My dad used to say all the time, “Be careful. Once you step in mud, you can never wash it off completely.”
This was his way of advising us kids on how to make good choices. A little fear to keep us on morally higher (and cleaner) ground. I was the kind of kid who wanted to keep my Keds super white, so I kept to the sidewalks and avoided puddles.
Navigating the mess of life wasn’t as easy as simply staying in on rainy days. I have since veered off the sidewalk and have stepped in all kinds of…..crap. Mud stains all over my permanent record! And nope, it can never be washed completely clean, but I think that is ok because I did learn something.
So far, I think the most important step to take is not the one that avoids the mud, but the one that avoids the lies. Always step towards the truth, even if it is messy and dirty.
We should always tell the truth. If you’re having a bad day and your boss asks how you’re doing, you don’t need to spill the beans and say: I’m losing faith in humanity, and I’m feeling really sh*tty about all of my life’s decisions. You’re allowed to lie, because … TMI. But you’re not allowed to lie to yourself.
SIGNS OF LYING TO YOURSELF:
- you have to over-rationalize your decisions
- you force positivity
- you ignore your true feelings
- you are delusional (but I guess we can’t tell when that is happening. Hopefully a good friend will let you down easy on that one.)
Lying to yourself is very easy to do, because society tells us to do it. Well-adjusted people are seen as positive, and we all want to be perceived as well-adjusted. We see negative emotions as flaws, like bad character traits, so we bury those dirty muddy thoughts. We tell ourselves that we aren’t allowed to feel angry, or jealous, or anything that isn’t positive, because we need to stay on the nice clean sidewalk and be compassionate, have gratitude, and be kind. We lie even more because if we admit what we really want, we worry that we are being selfish, and selfish is bad.
For example: Maybe you’re uneasy about some things going on between you and your partner. However, they made you a cup of coffee this morning, so you need to be grateful for that. You cling to it, embarrassed because your worries are nothing compared to the real problems that many other people are facing daily. You tell yourself to drink your coffee and say “thank you.”
Painting positivity over negativity doesn’t make the truth go away.
Instead of lying to yourself and squashing your feelings under a blanket of fake positivity or forced generosity, it is better to let yourself sit with your negativity. Get acquainted. I say “sit” because having a knee-jerk reaction where you start yelling, blaming, throwing things, or plotting revenge is not very helpful.
Just sit a bit, and think about why you feel the way you do. Feeling negative does not mean that you ARE negative. You’re only tuning in to them. This is also called awareness. Once you are aware, you listen, then when the time is right, you let it go.
Awareness will help you ask the right questions. It leads you to the truth.
Not acknowledging your true feelings leads to badness. Lots of badness…also known as RESENTMENT. Not just towards a person. You can end up resenting yourself, and life overall. Once all the badness has been compressed into a brick of resentment, it takes a lot of work to chip away at it. At that point, it probably feels easier to chuck that brick into a river and watch it sink. It’s why we burn our bridges, lose friends, or try to skip town, because starting over takes less effort than fixing something that you can’t even open anymore.
Stop lying to yourself. Let yourself feel everything. If there is something in your life that you want to change or improve, you need to truthfully articulate it and identify it, before you can start to work on it.
Don’t be scared to step into the mud.
But be very scared of wading into your man-made puddle of lies, even if it glistens with positivity.