In 2015, I Will Be More Emotionally Honest

I don’t like the concept of New Year’s resolutions for the obvious reasons: they make us feel terrible about ourselves, they’re unrealistic, they allow fitness/diet/beauty companies to encroach on our insecurity and suck the life out of us, and they imply that the only time you can change your life is when a new year begins. They’re way too all-or-nothing and presume that if you slip up three days into your “new life plan” you’re a huge failure who will never have a better life. No thanks. I think most of us spend enough time beating ourselves up already, so there’s no need for an annual cultural tradition dedicated to more of that. I’m all about personal improvement, on January 1 or any other day of the year, so I think it’s more the “resolution” label that bugs me than the act of setting goals itself. What I can handle instead of resolutions is the idea of setting intentions. Intentions are more abstract and have more to do with the attitude you carry with you every day than setting distinct cold-turkey goals, and even if your intention is a concrete goal, referring to it as something other than a dreaded resolution has to be better for the psyche somehow, right? I have lots of random goals for 2015, but my biggest intention is to be more emotionally honest. I’m not referring to honesty in terms of a tendency to lie to people’s faces about literal facts or dropping hurtful truthbombs in their faces, though that’s probably not an ideal life choice either – not that I’m judging! What I need more of in my life is honesty with myself and others about how I really feel about things and what I really want.

I need to have enough honesty to be vulnerable with other people about what I’m feeling and thinking instead of churning out whatever answer I think others would most approve of without a second thought. I have a tendency to want to make everyone else comfortable all the time, and not only is that impossible no matter how hard anyone tries, it’s a huge waste of my own energy and capabilities. It’s one thing to logically understand that we’re not responsible for other people’s feelings, but it’s quite another to actually know that in the deepest part of ourselves. One step to really grasping that fact, I think, is having the honesty to give answers that sometimes aren’t so comfy for another person to hear. What’s especially silly is that most of the honest opinions I avoid sharing aren’t even particularly controversial. Yes, there are occasionally deep-rooted polarizing feelings that I keep to myself when they really should be out in the open, but for the most part, I keep my mouth shut over small things like what kind of mood I’m in that day or whether I agree with a random small-talk opinion.

The hardest part about crushing that kind of dishonesty is that it’s so habitual that it’s practically subconscious, and our society enables us to keep it that way. Most of us don’t even notice when we’re doing this type of lying. When we ask someone how they’re doing in line at the bank, we expect them to reply that they’re “fine” even if the sky is falling, and when someone disagrees with us in a casual discussion, we freeze because that’s not part of the expected script. These kind of habits seep into my own head until I don’t even know what my opinions or feelings really are half the time, and this enables me to somewhat lie to myself when I’m facing an emotion I don’t like or struggling with something I’d rather ignore. When you ignore something or tell yourself it’s untrue long enough, you start to believe it. But how can you ever make the choices in life that are right for you if you’re too busy hiding from your actual emotional state? That’s how we become regretful and complacent, hiding in uninspiring routines to avoid facing any of our problems (which usually aren’t nearly as scary as we think anyway).

When I was growing up in my hometown, everyone I knew put a premium being polite and pleasant to each other. Having a pleasant attitude is definitely important (and woefully undervalued these days), but it doesn’t always get the emotional job done, and I need to remember that as I go through this year. What’s the point of spending time with friends or family members if all you do is gloss over anything potentially unpleasant and just spew out cookie-cutter assertions of “I’m fine” or “I don’t care what we do, what do you want to do?” That’s like talking to robots! Having the honesty to share messy emotions and messy opinions is what brings people closer to each other and makes spending time together worthwhile. Being honest is harder at first than swallowing your true feelings, but you might find yourself with a great emotional payoff for it. You also might not, but at least you’ll know you told the truth.

Lying to yourself, and thus resisting whatever problem you’re ignoring, is a thousand times more draining than just facing what’s in front of you. Getting real with your feelings is scary as hell, but once you have, you can deal with the problem and eventually put it behind you. When you keep the lie alive, all your energy goes toward resisting your reality, maintaining your misery, and solving absolutely nothing. The lying doesn’t make the problem actually go away. If you can’t tell yourself the truth, who else can you trust in this world? This intention may take me a long time to really stick to, but that’s why I’m writing it out here. I’ll try to remind myself that the world needs more honesty – not the snarky or hateful kind of honesty, but the kind that might make you squirm in discomfort for just a moment before realizing you feel a thousand times more relieved at just having your tiny truths out in the world. It leaves so much more extra energy for the real stuff in life.

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