Taking stock and living more truthfully
Spring brings an explosion of new life; baby lambs, blossoms, buds, flowers and fresh green shoots, all bursting into life like an alarm clock, heralding the end of sleepy winter and the start of a new year of life and growth. This new boost of energy makes spring the perfect time to review our own lives.
Like a gardener, taking stock of what’s growing, deciding what needs weeding out and planning what they’d like to plant and grow, spring is a great time to reflect on what we want our own lives to look like. What things do we no longer need in our lives that are weighing us down? What would we like more of?
Satya, the Yama of truthfulness, can be particularly useful to reflect on at this time of year to help us create lives full of authenticity, trust and joy.
Why we lie?
Lies, or lack of truthfulness, show up in many different forms. From the big lies: crimes, infidelities, secrets, to the smaller ‘white lies’ we tell habitually to save face and spare feelings. Sometimes lies show up in the way we live our lives. Habits, beliefs and behavioral patterns can evolve that allow us to disguise our truth, sometimes even from ourselves.
‘A lie would make no sense unless the truth was felt to be too dangerous’ – Carl Jung
As the above Jung quote suggests, at the root of most lies is fear.
- Fear of hurting others
- Fear of loosing the admiration and approval of others
- Fear that we are not good enough as we are
Telling our truth, or living it, can be scary. When we are afraid of something, we may want to bury it and hide it away, but when we bury things within ourselves, they do not go away, instead they become an even deeper part of who we are and how we behave. When we face fear, acknowledge it, feel it and express it, then we set it free and stop it from shaping our lives.
To live truthfully requires courage and bravery. Spring is the perfect time to cultivate these qualities in ourselves, enabling us to face our fears and make space for new things.
Consider the reality you present to other people. Are you packaging yourself to meet the expectations and needs of those around you?
There are many different ways we can tailor the image of ourselves we present to other people, from the clothes or makeup we wear to the way we speak and the information we choose to share.
The birth of digital technologies and social media mean that now, more than ever, we are presented with a myriad of opportunities to control and cultivate the image we share with the world.
Obviously there are some things that we may want to keep private, and to live truthfully is not the same as living publicly, announcing every detail of our lives to everyone we meet. However if we find ourselves putting effort into hiding parts of ourselves, or cultivating a specific image, the weight of what we’re not expressing may begin to become a burden.
Are we being nice instead of being real? When we try to live up to what we think we should be, we risk distancing ourselves from the vibrancy of our own truth.
Perhaps we think we should be a better person, a cleverer person, a happier person, a calmer person, a kinder person, a more conventional person, a more interesting person, a more beautiful person.. The list is endless. When the truth of who we perceive ourselves to be feels unacceptable, we can invest vast amounts of our time, energy and resources into trying to change or hide it.
The need to be loved, valued and accepted is universal, yet many of us still find it hard to believe we are truly lovable, valuable and acceptable just as we are. We may feel that the only way to meet our need for connection and approval is to package ourselves, hide the bad parts and only show the parts we believe will be accepted, loved and valued.
When we systematically exclude or repress parts of ourselves, we deprive others of the opportunity to fully connect. Imagine how difficult it would be to hug someone who was trying to stop you from knowing what a part of their body felt like. When we try and control what other people see and know, we distance ourselves from any true and complete connection. This can feel extremely isolating and lonely.
Now imagine what would happen if we decided that the whole truth of who we are right now, warts and all, was fully acceptable? How would it feel to turn up whole and authentic in every situation, knowing that you were fully accepted and that all parts of you were valued and loved, just as you are?
Belonging and growing
What is true for us changes, evolves and grows just as we do. If you need proof, imagine your favorite TV show, meal or the person you felt was the love of your life, when you were a child. Chances are, the truth of these things is different now from when you were 4. Freedom to grow, expand and change is a natural part of life.
As well as our need to develop, humans also possess a need to belong. Most of us will belong to many different groups: family, friends, community, industrial, religious, political, with each group containing their own rules and belief systems. These may be subtle or overt, but in most cases adhering to them is a necessary part of belonging to that group.
When the truth of our need to grow starts to lead us outside the boundaries of a group we belong to, we may find ourselves faced with a difficult choice: either sacrifice part of ourselves to maintain a sense of belonging, or risk sacrificing the support and approval of the group in order to live truthfully and fully.
When we neglect or repress the truth of our needs for too long, they may start to burst out of our lives in ways we cannot control. Perhaps we feel that the only way to belong in a certain group of people is by being perfectly good and without fault. We may begin to hide away and push down all the feelings that we believe to be imperfect and unacceptable, until they boil up in unexpected and unpredictable eruptions of emotion.
Speaking truth to ourselves and acting on it can be very scary. ‘Truth rarely seems to ask the easier choice of us’ (D. Adele), yet the rewards of moving past fear in order to live a more truthful and authentic life, are plentiful.
Like seedlings, that are started indoors before being planted out into the garden, truth can sometimes be best cultivated within ourselves before we bring it outside into the world. Learning to listen to an inner voice or intuition that tells us when something feels right or not can be a helpful way of better understanding our individual truth.
As we take stock of our lives, notice if any beliefs you are holding onto are no longer true? What truths are we not expressing in order to meet our need to belong?
Many of us inadvertently lie to ourselves and others about the realities of our time, energy, resources and needs. ‘That would be no problem’, ‘I’d love to’ ‘oh it’s no trouble’ and the classic ‘I’m fine thanks’ when in reality we are overwhelmed.
When we make commitments, set goals or make claims that do not account for the reality of our skills, needs and the infinite variables of life: interruptions, mistakes, traffic, we may quickly find that we are not able to fulfill all our promises.
If we neglect our need for rest and fun for too long, we may find ourselves feeling exhausted and joyless. If we pack our days so full that each moment is accounted for, we may find that an extra 20 minutes in traffic results in a domino effect of lateness and missed commitments.
When we consistently set goals and make promises that we are unable to keep, we begin to loose the trust and confidence of others and of ourselves.
Being more truthful may initially seem less impressive, however, when we are honest about our real needs, abilities and limitations, we start to make commitments we can actually keep. With every kept promise we make to ourselves and others, we cultivate trust in ourselves and earn the trust of others.
It is important to maintain compassion as a priority to prevent truthfulness from being used as a personal weapon. Shouting the ‘truth’ at someone in an argument, with the intention of causing them harm, rarely ends well. Remember, Ahimsa, the Yama of non-harming, comes become Satya (truthfullness) for a reason!
It is also helpful to remember that other peoples’ truths may differ from our own. Two friends may come out from the same film to find one has seen the best movie of their life, whilst the other has seen what they believe to be the worst. The lens through which we view the world is coloured largely by our own opinions and experiences and is rarely fully objective.
When we make space for our own truth and the truth of others, accepting it may different from our own without needing to change it, we create space to move more compassionately in the world.