Are you letting other people’s judgment stop you from being honest with yourself?
From hunger and sleep to compassion and growth, you are your wisest advisor. You know what you need better than anyone else. Every unpleasant feeling you experience is telling you about a personal need you're not meeting. But how often do you check in with yourself?
Even more importantly, what do you do with that information?
It's not always easy to understand or accept what we learn about ourselves; this is when self honesty becomes handy.
Are you are letting other people make decisions for you?
We all grow up in a social context that provides us with ideas, beliefs, and values that create a structure for our decisions. This structure starts outside of you, but over time it becomes internalized. It becomes a part of you.
One of the ways this external structure regulates your decisions is through self-judgment. When you ponder your options and discard them because they “are not right” or because choosing them will “make you” a kind of person you consider negative, some of this structure might be slipping to the cracks and hijacking our own honesty process.
Your intellectual skills are an asset to learn all about connecting with your needs and the different techniques you can use to tune into yourself. Once you have learned it though, it’s time to get hands on—or, a better way to say it, feelings on.
Feelings are intrinsically emotional. In order to identify one, you need to experience it, locate it in your conscious narrative, and link it to a need. Yes, your smarts will play an important role as you create your dictionary of feelings and needs, but when you let your thoughts lead an emotional process, your risk of judging yourself based on your outer-structure.
The human brain is wired to create well-being. When all our needs are satisfied, we relax. When we have needs and don’t meet them, we stress. A healthy balance of these two situations enables us to be creative and productive, our brain creates connections out of problem solving.
But when most of our needs are left unattended, we enter a state of stress. Our brain understands our life is in danger and focuses on survival, letting go of our capabilities of creating value for our world and ourselves.
The story of James and the Giant Needs
James used to work for a big software company. He traveled 75% of his time and, as he did this, he struggled to keep his marriage alive and have connection with his kids.
He made good money. He always said he couldn’t complain. He liked what he did at his job. He managed to pay for his house before turning 40. The downside was that he was almost sure his wife was having an affair and he was missing what he considered the most important years of his kids’ lives.
He had gotten into this job to create financial security for his family, but the job was costing him his family. Also, as he climbed the career ladder, he lost the most exciting parts of his work. He needed to make a change in his life, but he didn’t even know where to begin.
When we started working together it became clear that his first step was to identify the needs that he was not meeting. Not his wife’s, not his kids’, but HIS needs.
As these needs became clear, his ideas started a battle with his feelings: he would use phrases like “this is ridiculous,” “this is stupid,” and “this is not how it’s supposed to work.”
James was letting his outer structure judge his needs. Taking the form of negative self-talk, he was allowing other people’s ideas, beliefs, and values have a say on what he was feeling and what it meant to him.
Using your head when you make decisions is a good idea. Waiting until emotions have settled and feelings are clear will help you have clarity and accountability for the consequences of your choice. But trying to think while you connect with your needs is like using a fork to eat soup. You might grab a little bit, but you will miss most of it.
When you judge your feelings you seldom get to the bottom of the need they are announcing. You assess what seems right instead of digging into what you need. And that choice will eventually create uncomfortable feelings to grab your attention again.
Life is a patient and ruthless teacher: she won’t leave you alone until you identify that need and satisfy it.
The other way people interfere with self-honesty is by listening to your ego.
As you grow up in a culture of competition you are constantly being compared to others and fed the idea that you need to be better than others, more than others, always right.
Your ego is not you: it is the representation you have made of yourself through the eyes of others.
It could happen that you have an idea of what you need or what you want to create, but as you state it you feel it makes you weak, weird, even mediocre. As you can notice, all these adjectives have meaning only when you use them for comparison, they don’t make sense without a baseline of what is strong, usual, superior.
Your ego will get in the way of your self-honesty by comparing you to what you have told is better and it will tempt you to forget what is true for you. Your ego will also try to scare you from leaving the competition because as you relate with others with compassion, your responsibility for your actions increases.
How are you letting other people make decisions for you?
What could you do today, right now, to start an honest conversation with yourself?
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