Questions of Truth
When was the last time you felt a liberating moment of truth claw its way from deep inside you, reach the surface and spring out of your mouth? A few weeks ago, I did a walk-and-talk with someone in the midst of making major life changes. As we created a safe space in nature -- at an active pace -- this person confided about the secrets he'd been living most of his life. I listened and watched his truth become a flood and a raft for him -- it would forever change the world he knew and save his life in the process.
Does the moment need to be extreme?
Going inward toward your true self can be painful. And arduous. And a host of other emotions that, when we feel them, make us want to cling to our lie and opt for our comfort zone. Remember: even the smallest truths we don't address will cause us to perpetuate short-term avoidance rather than choose the path of long-term life gratification.
What's the harm in avoiding our truth?
Take your favorite houseplant off its stand and put it somewhere dark. Stop watering it. Track its regression for the next few weeks. The plant is a stand-in for anyone who continues to live a self-deception.
When we cut off circulation to our truths, we're cutting off oxygen to ourselves. We choose to walk around with a core fear: "If I am my true self, people might abandon me."
Every week, people tell me, "I just wish I could be more true to myself," "I wish I didn't care so much about what others think," or "I wish I had the courage to accept myself for myself, and feel like I was enough and just BE."
During another walk-and-talk, our conversation bounced from childhood to vulnerability, defensive armoring to marriage to living life with a soul purpose. My client confided that it was "scary" to look into another person's eyes.
"What's scary?" I asked.
"That they'll really see me."
"What don't you want them to see?"
"I don't know."
"What would happen if you stared into your own eyes?"
"Wow... (sweating)... that would be hard."
Why do we start avoiding our truth?
The simplest answer is fear -- and it starts when we're kids and retreat into our minds to survive. The intuitive avoidance skills we develop are often based on our ability to ensure that people around us don't get upset. We can't let caretakers or friends "find out" about us. They may not like or love us as much. Thus begins a game where we feel out how much we can reveal while staying safe.
Soon the game becomes a mechanism by which we shave off more and more of our true selves, deciding what to share and what to keep inside. Suddenly it's later. We're adults with relationships. We discover that we've built our lives on false premises. But now we have a history of prioritizing the world by how safe things are. Even if we know there's a deeper truth somewhere, we haven't cultivated the courage to speak it, act it, and be it in the world.
What was a child's game becomes a shadow dance that breeds internal stress and external conflict. We do our best to avoid rocking our own teetering boat, or we find attractive distractions to help us cope -- creating even more conflict! So we find new ways to check out, or we become high-functioning avoiders -- anything to ignore what's happening inside of us.
What's my story?
Years ago I was trying to figure out how to inspire people through my work -- all while dealing with a challenging time in a personal relationship. Work became my most attractive distraction. If I could focus on helping others, I could avoid helping myself -- a sophisticated, albeit unsustainable plan.
During one particular session with my therapist, I went through a seemingly clever process of keeping things light, skillfully deflecting, avoiding anything deep or meaningful. That's when my throat clenched up, something that had been happening on and off for weeks. Except this time it was more like a chokehold. I looked at my therapist and told her my throat "was clogged." And my therapist -- a breast cancer survivor -- looked back and said, "If you don't start speaking up and saying what's true, you are going to get throat cancer."
To this day it was one of the most powerful, meaningful, and direct things anyone has ever said to me. She was holding up the mirror for me. I had no choice but to look.
How do I begin?
Living your truth -- speaking it and being it in the world -- begins with courageous communication. First, you must listen to the pounding of your own heart. Second, be willing to seek help from others. And third, have the courage to shout it out loud.
Find someone you trust -- be it a friend, partner, therapist, or someone else -- and communicate honestly with her or him. Dip your toe into truth. Before you know it you'll swim into the deep end.
What if someone judges me?
People judge. When they do, take it upon yourself to find the deeper lesson: consider the source of the judgment far more than the judgment itself. Ask yourself if the judger's values align with yours. This small act is the absolute key to everything that will follow.
My truth is already inside me?
Yes. Shed light on it. Examine it. Take an honest inventory of what you've been avoiding. Is it your career? Your partnerships? Your family? If you've been losing yourself to someone or something, make now the moment that you reconnect. Bring your truth into your daily awareness. The child you were knew it was there. The future version of yourself knows it too. It's time to peel back the layers you've created, lose the skin that doesn't serve you, and honor the truth you've ignored for too long.
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