Two weeks ago, I stopped telling little stupid lies. Since then, my life has improved by a ridiculous amount.
There is a big difference between 99% and 100%. 100% committed is far more powerful than 99% committed. 100% confident is far more useful than 99% confident. And 100% honest is far more empowering than 99% honest.
99% honest is pretty good, it’s true. The 1% of my dishonesty was mostly either “fudging by rounding” or “little white lies” about trivial and (so I thought) harmless things. Here are some examples.
Kyeli: “Did you see that cute thing Phineas did?”
Me: “Yeah, it was really cute!”
My thoughts: “Huh, why did I say that? I didn’t see it at all.”
Kyeli: “Are you okay with this plan?”
My thoughts: “I’m mostly okay with this plan, and that’s close enough that I don’t feel like making a big deal out of it.”
Kyeli: “Today I was talking to *mumble* and she said that *mumble*.”
Me: “Uh-huh.” *nods*
My thoughts: “I didn’t really hear what Kyeli said. Why did I just smile and nod instead of asking her to repeat herself?”
Another thing I did was retell stories to make me seem a little cooler. For instance, I would tell a story as if I had actually thought of the snappy retort at the time, when the truth is that I stood there with my jaw hanging open at the time, and only thought of the snappy retort later that day.
Openness and honesty are very important to me. So why was I being dishonest? I had to do quite a bit of introspection and soul-searching to figure out the answer to that question. Here’s what I found.
1. Conflict avoidance.
I learned to avoid conflict when I was young, and it stuck with me. Many situations in my life reinforced that the easiest solution to any conflict was for me to suck it up. If I could just stop caring about whatever it was that I wanted, the conflict would go away. It’s kind of like a sick, self-destructive version of Buddhism, in that I was letting go of my worldly desires. However, I wasn’t doing it for the right reasons; I was doing it because I was afraid.
Conflict avoidance has been a recurring theme in my self-work. I’m making progress, but I’m still working on it.
2. Lying about trivial things had become a habit.
At some point in my childhood or adolescence, I learned that exaggerating stories made me seem cooler, and that nothing bad happened if I did. I desperately needed to be perceived as cool at the time, so I developed the habit of exaggerating my coolness in stories.
I’ve struggled with social awkwardness throughout my life, and I’m also slightly hard of hearing, so when I miss a few words, I learned that nothing bad happened if I just smiled and nodded.
Similarly for saying “Yeah, I saw that neat thing that you’re talking about!” It was a way for me to feel like part of the in-group when I often felt like an outcast. I clearly remember standing at the bus stop in 9th grade, and Jen Morris (who was very cool) was talking about the Smashing Pumpkins. “I love the Smashing Pumpkins!” I told her, even though I had never even heard of them. And nothing bad happened.
3. Fear that others wouldn’t love me as I truly am.
Deep down, the root of all this was the fear that others wouldn’t love me if they saw me truly. Yep, I’m getting the Tears of Truth as I write this.
I don’t even know where this one comes from. I had a pretty good childhood, my parents loved me, and I’ve had some good, loving, honest romantic relationships.
Regardless of where it comes from, it’s a big insecurity and a big fear. Now I’m a relationship with Kyeli where I feel completely secure. I know wholeheartedly that she loves me and accepts me the way I am, and that our relationship is stable and good. So I can let go of this too. I can be 100% honest, 100% myself, and I can do so despite my fear.
After discovering and processing those three reasons, I was ready to let go of my little white lies and “rounding errors”. It wasn’t like flipping a switch, though. Old habits die hard, and I still tell those little white lies. I still make those rounding errors. But now I catch myself, and I admit when I do it. Here are some more recent examples:
Kyeli: “Did you read Seth’s blog today? Wasn’t it awesome?”
Me: “Yeah, it was really good! *pauses* Actually, I don’t know what I’m talking about. I haven’t read it yet.”
Kyeli: “So, shall we go out on Sunday?”
Me: “Sure, sounds good. *pauses* Actually, I’m only mostly happy about going out on Sunday. Let’s talk about it and see if we have any other options.”
Kyeli: “I read that *mumble* is now changing things around to be *mumblemumble* and a song about milk.”
Me: “Yeah. *nods* *pauses* Actually, I have no idea what you just said. Something about milk?”
It’s always good for Kyeli when I do this. She’s never hurt or offended that I just told her an untruth; instead she’s supportive of me working on breaking this habit.
And now that I’m being 100% honest, everything has become amazingly better! I feel better about myself. I feel more empowered and more open to success. I feel a stronger and deeper connection between myself and Kyeli. And here’s why I think that is.
When you live according to your values, you like yourself.
When you like yourself, you open yourself up to all manner of good things.
If you don’t like yourself, you’ll find ways to sabotage yourself, either consciously or subconsciously. And when it comes to liking yourself or living according to your values, there’s a huge gap between 99% and 100%.
If you do live according to your values, and if you do it wholeheartedly, you may find depths of self-like and self-love that you didn’t even imagine were there.
Whatever you choose, I wish you the best in your journey!
- Honesty vs. Predictability (Intent vs. Outcome)
- why openness is awesome
- the ethics of communication: a question
- the ethics of communication: my answer