We spend countless days going through the motions of life without sparing a second thought to how we actually feel and what we actually value. Especially in this day and age, where things are so carefully crafted on social media, we plunge ourselves deeper into a sense of falseness and it gets increasingly difficult for us to be honest with ourselves and the world around us. Unfortunately, that is how life is at the moment, and it doesn’t look like things are going to change anytime soon.
But that’s okay! After all, more and more people are starting to look for more authenticity, be it in real life or in the online sphere. Authenticity, as we know, is mostly achieved through the practice of honesty.
Honesty in Daily Life
Honesty is important in living a virtuous and fulfilling life. After all, being honest means we are living our truth, and living our truth is extremely necessary when trying to achieve authenticity.
However, this isn’t always the case. Many people fail to realise that honesty is a practice; just like cycling, just like cooking, it is a skill that you cultivate over time. In fact, we’ve seen how difficult it may be when it comes to practicing honesty because more often than not, honesty is painful – which makes it difficult to accept.
Because we are human, we tell ourselves little lies all the time, especially when we justify our reactions to things. For example, people who are proclaimed as ‘short-tempered’ have a tendency to get angry or annoyed at small things.
Take angry drivers who yell obscenities in the car when someone cuts them in traffic. They justify their reactions by shifting blame, saying “they cut me in traffic!” or “they were the ones who couldn’t do their jobs right!”.
This isn’t to say that these are exceptionally terrible. In fact, it’s what makes us humans. But these reactions are not conscious. Even if they are, they’re usually led by something else – frustration, fear, even happiness. It is easy to be reactive, it shields us from having to confront our own discomfort.
So where does that leave us? Before reading this article, you might be thinking that the word ‘radical’ in radical honesty will not amount to anything particularly good. That, coupled with ‘honesty’ just seems like a crazy thought, right? Because when was the last time you’ve been 100% honest about anything?
Well, thankfully radical honesty doesn’t actually mean RADICAL honesty. Rather, it is a method – a means in which we try to incorporate in our lives to make us less reactive to things.
In this article, let’s take a look at what radical honesty is, how it can help us live a more fulfilling life and at the end of the day, whether it’s actually possible or not.
What is Radical Honesty?
First of all, radical honesty goes beyond its face value. In simple terms, radical honesty is recognising three key components:
- Acknowledging how your body is feeling to situations
- Noticing what the world around you is like
- Acknowledging what is going through your own mind
All these things connect to each other, one way or another and help us in overcoming our visceral reaction to situations. It allows us to ground ourselves and approach our emotions in a simpler manner – one that doesn’t require us to make sense, instead, to live as we presently are, radically and truthfully.
Stop Lying to yourself (and let things go!)
Lying is the primary cause of suffering.
What this means is that, especially in communicating with people around us, it holds us back from conveying what we really mean, and this can cause us to ‘eat away at ourselves’ – or, in other words, make us feel terrible on the inside because our words betray what we actually think.
The reason we do this is really simply because we are afraid of speaking our truth – after all, truth is scary, but it will also set you free. In other words, radical honesty promotes approaching truth in a simplified way.
The older you get, the more complicated your emotions become. Sometimes you wake up and just don’t feel good about yourself without understanding why. Radical honesty is about letting go of this. A lot more things are at stake when you try to exercise some form of control over how you feel or a situation, and you feel like you have a lot more to lose. So, if things are outside or beyond the confines of your actions, simply let them go.
Another way of looking at things is to simply ride it out – and the way to do this is to separate noticing and thinking about how you feel.
What do we mean by this?
When we continue to experience something bad, we tend to analyse or over-analyse why we feel this way. For example: WHY am I feeling cranky? Is it because I haven’t eaten? Or not getting enough sleep? While all these thoughts are great to pinpoint the reasons for our emotions, sometimes thinking too much and putting emphasis on our emotions won’t bring any benefit if we will only end up feeling worse about ourselves.
Instead, consider simplifying our thought process through noticing and acknowledging how our body is reacting to this: am I breathing heavily? Is my stomach in pain? Have I eaten?
By breaking down our emotions into manageable chunks, it’s much easier to handle them with grace and authenticity.
Practising with Care
However, honesty can’t necessarily be all there is to it. Many people have tried (and failed) to practice being honest because it’s more difficult than it seems. Honesty comes in layers, and depending on the situation you’re in – whether it be personal or professional, it is always proceeded with caution.
While radical honesty is great – especially in acknowledging and accepting things that happen to you, it might not be the same with other people. The truth is, everyone has a different outlook on life, and everyone has their own conventions by which they stick to.
Furthermore, there’s also a lot of limitations to how you can practice radical honesty – and that might be a good thing. It can be a personal journey to which you are able to let go of vices and misplaced convictions but might not necessarily translate well in how we communicate with other people.
Ultimately, the principles of radical honesty are admirable, especially in terms of wanting to live a simpler, more authentic life. It’s also a great mindset for us to start thinking about how we can approach communication in a genuine manner.
After all, people can spot disingenuous characteristics way faster, and communicating honestly is a great way to ensure your thoughts and feelings are being conveyed as clearly as possible.
However, at the end of the day, human beings are not blank canvases we can colour our words with – they’re with their own biases just as much as we are, including the way we interpret things. So it helps to note that while radical honesty as a principle can help us weed out unnecessary complications, it can also be difficult for other people to accept.
What do you think? Is radical honesty something you’re willing to practice? Is it even possible? You decide.