Being Honest With Yourself

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: Malyssa Bellarossa, “Pretend”

How to Be Honest With Yourself

Being honest with yourself… is, honestly, sometimes harder than it sounds. It’s said that “the truth will set you free.” Sure, we’ve been schooled about being honest, but being honest with oneself is a different story.

Being honest with yourself requires self-awareness and even courage. It can sometimes be challenging to make contact with your truth, and even harder to take action based on that truth (as a therapist, personal growth advocate, and coach, I know this to be true for my clients time and time again). 

Honesty is a little threatening because it’s so powerful. It’s also transformational. And (again, if we’re being honest!) sometimes we’re not ready for all the changes that radical self-honesty can bring.

[When faced with radical self-honesty, we can often find ourselves needing to explore Radical Self-Acceptance. Click here for more]

When We’re NOT Being Honest With Ourselves

So what do we do instead of being honest with ourselves? We play little games with ourselves, or minimize our feelings [we may experience gaslighting from others – or even ourselves!). We might even convince ourselves of things that are absolutely NOT true, in order to make peace with non-ideal circumstances over which we feel we have little influence or control. (We might even convince ourselves we have less influence or control than we actually, honestly do).

These strategies to avoid being honest with ourselves are especially common when embracing the fullness of our power feels scary. Honesty challenges us to take action and do courageous things in service of our own health and happiness.

Honesty is hard. Honesty is elusive. It can be anxiety-provoking. It can also be exhilarating. Being honest can be quite tricky, in reality — Whether we’re being honest with ourselves, or with others. But above all else: Being self-aware, and being honest with ourselves (whether or not we choose to act on our truth!) is essential to our overall well-being, and the quality of our lives and relationships.

Because being honest with yourself is SO important (and SO challenging) I’m devoting this entire episode of the podcast to it. I have invited my colleague, Denver therapist and online life coach Josephine Marin to share her unique, compassionate insight into why being honest with ourselves is crucial for our growth (no matter how uncomfortable it could get), and some real-world, down-to-earth strategies to help you connect with your deepest truth. 

In this episode, Josephine gives us a glimpse of the process of becoming honest and self-aware so that we can live in a way that is congruent with our true selves. Furthermore, she explains why being honest with ourselves is the key to love, happiness, and freedom.

Tune in to the episode to learn more about being honest with yourself to live out your true and authentic self. (Scroll down to listen!)

Here are some of the main takeaways from today’s conversation:

What Does it Mean to ‘Be Honest with Yourself’? 

Not being honest with ourselves can be a form of protection, but it is essential to tune in to ourselves. Without self-awareness and a connection to our core truth, you can get involved in situations (jobs, relationships, and more) that are not good for you.

The worst thing is investing years or even decades of your life to something that is not truly meaningful or satisfying to your authentic self. Josephine offers some suggestions to make radical self-honesty part of your daily practice, particularly when it comes to the most important parts of your life. 

Learning how to be honest with yourself ensures that you will make choices and create a reality that is congruent with who you really are, and what you really want. 

Let’s Talk.
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The First Step in Being Honest with Yourself

The first step is becoming aware of how you feel is to mindfully and non-judgmentally begin observing your inner reactions to the experiences you have. Noticing how you think and feel is the foundational starting point for compiling information about yourself and your truth. Changes may happen later on, but what’s important is to develop the ability to observe how you think and feel first.

Knowing What Is True

One of the tricky things about “truth” is that it can be subjective. What is true for someone else may not be true for you, and it doesn’t have to be. It can be surprisingly easy to have our thoughts and feelings about what feels true for us tangled up with the perspectives and truths of others — especially people who are very important to you. We discuss some ways to identify what’s your truth vs. what’s someone else’s truth. 

It’s also true that your truth can change: What was true for you at one point in your life may not be true after you’ve grown and evolved. Remembering that “truth” is not a constant can help you compassionately and mindfully observe, without judgment, what feels true for you now. We discussed some tips for how to keep track of how your truth evolves over time (and how to be okay with that!)

7 Reasons Why It’s Hard To Be Honest With Yourself 

While we discussed a number of different ideas and strategies for how to be honest with yourself, we also touched on the main things that can block you from being honest with yourself:

  1. Invalidating yourself and minimizing your experiences.
  1. Judging or criticizing yourself for your truth.  
  1. Feeling threatened or challenged by the truth can make us afraid to sit with our emotions and thoughts.
  1. Feeling defensive or rejecting parts of ourselves that make us feel guilty, ashamed or uncomfortable.
  1. Feeling pressured to take action on our truth, instead of being patient and thoughtful.
  1. Fearing the consequences of our honesty, for ourselves and for others.
  1. Fearing our own power and feeling anxious about what might happen if we trust ourselves, and our feelings about what is true for us.

We discuss ways to manage all of the above, and more, so that you can move forward fearlessly into YOUR TRUTH — whatever that may be!

5 Powerful Takeaways from This Episode

“I think about what it would look or feel like to not be honest with yourself. And to me, it seems like, kind of walking around in the world with blinders on or we’re not fully experiencing everything that life has to offer.”

“I think the witnessing that somebody’s sharing or taking an interest in you and your experience, that can just be so powerful.”

“There’s not a human being on this earth that hasn’t had some growth opportunities…. We’re asking for progress, not perfection.”

“A way of thinking about being honest with ourselves is like not doing so is a disservice to who you are, that your needs and your values deserve to be tuned into.” 

“The longer that we are dishonest with ourselves, I think the harder it is to change or to create change.” 

About Josephine

Josephine M., MS, MFTC is a marriage counselor and relationship coach who provides online therapy, life coaching, and couples counseling here at Growing Self. Josephine is passionate about helping people move forward on a path toward self-discovery and authenticity.

You can read more about Josephine in her Growing Self page

Enjoy This Podcast?

Learning how you could create love, happiness, and success for yourself has never been this easy. If you enjoyed today’s episode of the Love, Success, and Happiness Podcast, hit subscribe and share it with your friends!

If you’d like support from Josephine on your growth journey, schedule a free consultation.

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

PS: We often use a variety of assessments and questionnaires with our therapy and coaching clients here at Growing Self in order to help provide insight and new self-awareness about subconscious aspects of themselves. One such tool is our “What’s Holding You Back” quiz. It shines a light on different ways of thinking, feeling and behaving that may be creating issues in your life — without your even being aware of them. You’re welcome to take it too!


  1. Sutton A. Measuring the Effects of Self-Awareness: Construction of the Self-Awareness Outcomes Questionnaire. Eur J Psychol. 2016 Nov 18;12(4):645-658. doi: 10.5964/ejop.v12i4.1178. PMID: 27872672; PMCID: PMC5114878.
  2. Klussman K, Curtin N, Langer J, Nichols AL. The Importance of Awareness, Acceptance, and Alignment With the Self: A Framework for Understanding Self-Connection. Eur J Psychol. 2022 Feb 25;18(1):120-131. doi: 10.5964/ejop.3707. PMID: 35330854; PMCID: PMC8895697.

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Being Honest With Yourself

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: Malyssa Bellarossa, “Pretend”

Free, Expert Advice — For You.

Subscribe To The Love, Happiness, and Success Podcast

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you’re listening to the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast. 

[Pretend by Malyssa Bellarosa]

Malyssa Bellarosa with the song Pretend, a song about coming to terms with who she is, who she’s been trying to be, and how to develop radical honesty with herself. Because that’s what we’re talking about today on the podcast, getting honest with you. 

In my experience, being honest with yourself is a fundamental part of the personal growth process. Without that self-awareness and, you know, being connected to your personal truth, it’s very difficult to even know in what direction you need to grow, much less do it. Yet, it can be really hard to be honest with yourself. And it can sometimes even feel threatening to be honest with yourself. And it’s also true that we all have blind spots, things that we don’t know that we don’t even know. So being honest with yourself sounds easy, it’s a little bit more complicated in practice. And that’s why we’re talking about how to be honest with yourself today on this episode of the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast. 

My guest today is my dear colleague, Josephine Marin. She works with me at Growing Self. She is a Marriage and Family Therapist [candidate] and a Relationship Coach. But she also works with a lot of individual clients as a therapist and coach, and helps her clients move forward on that path of self-discovery and authenticity. And today she’s here to join her wisdom and perspective with us. Thank you, Josephine.

Josephine Marin: Thank you so much, Lisa, for having me on. Very excited to be here today and to talk about this topic with you. 

Dr. Lisa Marie: Me too. Well, it’s an important topic. And I really wanted to talk with you about this because, and we work with so many amazing people, but I think I’ve always viewed you as being just like this, especially just like an authentic person. And I know like in our consultation groups, you talk a lot about working with your clients around how to get connected with their truth and affirm that. And so, I know you know a lot about being honest with yourself. And so, let’s just start there. I mean, from your perspective, personally, professionally, through the work you do with your clients, why do you think it is so important to be honest with yourself in the first place? Like why even try? Why to begin? 

Josephine: Sure, yeah, thank you for saying that. When I think about why it’s important to be honest with yourself, I think about what it would look or feel like to not be honest with yourself. And to me, it seems like, kind of walking around in the world with blinders on. Or like we’re not fully experiencing everything that life has to offer. It makes me think about when people say, “Oh, well, they’re just in denial, right?” It’s like, what is the opposite of being honest? It is when we are actively denying something. And so, if we aren’t being honest with ourselves, we can find ourselves in relationships, jobs, situations where we are unhappy, or they aren’t serving us. And that’s one of the reasons that I think it’s really important to make sure that we’re living the life that we want to live and have the relationships that we want to have.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah, you bring up such a great point. Like without that connection to your authentic truth, you can kind of just wander into situations that you haven’t, like, intentionally created and something that can be not good for you. And like relationships, in careers, I have talked to people who have like, you know, are 10 years into a career that they hate every day. And when you kind of unpeel the onion and figure out like, “How did this happen?” It’s often because they made those decisions when they were in a lifespace where they were really not connected within themselves. 

Josephine: Absolutely, I think this, you know, “How did this happen? How did I get here?” These are the kind of questions that—it makes me think of where along the way were we not tuned in. And that’s what really comes to mind when I think about this topic of like, tuning in to our thoughts, our emotions, the reactions that we have. We either were not aware of them, and that’s possibly how we got to this point. And sometimes being honest with yourself isn’t intentional. But I think that is, you know, unfortunately that’s part of the problem though if we aren’t tuning in, how are we going to recognize along the way if this isn’t a good fit for us?

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah, that’s such a great point. And I also love the fact that you brought up that it’s not intentional. I guess out there somewhere but someone who’s like, “No, I will not think that thought.” But really, like, and as soon as those words came out of my mouth, I immediately thought about the kind of, you know, agony that perhaps a gay boy, or a lesbian girl, adolescent living at home with parents they perceive as being unreceptive, you know. They might have some of those thoughts and feelings like, “Nope, that is not okay for me to think about.” You know, and so that’s like survival. 

Josephine: I think you bring up a really important point, though. That sometimes not being honest with ourselves is a protection or something that we need to kind of get through a period of time, situation, and that can be tough. And that in and of itself, I think it’s about weighing what we really need most right then. Is it going to be most helpful or important to sit with those feelings and to think about what that means for us? Or do we not have the time or resources to really think about what being honest with ourselves really means. And sometimes, it’s not always going to be helpful. And that’s an important distinction too.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Thank you so much for giving everyone permission for that to be true. Like it is okay, Like “I do not have the mental, emotional bandwidth or personal resources to cope with that reality right this very second. So we’re just gonna let that one slide until it is the right time.” Because that’s, I think one of the obstacles to being honest with yourself a lot of times is because if you make contact with something that is true, and is important, and your life as it is is not currently congruent with whatever that truth is, then what? Like, do you have to make changes or have hard conversations? And let’s just let that answer be no, you don’t. You don’t have to do anything.

Josephine: Mm hmm. Absolutely. Now, I’m so glad that you say that. Because I think one just noticing or recognizing that this is a thing, whatever it is. That this is like, “I need to be honest with myself, I need to do something or I’m just noticing.” That is the first step of like, okay, and that doesn’t mean that we have to do anything with it right then or ever. It could just be an observation of, “Hmm, okay. I’m gonna take that in. And then we’ll see.” And I think if it does need to be addressed, it doesn’t have to be then. And the important thing is that we do come back to it when the time is right.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah, that’s important. So, that honesty, self-honesty, it’s important for, like you said, you know, making sure that you create a life path that is congruent with who you really are. And also, I mean, I don’t know if this has been your experience, but when I think back to the work that I’ve done over the years with clients, and even myself personally, that moment of clarity. Like even if it’s not the right time to act on, it is very difficult to create any change without that experience of honesty, or clarity, or truth. Why is that like, do you think the first step for people and change is really difficult unless they have that first honesty, piece?

Josephine: Yeah, I think why it’s necessary is that otherwise how do we know where to focus? Or like when I think about if we’re trying to create change or you know, looking for treasures, what’s coming to mind for me is that we don’t know where to start if we don’t have a map, or we don’t know where to start digging, right? And so I think it’s this awareness, this noticing, that is absolutely the first step in creating any kind of deepening of understanding. It doesn’t always have to be growth, I think. It doesn’t have to necessarily change as a result of being honest with ourselves. It could even just be better understanding ourselves, our partner, or a situation. And that in and of itself can bring healing, or closure, or some kind of positive difference. We don’t have to do something about it all the time in order for that to be meaningful.

Dr. Lisa Marie: That is also a great point that change can be a change in perception or the meaning that you make of something as opposed to an actual, like practical change in the way that you do things. Change happens on so many different levels. That’s a good point. 

And so when it comes to, like strategies that you’ve seen people use. I mean, like, and there are a lot of practical strategies. But like, if first though, we were just to have some discussion around what it even means to be honest with yourself? Like, what is the goal? Okay, here’s a different question. How do you know if you’re being honest with yourself? Or if you’re like, you know, I mean, you can trick yourself into believing all kinds of things and it can be really confusing to sort through, is this like, the bottom? Is this the deepest layer of my authentic truth or isn’t it? Am I playing a game with myself right now? How do you begin to like dial in and even know what’s true and what’s not true for you? And I’m aware that that’s kind of too big of a question. But like, do you know what I mean?

Josephine: Yes, absolutely. No, absolutely. And so I think that’s one of the wonderful things about being human is our executive functioning, and how we can, you know, manipulate, and explain, and help ourselves understand all these things. It can also, I think, be to our detriment where it makes things harder. Or like, is this even real? We can go really existential. 

But I think what helps for me I mean, even like, personally or with my clients to think about, like, what is the real truth here? And I think it’s helpful to also remember that our truth can change or what our truth is now doesn’t mean that it’s stagnant. It’s not a consistent state. That in itself could change and it likely will, and that’s okay. It’s really kind of finding our truth at the moment. 

And so, I think having that in mind is kind of really looking inward and sitting with what it is that we notice either in our body, what our thoughts are, what we’re feeling as we are exploring whatever the topic at hand is. If we are thinking about where we stand on a particular issue, or what to do about our job, relationship, and can we explain it to ourselves as a way that I think about it. If we say, “Well, you know, I want to get up earlier. I want to start going to bed earlier, and I want to do that.” Okay, well, why is that important to me? Can we explain the why? And if I’m having a hard time thinking about why I want to do that, do I really believe that? Is that really my truth? Or is this something I think I should be doing, or saying, or thinking? And so if we can’t explain it to ourselves, why is this important to me? Why do I want to do this? Then maybe there isn’t really a whole lot there.

Dr. Lisa Marie: You bring up such a good point and it sounds weird to think about. But it can be surprisingly easy to be kind of like living according to someone else’s truth. Like, particularly I think for younger people who have inherited the set of messages about who you should be, and then a way to live, and this is what successful happy people do. Like we internalize. Or like messages from, you know, YouTube or social media. Or like, yeah, I was, I can’t remember—I was with, I’m like—it was some podcast I was listening to. But it was about the experience of someone who was going out to dinner with a friend, and the friend was sharing an opinion. But the other person has been trending on Twitter earlier. And I think it was like political news, but the person stopped his friend, “Is that actually your opinion and how you feel? Or is that something that you heard and absorbed without realizing it?” And the friend was like, “I’m not sure.” I think you know what I mean, like an onslaught of all kinds of people with very strong opinions, like beaming into our brain. And it can be really hard to parse apart. But how do I feel? What do I think? Because, like, there’s so much noise from other people’s opinions. Have you found that to be true with your clients?

Josephine: Oh, yes, absolutely. This is something that I talk about with all my clients, whether it’s individuals or couples. Especially when it comes to relationships, when it comes to expectations that we may hold, and where is this coming from. Is this something that we saw in our family that we are just, you know, internalizing? And is that something that’s actually important to you or to parenting? You know, are we doing this because this is what we feel like we should be, this is what I think a good parent should be doing? Or is it actually important to me to do these things?

And I think that is part of where we get lost as a culture or society of what I like to think of is like mindlessness. You know we aren’t actively, or not actively, but kind of like tuning out. Or we’re so busy, and we’re going, and trying to do so much that we are unable to take the time, of course. I mean, it takes intentional effort and energy to tune in. And check in with ourselves, “Am I happy? Is my life looking the way that I want? Or am I content with my relationships?” And it’s kind of tuning into those emotions and thoughts that we have throughout the day, as we notice things, and it’s a lot of work.

Dr. Lisa Marie: And you bring up such a good point. It’s like usually we’re all, I mean—I know me. I’m like, blalalala, you know. And then along the way, like absorbing information generated by other people all day long. And like, stop for long enough to ask yourself some of those questions like, “How do I feel about this? What do I think about this? What is my true opinion?” And I think what can be especially challenging, and not always, I mean, certainly you can have an honest moment when you’re like, “Hey, I’m really having a good time right now. I love this. This experience is what I want to be doing all the time.” You know, that happens. And that also it’s true that many times, you know, that first inclination of like, “Wait a minute, what do I think about this?” can come up as an uncomfortable feeling, like a vague discomfort. Or, “Why am I having this reaction?” And it’s often like, our dark emotions that are that first like, “Hello, something’s going on that you need to pay attention to.” Has this been true for you? I mean, of course, I’m across the spectrum here, but…

Josephine: Oh yes. I feel like all the time. That very much feels like for me personally when I am noticing something, or I need to be honest with myself, or sit with my emotions to where something will happen, and then I’m like, “Hmmm, what’s happening here?” Or like, “What is this that I’m unable to make sense of it?” And that is a really big clue for me to sit down, and just kind of think, and say, “Okay, what is it that I’m feeling? Why am I maybe feeling this?” And, of course, as a therapist I validate myself, you know, it makes sense that I’m having this feeling. And, you know, all the skills that I work with my clients on. 

Dr. Lisa Marie: Now you’re out, Josephine. Now they all know that you use these same skills on yourself. [laughs] 

Josephine: I try. I mean, I will be honest, I am not always perfect at it. I do not always, you know, practice what I preach, but I try. 

Dr. Lisa Marie: I hear you. 

Josephine: My clients help keep me accountable in that way. And so I try to think, you know, “Okay, makes sense that I’m feeling this way.” And then, okay, “What am I going to do about it? Do I need to do anything about it?” And sometimes just sitting with the emotion, thinking about it is enough. If it is a belief or something, if it’s coming up, you know, “I’m having this emotion, what’s happening here? Why does this make me so upset?” And then it could be just realizing, “Okay, so maybe I actually believe this. Or the next time I have a conversation with somebody, maybe I need to bring this up.” 

Dr. Lisa Marie: And yeah, that’s so good. And you know what I also, though, I want to rewind just a little bit because you sort of fleetingly talked about what I think is a hugely important micro skill when it comes to being honest with yourself. And I think because you’re just so good at this and you sort of like, “Well, I’m a therapist. I validate myself.” But I just want to highlight, I think, how easy and common it is for people, particularly women, but men do it too to have a feeling when they’re like, “I am not having a good time right now. Or I don’t, this is not going…” And they minimize their own experience. They invalidate themselves. Like, “You’re just being hormonal. You can never be happy. And just let this go, don’t be difficult.” Or whatever it is, like, there’s all this, like, mental minimization that sometimes they really have to actively fight through. Because it’s sort of like this running commentary about how they don’t have the right to have their own feelings or how their thoughts aren’t quite as trustworthy as those of others, you know. And so, that can be hard. You know, again, you do it so naturally. But I just wanted to point that out because that can mess people up.

Josephine: Oh, yeah. Well, I mean, thank you for saying that. But I will also be honest in that I also can minimize myself. Absolutely, no, and it’s such an important thing. I’m really glad that you said that. Because I think if we, that’s a good clue too if we notice ourselves, like, “Oh, stop. It’s just this. Or it’s not a big deal. Or you’re on your period this week.” Or whatever it is, to maybe stop and say, “Well, hold on. I mean, even if all those things are true, it doesn’t mean that it’s any less important what it is that you’re feeling.” So I think one if we notice—noticing is a big skill here. But “wait a second,” kind of having that loving parent voice within ourselves, I think is a great way to frame it. Or like if you were talking to a small child, I would hope you wouldn’t minimize what it is they’re feeling. We would sit with it. And so I think kind of talking to ourselves the way that we would maybe our inner child or somebody who maybe doesn’t necessarily have the skills yet. How do we talk them through it? And then trying to do that with ourselves can be a really big game changer.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah. And honestly, I do think that that can be one of the experiences that we have like in therapy or in good coaching that can be difficult. Because I don’t think that therapy and coaching is like the Alpha and the Omega, I think that people can do all kinds of personal growth without that particular experience. But I do think from my own experience and like being with clients, there are two parts of that. I think sometimes when people have the opportunity like that time and space to say out loud how they are really feeling and kind of be invited to dig more deeply into that, it kind of generates that honesty. But the second part is just, I can’t tell you how many times I have had a client say something really important—about who they are and how they feel—and then immediately say, “But there are so many people in the world who are suffering with X, Y, Z. So I’m just making a big deal out of nothing. And I haven’t really been so good compared to how things could be. I have nothing to complain about. Let’s just move on.” And I need to be like, “No. We’re not moving on. Go back to what you just said. Say that again. Notice how you feel when you say out loud to me right now.” And then, they usually cry. That is the ultimate goal of every therapist. But you know what I mean? Like, I think sometimes it takes that partner to sort of like, validate when it’s hard to do it by yourself. So, yeah.

Josephine: It can be so powerful. And I think part of it is, I think the witnessing that somebody’s sharing or taking an interest in you and your experience. And that can just be so powerful. But I think it’s again, it’s what you described is that slowing down, tuning in, and really thinking about what it is that you’re thinking and saying, and how that impacts us emotionally. Yeah, it’s just—it can be so powerful. I lost my train of thought.

Dr. Lisa Marie: That’s all good. You’re being totally honest with me right now. And I really appreciate that. But yeah, that and but also, I think that tendency to minimize can be one thing that makes being honest with yourself hard in addition to sorting out like, “What’s my thought? What somebody else’s thoughts are?” 

But also, um, I don’t know if you’ve encountered this but like, I think being radically honest with yourself can be a little bit threatening sometimes. If you determine that something is true for you that might not be true for people that you care about, where it might go against, you know, cultural beliefs or might potentially create friction in relationships. I’m trying to think of a good example here. Well, I mean, just you know, even with some of recent awareness I think around racial injustice. I mean, for someone who has grown up in a privileged white family who does not discuss such things and who maybe doesn’t recognize that as being an issue at all, to, you know, for a person to begin to have ideas, or feelings, or awarenesses that are against the grain of that. That can feel threatening if they’re no longer in agreement with their culture, even. 

Josephine: Mm hmm. Absolutely. And that is one of the hardest parts, if not the hardest part about being honest with ourselves of kind of, “What this means? And what now? This is the way that I lived my life and conducted myself before, now I’m having this thought. It’s challenging my status quo. What does this mean about me and who I have been? What do I do with this? How will it affect going forward? Will it? And this is a lot.” 

And so I think when we do feel threatened or challenged by something, naturally, we’re going to feel afraid. And fear I think, is kind of hard to sit with. And so then we get angry because that’s easier. And so anger can be a little easier to deal with in terms of its activating, you know, “What am I going to do? Am I going to actively push it away? No, that’s not true.” Or if we can kind of sit with that and be curious about anger, “Well, hmm. What about this—is threatening or makes me feel upset?” And as much as possible trying to get to the heart of the matter but a lot of these things can be changes that might need to take place as a result. And if it is an entrenched deep thing. It could impact our relationships, or how we feel about the community, or groups we belong to. That’s no small thing. Yeah.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah, that can have a major impact on many different areas of life. And you brought up such a good point Josephine which is like, you know, a big part of being honest is having kind of clarity and like taking responsibility for maybe things that you haven’t done as well as you would like to. Maybe mistakes that you made. I know a lot of white identifying people these days are you know, sort of sitting with, “Oh, I did not realize that that can be perceived as being really like a racist way of being.” Or, you know, to say, “I don’t see color feels extremely offensive to people.” And I think especially when we feel confronted by that honesty or that honesty sort of shines a light on mistakes that we’ve made or things that, you know, let’s not call them mistakes, let’s call them growth opportunities or learning. You’re saying that, that can still feel very threatening. And that the immediate reaction is a tendency to be defensive, or to deny, or to displace blame. 

And, I think it’s like, I don’t know, I think that’s an internal process that happens. You always see it with couples, like if Person A is confronted by Person B about somebody that they’re doing that feels really bad to Person B. They’re like, “No, that’s not true. I don’t do that.” Whatever it is, but like that self-honesty, that can also sort of happen internally where they begin wrestling with themselves a little bit around. I just had this thought about something that might be true, but that made me feel bad. Let’s talk about why that might not be true actually. You know, the back and forth.

Josephine: Definitely, yeah. Oh, absolutely. And when I talk about defensiveness and taking responsibility with my couples, I explained to them just the way that you did. Like, it’s hard to sit with that we either upset, or disappointed, or let down our partner. And so of course, we’re going to be defensive, or we don’t want to accept that as the reality. So we’re going to try to fight against it or explain it away. But if that is somebody’s truth, then we can’t argue that it didn’t happen.

And I think going back to outside of relationships, that when we feel defensive, or we notice anger about something like “oh” that we’ve done in the past that we don’t like, we can validate that. That we don’t have to be hard on ourselves about that. We don’t want to beat ourselves up for beating ourselves up in a way, you know. And that’s not going to be helpful. So I think one, not being too hard on yourselves is the key thing with being honest. Practicing that patience and compassion, that’s where the validation comes in. That, you know, it’s okay to make growth opportunities or mistakes. You know, that we can say, “I’m not perfect, nobody is. There’s not a human being on this earth that hasn’t had some growth opportunities or maybe to be honest with themselves, and that’s okay. We’re asking for progress, not perfection.” And so we’re recognizing this, what is it that we don’t like? Like, I don’t want to be seen as somebody that I’m not. Okay, then what do we need to be different? Or what is it about this that made us upset? And we don’t have to beat ourselves up. We can own it and then move on from there.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Completely. And like not beating yourself up, and being like, you just sitting with the truth. And also like, I think being honest enough with yourself to say, “This doesn’t feel good for me right now. I feel embarrassed. I feel guilty. I feel kind of a little bit ashamed. What is this feeling?” And also just this idea that it is absolutely okay for people to feel those feelings sometimes. You don’t have to push away all those dark emotions immediately. It is okay to feel uncomfortable feelings, and healing, and helpful, and important. And a big part of that honesty process, I think.

Josephine: They tell us something. I think it’s uncomfortable, of course. We don’t like them. So that’s why we push away shame, and guilt, and all of that, but let’s listen to them. And like what they are trying to tell us. Like I feel ashamed that I, you know, reacted before thinking about what it is that I wanted to say. Or I feel guilty that I may have accidentally offended someone or something like that. And so, alright, well, what are we gonna do with that information? Do I need to reach out to that person and maybe like, clear the air? Or do I need to think about taking a breath before I respond to what somebody said? So we can meet our learning opportunities too. And so it’s, you know, treat them as such.

And I think also a way of thinking about being honest with ourselves is like not doing so is a disservice to who you are. That your needs and your values deserve to be tuned into. That we don’t want to be walking around, not thinking about what it is that we’re doing. And then be unhappy one day or be satisfied where you’re at. That you’re worth tuning into yourself, even if it is uncomfortable.

Dr. Lisa Marie: That’s a good reminder. And I think that experience is so important when it comes to growth, like letting in the possibility that there are opportunities for growth. Even if they are uncomfortable, that you deserve that. 

And I wonder if you could also speak to what it is like, I think even a different kind of self-honesty. Maybe not so much around like, this is where I need to grow, or this is maybe mistakes I’ve made. But like, you know, I think some people are in situations that if they are really honest with themselves, they don’t like. And if they are really, really honest with themselves, like, might not be sustainable long term. And so like I’m thinking of someone who is in a relationship that they are really unhappy in and that the relationship is very unlikely to change. Like, they get real honest with themselves about like, “Okay, what does that mean?” Or like in a career, “I absolutely hate this and yet here I am.” You know, well maybe you could talk a little bit like what makes coming to terms with that level of honesty feel so uncomfortable and so difficult.

Josephine: Mm hmm. Yeah, I think what comes to mind for me is that we can’t unlearn it, or then we can’t ignore it anymore. It’s like there’s no going back. Like, once we fully recognize or are honest with the scope of the situation. Yeah, it’s like, well I can’t go back to like, “Okay, well, I’m just gonna keep doing this now.” Like, every time that we walk into the office, or do a certain task, or maybe come home from work, and then we’re confronted with that reality and we can’t ignore it, or it’s a lot harder to ignore once we confront it. And so I think that the hardest part about this is, one, that we can’t go back and two, and I’m gonna have to do something about it. And change is really hard and scary for most people—understandably so.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah, and it’s uncomfortable. And it creates the psychological term, that cognitive dissonance. If you feel and believe one thing, yet you do another, it creates this internal sense of pressure. And I don’t know if I ever shared this with you but I came across something in research not too long ago that I thought was just fascinating, I think it was an article talking about like, it was related to like goals. It was along the lines of our coaching work, but that cognitive dissonance is so uncomfortable that it is often easier, and you’ll see people willfully changing the way they think or feel, in order to be in alignment with what they’re doing. Because in some ways, it can be harder to change what we do than it can be to change our internal narrative about what we’re doing. And so like you see that all the time if there’s a mismatch between how you feel and what’s actually happening, people will twist themselves into pretzels for like all the 573 reasons why this is actually okay. If you know the reality of making a change—quitting a job, leaving a marriage-—feels too big. They will sacrifice their truth to make it work, but to their detriment. Because long term, it’s not good for people.

Josephine: I agree. I think at what cost, you know, that we can keep going along. But then at what point? Because the longer that we are honest with ourselves, I think the harder it is to change or to create change. And when you were talking, it absolutely reminded me of what can happen, how we can devalue our partner in our mind, if we are going to engage or are engaging in an affair. The cognitive dissonance there, “I have this commitment to my partner, but I need to have it make sense as to why I’m able to do this. Because there’s such  X, Y and Z to where it supports what it is that I’m doing.”

Dr. Lisa Marie: And to talk a little more, so you’re talking about, like, if someone is, say, married and is having an affair or an emotional entanglement with another person, then that behavior conflicts with what they think they believe or should believe. That they’re committed that they, you know, this is not what married people do. They need to find a reason to justify having an affair or having romantic feelings for someone else, which will almost always be, “Well, my partner, I found a toenail clipping on the bathroom floor once therefore I can no longer have sex with that human.” Or whatever it is, like there’s some kind of justification.

Josephine: Yeah, it’s a tricky thing, I think. Yeah, it could kind of go back to the first question that you asked about, “Well, how do we know if we’re really being honest with ourselves or not?” Really kind of sitting there and then thinking, well, truly “Is what I am doing, thinking, matching up with my values, or my beliefs? Kind of checking, are we all aligning there?” And if we can explain, well, let’s say that what I’m doing does support this value, then okay, maybe we’re being honest with ourselves. But that can also be a good way to kind of check.

Dr. Lisa Marie: Okay, you brought up a great—and this is a hard question. Okay. But we have people in our practice come in and they are in really—Josephine, sometimes exactly that situation. They are married or partnered, and they have developed an emotional entanglement or they’re having an affair with someone. And they come because they would like our assistance and getting clarity about what to do. And it can be very difficult. And so like, on the one hand is your honest truth. Like, “No, this person makes me happy. I deserve to have this kind of fun and love in my life. And this is what really and truly feels most important to me.” Or, “Is it most important to me to have a stable, long-term, faithful, committed, secure marriage that’s based on friendship, and mutual trust, and respect? And it’s also for the benefit of our children, and I keep my promises.” And like, weighing out those two things.

And you’re totally right. I mean, how uncomfortable is it when someone is like, “No, I’m actually doing this horrible thing to my family because I kind of like the way it makes me feel.” Like it can be the truth. And then people say that and they’re like, “Oh, my God, what does that mean about me?” Right? And that’s not always the outcome, but it can be.

Josephine: Yeah, when I think of what you said, if that was my client that I was talking to, I’d want to slow them down. And say like, “Hold on. Wait a second. Okay, one. Great, you’re having a lot of revelations. But like one, let’s sit with that feeling that makes you feel really good. Okay, it sounds like that’s a need that’s not being met. Do you think you would rather have that need be met by your spouse? This idea of we’re noticing something that we’re not getting and then kind of turning that back to our partner as opposed to the outside person?” And so then I think kind of sitting with that if validating, it sounds like you’ve been wanting that and you haven’t been getting it. That must have been really hard. Of course, it makes sense that you’d want to keep doing that. But what is more important to you? Having fun and feeling good or preserving your relationship with your partner and the family that you have? And if that answer is no, that can be your truth. That’s okay.” 

“No, actually, that is important to me.” 

“But okay, let’s think through what that would mean for you if we were to make that change. And is that your truth, and what you want, honestly? Is that something you think you can be okay with? And is that worth it to you?”

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah. And going into that clarity and the intention around it. That’s a hard one. 

Josephine: Yeah. It is tough stuff. But I think it’s worth doing because then at the end of the day, if we make that choice and say, “No, having fun and feeling good is more important to me.” And then one day down the road, we’re honest and said, “But was it really the most important thing overall, or even at that time?” And if we weren’t honest with ourselves, we didn’t take that time. We can make decisions that we regret.

Dr. Lisa Marie: I want to do an episode at some point on that experience of regret and how to avoid it. Because, I don’t know about you Josephine, but I think that regret for something that happened that is no longer fixable is the absolutely worst of all human emotion. I think it’s worse than shame. You know, because you can work your way through shame but like regret, that something that you can’t fix, is the worst feeling. And really in a roundabout way, we are talking about how to protect yourself from regret, because we’re talking about how to be honest with yourself. And that really is, I think, key. Yeah.

Josephine: I agree. Absolutely. It is tough.

Dr. Lisa Marie: And so, I know that we’re probably coming up on our time here. But if we were to just kind of briefly talk through some strategies that people who have been hearing this conversation and like, “Yeah, I really need to get honest with myself.” I mean, we’ve talked about some of the common obstacles. You know, being honest with yourself, that tendency to minimize, or that like, denial of things that make you feel bad. You know, the threatening of like, “Oh, what does this mean about me? Or do I have to do something about this?” But are there other strategies you found that people can use to, like, just facilitate their ability to get more clear and honest with themselves?

Josephine: Absolutely. I mean, I think just even reflecting on the conversation that we’ve had today. I think one, starting with naming and noticing our emotions is probably going to be the most helpful place to start. When can I recognize when I’m feeling something of, “Wow, I feel bad. Is this frustration? Is this anxiety?” So one, even recognizing that you’re feeling something is a good place to start. And then two, naming those emotions. Because then if we notice our emotions, those can be clues to say, “Hmm, what’s happening? Why am I feeling this way?” I think that is a fundamental skill that will get people very far, even just outside of this conversation. It’s so important. And so I think that is a great place to start.

To practice patience, and compassion, and the validation that when we do feel those emotions, that we aren’t shaming ourselves for them because we’re not going to keep doing it if we feel bad every time we think about our emotions. So we want to have some positive reinforcement. So thinking about our emotions, we can validate, and make sense that I feel this way.

And then, alright, we’re going to do what we need to do. “Do I need to do anything about this? Maybe not.” It’s also up to having great friends, great support systems, or people that we can have these kinds of conversations with, that even just talking out loud, listening to ourselves, saying things out loud, can be very helpful. And that requires no participation from anybody else, right?

Dr. Lisa Marie: Yeah, yeah. But then being able to say things out loud, but also, like, having supportive people in your life who when you do say something that feels like a bit of a revelation, they can help you validate that. And so, “Yeah, it makes sense why you would feel that way, anyone will feel that way.”

Josephine: Right. This is an important one, so that our support system is not minimizing our emotions. You know, kind of recognizing who are good people to have these kinds of conversations with than do maybe we want to stick to a more surface level kind of conversation. 

Dr. Lisa Marie: Anyone who tells you to stop crying because you don’t really have it that bad. I don’t get to hear about this stuff anymore.

Josephine: Yeah, try again. Yeah, I definitely think those are two great starting places.

Dr Lisa Marie: Yeah, good. And I found too, like personally, like journaling, I think can be helpful sometimes in conversations. But journaling can be helpful. And then lastly, I think it was a point that you brought up at the very beginning of our conversation, just to remember that just because you think a thought or that something might be true, no action is required. It’s absolutely—and it might be uncomfortable to be in that space of dissonance, but it also can make it feel safer to be honest with yourself, if you give yourself permission to just, it’s okay. If you’re having a thought, you’re having a feeling, no action is required. Until at some point in the future, maybe you decide to do something about it, but you don’t have to do anything right now. Because there can be consequences for honesty, and those are realistic consequences. And that can lead to changes. And you get to decide whether or not it’s the right time, if at all.

Josephine: Mm hmm. Absolutely. Reminding ourselves we are the expert on ourselves and what we think and belief matters the most. And nobody else gets to tell us what our truth is, or what’s important to us, or what we should be doing. We don’t want to shoot all over ourselves. That just kind of looks like let that go. No more sheds.

Dr. Lisa Marie: What a nice positive note to end the conversation today. I love that, though. So thank you and thank you so much for sharing your perspective. I really appreciate your time today, Josephine. 

Josephine: Thank you so much for having me on. It’s such a pleasure and love just talking with you Lisa. 

Dr. Lisa Marie: Have a good time.

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    1. That can certainly happen, and it’s incredibly frustrating. We can’t force other people to gain self-awareness, unfortunately. We can only give them appropriate feedback and then make decisions for ourselves about the kind of relationship we want to have with them. Sorry you’re struggling with this, Theo xoxo Dr. Lisa

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