my life (check out "Estranged From A Family Member? Let That Guilt Go.") because when people aren't honest with themselves, it has the domino effect of them not being very honest with others either. And people who are dishonest? They are typically unpredictable. They play a lot of mind games. They don't know how to communicate without gaslighting, deflecting and passing the buck. In short, they are completely draining and exhausting.
How do folks get to that point and place? Chile, that is an article all on its own. Some people were raised by dishonest people and so they learn it from them. Some folks were so harshly disciplined as kids that they lie as a form of self-protection and they don't know how to break out of the pattern. Some people's self-esteem is so low that they've convinced themselves that if they lie to themselves, it will cause them to see themselves in a better light and project a "wholeness façade" to others. Some people lack total self-awareness and so they don't deal well with reality. The list goes on and on. What you can know for sure is someone who isn't honest with themselves can't really trust themselves either. And when you're in that kind of space, you're constantly at war within.
So, how can you know if you are truly honest with yourself? If you're someone who is — genuine; sincere; honorable (and consistent) when it comes to your personal principles and intentions; an individual who operates from a place of fairness; not pretentious; one who operates above board, and is true to yourself, no matter what and above all else? If you can nod your head up and down for all of this, you're in a pretty good space on the self-honesty tip.
However, if after reading that list, you're still somewhat unsure, here are five questions that will hopefully help to bring forth some clarity.
1. Can You Tell the Difference Between Opinions and Facts?
Something that is absolutely hilarious to me about social media is the fact that so many folks will spend all day getting triggered over other people's opinions. More times than not, it's because they have gotten so high-minded about their own opinion that they actually think what they think is a fact. So, when someone challenges what they say, they react as if what they believe is the gospel. Lawd. Egos are really something, ain't they?
When it comes to a telling sign of whether or not you're truly honest with yourself, one of the first things you should definitely think long and hard about is if you know the difference between an opinion and a fact. An opinion is a personal view or attitude. A fact is a piece of information that is a verifiable truth. And no, these are not one and the same.
People who think their opinions are the gospel are unstable in the sense that one, they are basically their thoughts (and sometimes their actions as well) solely on perspective or emotion and two, because of that, they can be all over the place because perspectives and feelings are subject to change, to the point of oftentimes being pretty fickle. The problem with that is if you don't recognize an opinion for what it is, you can tell yourself it is a fact — the truth or reality of something — when it's any and everything but…and that can make for some pretty poor decision-making.
So yeah, I would definitely say that one way to know that you are honest with yourself is if you're able to differentiate between your opinion and actual facts. For instance, the reason why you and your ex didn't work out? You are going to have your opinion and so is he. OK, but what are the actual facts? Feel me?
2. Can You Only Handle Praise, Never Criticism?
One thing about most honest people is they're considered to be decent human beings (I say "most" because some folks are honest about being jerks or assholes; let's be real). They strive to do what is fair and right. Words like "ethical", "law-abiding" and "above board" are synonyms for honesty and they know it and live it. And here's the thing — the reality is, if you want to be this kind of individual, you have to be always open to experiencing personal growth and evolution. This means that you can't always be told what you want to hear; instead, you've got to be willing to let people call you out on your ish. More importantly, you've got to be willing to be real with yourself when you know that you aren't operating from high vibration type of space.
You know, we're living in a world that seems to be creating more and more narcissists by the day. One thing about a narcissist is they have a super-inflated ego because they're all about receiving praise without being able to take much criticism. A part of the reason why is because they have lied to themselves for so long that they believe they've got very few, if any, flaws. Chile, we've all got flaws and areas to work on. Anyone who feels otherwise, they are definitely lying to themselves. So yeah, when it comes to personally evaluating if you are truly honest with yourself or not, it's also important to ask yourself if you are open to criticism (from people you trust and know have your back) as you are to praise. Because another thing about honest people is they are pretty practical and to think that you can only live in a world where folks are applauding you…it really doesn't get much more unrealistic (and semi-ridiculous) than that.
3. Do You Chalk Everything Up to “Shaming”? Or Could You Be PROJECTING?
This "shaming" word wears me out sometimes. It's like any time someone is told something that they don't like or want to hear, someone is shaming them. I'm gonna leave the name of the example that I'm about to use out; however, I was watching a relationship coach talk about how one celebrity who is constantly talking about body image has actually been a walking contradiction. Here's why —while they say that men who don't want to date them due to their body size are "fat shaming", they have actually said that they feel as if their fame and bank account has warranted them a man who isn't their size. In other words, they think men should date them no matter their weight while they only want men with six-packs. Lord.
Does fat shaming exist? Sure, it does. However, in this particular case, it sounds a heck of a lot more like emotional manipulation. So, you want to pressure someone into dating you by telling them that if they don't, they are shaming your body type while you claim to not want to date someone your size yourself and that's all due to personal preference? Who is really doing the shaming? And as the relationship coach said in the video that I watched — are you actually being shamed or are you projecting your own insecurities onto other people?
Chalk it up to being an occupational hazard of sorts yet I am a pretty word-literal individual and if there are two words that get abused in society, more than just a little bit, it's "phobia" (which means a literal fear of something or one) and "shaming" (which, in this context, means to disgrace). Not everyone who disagrees with someone is "phobic" and not everyone who is not attracted to someone is "shaming" them. Sometimes, due to people's own insecurities, they use these words to project how they feel about themselves onto others. Meaning, they try and make other people responsible for their own feeling; then they try and pressure others to overcompensate for where they don't feel very good about themselves. And that? That would be a form of projecting.
I know this particular point isn't discussed much. Oh, but it should be. If there is some area of your life where you feel not so great about yourself and so you try and make others make you feel good about you and then tell them that they are "shaming you" if they don't — that is a form of being dishonest with yourself. It's not someone else's job to overcompensate for where you feel inadequate. Believing otherwise? That would be a lie.
4. Do You Think Life Is About Being Happy All of the Time?
One of the biggest lies ever told in this society is that the goal of life should be to be happy all of the time. What in the world? To be happy is to be delighted in something or someone. To be happy means that something or someone is bringing you pleasure, contentment and/or joy. To be happy means that you feel fortunate and pleased. Listen, we live among fallible humans, not to mention that we are ones ourselves. So, how in the world, are we gonna be happy all of the time?
This is why, it's basically like fingernails on the chalkboard to me, whenever I'm in a session with a married couple who claims they want to end their marriage either because they are no longer happy in their relationship or worse, their spouse doesn't "make them happy" anymore. First of all, marriage is designed to mature you far more than it is supposed to keep you happy every second of the day. Second of all, it's no one's job to "make you happy". The key is to be delighted and content within yourself and then to find an individual who will complement that — and even then, it won't be all of the time because who is happy with themselves…all of the time?
That's why I'm far more interested in folks focusing on the word "healthy" (having good health, a vigorous mind and being prosperous) over being happy. Because while doing what's healthy isn't always going to be pleasurable or pleasing, it will be what's best in the long run. People who are really honest with themselves accept this. People who are dishonest? Well, one of the things that they are constantly focusing on is finding people, places, things and cultivating ideas that will constantly keep them on a "happy high" — whether it's healthy for them or not. Hmph. Talk about living a lie.
5. Would You Rather Be Comfortable? Or Grow?
One more. Growing pains. We're all familiar with what they are, although, unfortunately, I think a lot of folks focus more on the "growing" rather than the "pain" part of the term. While it is totally human and quite understandable that you would want to do what you can to avoid feeling discomfort of any kind, people who are honest with themselves know that if they want to mature and progress in life, some things are going to be difficult, tedious, unpleasant, somewhat hurtful and shoot, downright hard. It's an unavoidable fact (remember, honest people deal in facts).
Meanwhile, folks who lie to themselves, they will find every way to avoid this reality or they will remain stagnant because they would prefer to be comfortable more than they would like to grow. As a direct result, they never really become the full totality of who they were meant to be all along. On the flip, those who are honest with themselves, they will be the first to admit that some things weren't easy and some seasons were damn near excruciating; however, since it caused them to become who they are, it was all worth it. They can honestly say so.
Those who are close to me know that lying is something that I loathe. That's why the Shakespeare quote up at the top of this piece is such a favorite one of mine.
While being dishonest on any level ain't good, if there is anyone who you should be honest with, make sure it is yourself. Knowing the genuine version of you, then operating from that space, may not be easy. Oh, but it's worth it because you can trust who you are and why you are. That develops a level of self-trust that is unmatched. And when you trust yourself, you're on the path to so much more and better than when you're out here…lying. Worst of all — TO YOU.
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Russell and Nina Westbrook are one of those low-key, unproblematic couples we don’t talk about enough. They met in college and got married in 2015. They also have a beautiful family with three kids. While Russell is an NBA star, Nina is a licensed family and marriage therapist and a mental health advocate.
She recently launched the podcast The Relationship Chronicles with Nina Westbrook, and in the latest episode, she had none other than her husband on as a guest. The college sweethearts dived into important topics from marriage to children and how they navigate it all.
One of the topics they touched on was dealing with resentment in your relationship. The former MVP highlighted the sacrifices his wife has had to make in order for him to pursue a career in the NBA, and that’s why it’s also important for him to support his wife whenever he can.
“For me is respecting and understanding what your partner do and the time it takes,” Russell said. “Not kind of downplaying what they do, understanding the time and energy and effort they're doing to make sure whether it’s their job or making sure home is taken care of, and understanding that, I think that is the challenge of not being resentful.”
Nina agreed and also shared her thoughts on resentment. According to her, one of the best things couples should do is have their own identity and passions outside of the relationship in an effort to be fulfilled.
“I also think that when you’re in a relationship, that’s why it’s so important that each individual kinda pursue their own passions and follow their own dreams as I feel like it only becomes or leads to resentment when one person is not feeling fulfilled in what they're doing in their lives,” she explained.
“And so, they will start to look at the other partner who’s happy or excelling or promoting or moving along in their journey, then they’re left feeling stuck like they sacrificed themselves, their happiness, their career, their future and have not pursued it in the name of the relationship or their partner. So, it’s so much easier to avoid those feelings of resentment when you’re each equally pursuing your passions.”
The couple has many passions that they work on together and separately. Outside of basketball and his family, Russell has become known for his eclectic style and started the fashion brand Honor The Gift. Nina has her podcast, and she also started the mental health website Bene. Together, they run the Why Not? Foundation, which works with kids in underserved communities.
“I’m a firm believer that one person can’t be everything to you, so you have to sort of seek out those different friendships or groups or hobbies or activities that help to fulfill you,” Nina concluded.
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Feature image by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Religion of Sports