I am not talking about the kind of “honesty” that means I get to tell you all I think is wrong with you. I am not talking about the kind of “honesty” that comes from the mistaken belief that I am in control of everyone else: what they need to think, feel, say, do in order to please me.
I am talking about the kind of honesty that heals and restores. The real tough kind of honesty also known as rigorous self-honesty. This is the kind of honesty that pushes us back on our heels because it means we speak the truth about ourselves to ourselves. The kind of honesty that hurts (us) and heals (us) and frees (us). The kind of honesty that can bring us to our knees and that helps us to rise up. The kind of honesty that liberates others from our misery played out on them.
When we love and lead with this kind of honesty taking root in our DNA, we close the escape hatches. We become open to the lessons hidden in our mistakes and the damaging patterns that we are stuck in. We acknowledge and accept that what we have done or said has sometimes harmed others and ourselves. We admit to the lies we tell ourselves to justify our fear-based responses.
This type of accountability frees us. When we aren’t self-honest, we remain locked in our secrets and shame, looking for ways we can justify, validate, and blame. Being rigorously self-honest releases us from this isolation. It is healing.
To practice this kind of honesty, we come to the point in our lives that we realize something is not working. Think about these examples:
- A CEO I know gathered his team and said, “We have a culture of gossip. I contribute to it. Mostly everyone does. It stops today. I have set the wrong tone.” And then he laid out rigorous steps to address the cultural pattern. Due to his ownership, the gossip stopped.
- My own epiphany a number of years ago led me to accept I was in a toxic situation with a few people who were never going to be pleased regardless of how often I was trying to please them. When I realized my own fear of rejection kept me hustling for approval and feeding sugar cubes to bears, I disentangled myself. It was hard to recognize that I was hustling for approval. Who wants to do that? And yet it allowed me to say “peace out” with self-compassion and tenderness for the part of me hustling to please.
By being willing to put on a new pair of glasses we see our patterns more clearly. Our paradigm shifts. We have a new perspective and we start building healthier ways of connecting with ourselves and others. This takes humility and courage. It creates wisdom and serenity.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind to start owning your stuff:
- Find a trustworthy person to coach and guide you through a process of self-reflection.
- Develop daily ways to reflect honestly on what you have done, what you have left undone, and what you wish you had done differently. No excuses!
- Take an assessment like the Enneagram that shines a light on entrenched patterns that we created to keep ourselves safe many years back. These patterns are now getting in the way, and being able to accept them is the first step to living a more authentic life.
Being honest with ourselves means we become willing to do things differently, to apologize when we are wrong, and to make genuine amends. This is the real deal, folks. Not for the fainthearted. This is when we realize we are the arsonist who set the fires we complain about.
A few years back I had an article published entitled Leadership Means Having to Say You’re Sorry. It goes over the steps of a self-rigorous apology, no excuses. It is applicable in all situations: at work, at home. It is a game-changer and much like the Japanese practice of kintsugi, in which broken pieces of china are glued back together with liquid gold, our cracks and imperfections need to be highlighted, not hidden. Accountability helps us to do this and heal moving forward.
May you find people along the way with whom you can share your imperfections. It is in the acceptance and sharing, that we realize accountability is deeply healing.