How honest are you?

I’m reading a book at the moment called Radical Honesty.* When I showed Boyfriend he snorted a bit and said ‘as if you need that!’

He’s probably right – I do have a tendency to just say what I think, even if it’s a little brutal – but it’s interesting all the same.

The idea behind the book is that our lack of honesty is at the root of pretty much all our stress. This doesn’t just necessarily mean actively telling lies – leading a double life or pretending you have a job but actually just sitting in the park – it includes keeping feelings and thoughts hidden, for fear of how other people will react.

The author, who is a physcotherapist, says that most of the people he sees are stuck in this adolescent state of living their lives according to how they think other people think they should be living them. The stress comes from this fear of judgement, from trying to maintain a persona that you believe to be socially acceptable, and from not being open and honest about your true feelings.

It makes sense doesn’t it?

Think about a source of stress in your life. Maybe it’s work. Why is it stressful? Because you’re afraid that your boss will realise you don’t know what you’re doing? Because you put yourself under pressure to earn as much as your friends? Because you worry that your colleagues don’t like you?

All of these things boil down to typical teenage anxieties don’t they? They are all about not being honest.

What about if you went into work and just said to your boss ‘look, I feel really unsure about how well I’m managing this piece of work, can you give me some feedback or guidance?’

Or how about if you were just honest with yourself and your friends, and admitted that actually money just doesn’t matter as much to you, and that you were going to judge yourself by your own standards?**

I find it fascinating to think about honesty in terms not of the active lies we tell, but of the thoughts and feelings we keep hidden. Wouldn’t life be much more straightforward if you never had to worry about what you said and could just be yourself all the time?

How honest are you?

*I am about five pages in to Chapter One. To be honest (see what I did there?) this is probably as far as I get. I am honest, but flighty.

**Don’t forget I’ve hardly read any of the book. This is all pure speculation on my part as to what the book would ACTUALLY tell you to do.



  1. Arabella Bazley
    11 December, 2012 / 10:06 am

    There is definitely a time for dishonesty. When a friend who is rushing out the door says does this make me look fat? Or if a very antagonistic person is trying to engage you in a conversation on white supremacy… diplomatic retreat is often the preferred course to outright confrontation. I think it all depends on the situation and whether you can say something in a positive/helpful manner. Feelings…. that’s very dangerous territory unless you are fully aware of a persons background you can open up a whole can of worms.

    • 12 December, 2012 / 9:53 am

      Yes, of course you’re right. I think the book is more though about you, rather than other people. (She says, guessing after reading a few pages). My instinct though is that it is more about being yourself openly, without fear of criticism or judgment.

  2. 11 December, 2012 / 3:15 pm

    Love that you’ve not read it all yet.
    I tend to be very blunt with most things, especially when it comes to other people. But something which upsets me, I’ll never tell. Just bury it until I explode.
    I think everyone has these double standards :)

    • 12 December, 2012 / 9:51 am

      Yes absolutely – I’m the same. I can be very outspoken about some things, but then not say anything about other things that bother me. I’m definitely going to make an effort though to be more honest in the ‘true to yourself’ sense and see what happens…

    • Polly
      13 December, 2012 / 10:56 pm

      I’m exactly the same! It drives me mad that I never have the courage and ability to articulate what botheres me and then I just explode in tears when I can’t take it anymore, making a scene…

  3. 11 December, 2012 / 3:27 pm

    Under this definition of honesty I am an extremely dishonest person, I keep a lot to myself for fear of what people would think if I said them out load. It’s quite a shock to think of myself like that, under normal conditions I think I, and those that know me would say I was honest. But hopefully I am correcting some of this trait through my blog, working hard not not keeping things hidden despite what people may think…a good exercise I feel. A very thought provoking post xox

    • 12 December, 2012 / 9:50 am

      That’s exactly why I was so intrigued Beth – it’s that subtle difference between not exactly lying, but then hiding things. We so often think of being honest as meaning we wouldn’t steal or cheat or anything, but there is so much more to it than that. Have you found writing your blog to be cathartic?

      • 12 December, 2012 / 10:21 am

        Very cathartic, yes. I think in any major life change there is a lot of stuff that goes on under the surface, in my case that life change was finding out I was going to have a baby at 18. I put on a very good show of coping I think, but its wonderful, if hard, getting all those feelings I had out there, its ok not to be ok, to coin the phrase. But at the time I had on a perminant happy face around my friends, and can now see that was a form of dishonesty, and probably stopped them from being able to be there for me in a sence. Did you ever experience anything similar?xox

  4. 11 December, 2012 / 7:01 pm

    This all makes perfect sense! Why was I stressed out in school? Most of the times because I didnt study enough or forgot my homework…At gym – because I didnt stretch as much as I should. Its not only about honesty (to other, to yourself) but also about pulling your stuff together. I want to read that book now!

    • 12 December, 2012 / 9:49 am

      It’s so true isn’t it? When you think of any stressful situation, most of the time the anxiety will come from in some way having to hide or distort the truth.

  5. honeybee
    12 December, 2012 / 6:47 pm

    Sometimes though, I feel as though my ‘honesty’ leads to confrontation and misunderstanding, and even, mild ‘shock’ to the person at the other end of my comment.

    I’m not necessarily afraid of the confrontation, but just the after-hassle and behind-the-back-bitchiness that follows becomes tiresome.

    So my question is;

    Is honesty really all it cracks up to be, or, just a stress in itself?

  6. rinsimpson
    12 December, 2012 / 11:56 pm

    Ooh, I love this post! I think I’m a pretty honest person, but in the work arena you have to put on this professional “I’m so great” front, which I hate doing, but I can’t see a way around it when part of being freelance is selling yourself and your ideas. I may have to borrow that book off you at some point…

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