William Shakespeare wrote much about truth. “To thine own self be true,” he admonished us. “Truth will out,” he warned. “Honesty is the best policy. If I lose my honor, I lose myself,” he counseled.
Yet, so many of us seem to fear the truth. We silence our voices. Why? Because it is easier, perhaps. Or, to put it more precisely, because it is less frightening in the moment than the alternative. We live in the age of cancel culture, after all, an era in which expressing an unpopular opinion may leave you shunned, cost you friendships, get you fired, or even make you a target of violence.
That’s not hyperbole. It’s a fact of our increasingly polarized society. A 2020 study from Washington University in St. Louis found that nearly 50% of American adults claim that they routinely self-censor out of fear of the social, professional, and even physical repercussions of expressing an opinion that others might find objectionable.
The truth is that truth takes courage. That’s because it’s so valuable. If truth did not possess such immense power, then there would be no great effort to quash it. But it does, and you can see the proof everywhere today. It’s in the disintegration of the social structure, the unraveling of the fabric of kinship that once bound us together, as we now retreat into our hermetic enclaves. And it’s in the disintegration of the self, as we systematically destroy our own integrity with every truth we deny out of fear and the misguided effort to self-protect.
A Labyrinth of Lies
Given today’s divided political and social climate, it is now the default to keep quiet and not engage in what was once considered healthy dialogue to understand different points of view better. Instead, we hold back and simply smile and nod. We may even pretend to agree or tell a little white lie every now and again, especially if it can help you keep your job, reputation, or safety. An older University of Massachusetts study showed that 60% of adults lie at least once within 10 minutes of a normal conversation. It’s likely a much higher percentage currently.
Whether you’re lying by omission or lying overtly, there’s still a price to pay. The body and mind always keep score. There is mounting scientific evidence to prove it. For example, neurological studies have found that lying can take a significant toll on your cognitive functioning across both the short and long-term, including contributing to substantial memory impairment (1, 2, 3, 4).
It’s not difficult to understand why habitual lying often threatens memory and cognition. Deception, whether through overt lying or lying by omission, requires immense mental resources. You have to determine when and how to deceive. You have to assess whether your deception is “working,” and you assume the responsibility of remembering and exercising the deception for the rest of your life–or else you must face the consequences when the lie is revealed. The mental and spiritual burden of maintaining the lie means that your body and spirit are already thrown into a state of disequilibrium, of hypervigilance and anxiety, a state of trouble.
That’s far from the end of it because, when you deceive, in whatever form, you’re also undermining your capacity to perceive things clearly. For instance, research has shown that when a person lies, they often eventually begin to perceive the lie as truth (5, 6). The brain and body simply cannot persist in a state of cognitive dissonance for long. It will do what it must to resolve the conflict between what is said (the lie) and what is known and remembered (the truth). Since the fear of the consequences of admitting the lie is often so great, it’s the perception of the truth that the brain sacrifices instead, forgetting that which contradicts the lie while fabricating “memories” to support it.
What this means is that, over time, it’s going to become increasingly difficult to separate fact from fiction, even in your own mind. That is an incredibly disorienting, disconcerting, and downright disturbing way to see, live, and be in the world.
Still there’s more, and this perhaps rests at the heart of it all. When you choose not to speak your truth, when you elect to deceive rather than disclose, the odds are that what’s motivating you, above all, is fear: Fear of hurting someone's feelings, fear of your own emotional pain, fear of the loss of status, or comfort, or security.
Such a choice, though, neither ends your fear nor avoids it. It merely prolongs it. That’s because the truth doesn’t go away. It doesn’t evaporate just because you refuse to speak it. You may even notice impacts on your sleep, with insomnia or stressful dreams. You may want to metaphorically hide a tiger behind a curtain so you can avoid it, but there’s still going to be a tiger behind the curtain. Your mind might try to forget, but your body and mind will remember, and they will manifest this reality in a thousand different ways, principally through the anxiety, depression, and overall disquiet that comes when your mind and body are not in alignment.
The Power of Revelation
To be sure, telling the truth isn’t easy. We don’t propose that radical self-disclosure is the panacea you’ve been searching for all your life. But telling your truth can take a lot of invisible stress weight off your shoulders. Indeed, it’s a necessity if you want to live a healthy, harmonious, and self-actualized existence.
Studies in neuropsychology have shown that self-expression can not only dramatically improve your mental well-being but may also lengthen your life (7, 8, 9, 10, 11). In a study of repressed anger among a population of Korean males, for example, Suh et al, (2021) found that the failure to express these negative emotions was strongly associated with significant harm, not only to the individual’s mental and emotional health but also to their physical wellbeing (10).
Conversely, in a study of female breast cancer patients, Jensen-Johansen et al. (2018) found that women who regularly engaged in expressive writing activities, particularly those relating to their thoughts, feelings, and experiences associated with their illness, encountered fewer and less severe physical complications or other adverse health events at the 3, 6, and 9 month post-study interval, than did the control group (11). In other words, expressing your truth, from your perceptions to your emotions to your beliefs, doesn’t just support your psychological health, but it may also save your life.
However, the benefits of speaking your truth extend far beyond your personal well-being. Learning to express yourself in a healthy and productive manner is also imperative for the success and longevity of your relationships. Honest self-disclosure enables you to build loving connections on foundations of trust. This creates a different relationship dynamic where all you need to be concerned with is being your honest, authentic self.
But it doesn’t come easily if you are like many people that have built an identity around trying to be what you think others expect and want you to be. This paradigm shift requires you and those around you to cultivate communication skills that many of us seem to have lost, particularly in our new post-pandemic normal. Among the most important, and seemingly the scarcest, of these skills is relationship tolerance. Revealing your truth is about both accepting the effects of the revelation on others and recognizing that your truth, especially if it is a difficult one, may not always be easy for those you love. At the same time, claiming the right to reveal your truth also means granting the same right to others in return. That requires a higher level of emotional intelligence, tolerance, and kindness for you to fully listen to what someone else might have to share in response. In other words, it is not just a one-way street.
The good news, though, is that there are tangible ways to communicate your truth in a manner that is authentic, honest, and respectful. These include:
Using “I” statements: Speaking from your own experience in the first person allows you to take ownership of and responsibility for your truth. At the same time, avoiding the second person, “you,” helps you to avoid putting others on the defensive, as “you” statements often come off as accusatory or blaming.
Be clear: As we’ve already seen, when you’ve grown accustomed to not speaking your truth, it can be easy to lose sight of what your truth actually is. The falsehood you’ve been living can begin to look like fact. So ask yourself, can that statement in your mind be argued? Be clear about what your truth is. At Casa Alternavida, we can help equip you with the tools you need to find your center, focus, and clarity again. During our personal retreats, you can learn techniques to unravel who you are at the core and what simple truths you can easily express as a first step.
Be unarguable: Speaking from your inner experience creates a better outcome. For example, you could start by saying, “I notice I am feeling some uneasiness in my stomach and tension in my jaw. I have something I want to share, and I feel afraid. Are you available?” This approach typically yields a very different response than just jumping in from a nervous place to reveal, one that isn’t arguable. After several initially awkward attempts of revealing your inner experience, you may realize this in itself is a great way to tell the truth.
Be intentional and kind: Living your truth doesn’t necessarily mean being injudicious in when, how, and what you choose to reveal. There are innumerable good reasons to reveal yourself, but there are also many bad ones. The simple fact is that you will harvest the seed that you plant. So, if you’re speaking your truth out of anger, bitterness, or a vengeful desire to hurt another, then that seed will often come back to you in the form of more pain, more bitterness. On the other hand, if you speak out of a desire to heal rather than hide your wounds, then that is the fruit your seed of intention will often bear.
Be prepared: This tip goes hand-in-hand with the previous one because, as long as you proceed with a healthy, healing intention, you cannot go awry. That does not mean, however, that the process, even with the best of intentions, will always be smooth sailing, particularly at first. Not everything you may think, feel, perceive, or say will be wholly or happily accepted by others. That’s okay. Your truth is your truth. Simply because others may not be prepared to hear, understand, or accept doesn’t make it any less real for you. The key is to remain centered on your truth and certain in your intention. This should prevent you from reacting reflexively if your testimony is met with anger or resistance. Remember that others may need time to process.
They may not ever come around to your side of thinking. After all, just as you have the right to own your reality, so, too, do others have the right to theirs. This requires you to have the emotional maturity and the mental stability not to break but rather to stand comfortably in what you know to be true for you. From this position of honesty, you can choose to define your place in the world and to negotiate your relationships with others or, sometimes, when necessary, let them go.
How Casa Alternavida Can Help
At Casa Alternavida, our caring team is dedicated to providing a safe space for you to explore your truth and feel heard and understood without hurtful judgment. We take a holistic approach that addresses the root cause of stress and overwhelm while empowering you with conscious communication tools to help regain your joy, peace, and creativity. Our retreats are designed for individuals or groups interested in rediscovering the open, honest, authentic, and inspired life you deserve, the life you may have known in the wondrousness of childhood but perhaps have lost along the path of adulthood. Contact us today to explore how Casa Alternavida can help you rekindle the spark of your brightest, truest self!
Casa Alternavida was founded on the principle that there are healthier, “alternative” ways to balance life and work. This alternative is to stop the unconscious addiction to stress, overwhelm, and struggle to focus on a healthy, balanced lifestyle that yields better results. Our practitioners are trained to support you with unraveling those unconscious commitments so you can actively create the lifestyle you want to be living, take charge of your well-being, and reset bad habits. We are experts at creating playful experiences in nature that inspire deep personal insight and long-term positive behavior change. Teams walk away from our facility with new excitement for their projects, practices to work smarter, and a deep appreciation of their companies. If you are a business that cares about your employees and wants to enhance your workplace culture, we are dedicated to providing alternative ways of building resilient leaders and teams.
Li, Y., Liu, Z., & Liu, X. (2022). More Lies Lead to M