Thursday, 8 July 2021

Reasons why honesty is the best policy

On the surface honesty is simply telling the truth, but in actual fact it goes much deeper than that. There are many reasons why people are dishonest: to avoid hurting others, to protect themselves, or to gain some kind of advantage. For whatever reasons, dishonesty can have detrimental effects on everyone involved, but particularly ourselves. 

The effects of dishonesty

When we lie to others, we are also lying to ourselves and this can have a negative impact on our mental wellbeing. When we lie, we are not being true to ourselves, and not only can this cause problems with our relationships but it can weigh heavy on our mind. Perhaps you’ve lied because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, but in turn you’ve sacrificed your own happiness. This kind of dishonesty might make you feel like you are doing the right thing at the time, but in the long-term it can make you feel anxious or stressed. 

Much of positive mental health is centred around how we perceive and feel about ourselves, so self-confidence is a key component to our overall wellbeing. When we choose to act dishonestly, understandably, it’s more likely that our self-worth will decrease as we begin to experience feelings of guilt or self-hatred. Over time, these negative thoughts can alter our perceptions of ourselves and we may doubt the person we are. On the other hand, lying about our abilities or achievements can leave us with a false sense of security. 

Anita E. Kelly, who is a professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame, conducted a study that looked at the effects of honesty and dishonesty on mental and physical health. She found that those who had lied reported more complaints such as headaches, nausea, and feeling tense. The outcome: telling fewer lies is linked to better health.

Often one lie leads to another because we don’t want our lies to be found out so it becomes a vicious circle or a habit that can be difficult to escape from. However, there are ways in which we can learn to be more honest without hurting others whilst remaining true to ourselves.

How to become more honest

  • Recognise the situations when you are most likely to be dishonest. Make a list of what you would gain from both telling the truth and lying and how it would make you feel afterwards. Chances are, when you gain a clear perspective, you would feel better in yourself if you had been honest.
  • Speak to someone close to you and ask them how they would feel if you had lied to them and whether they would prefer if you had been honest, regardless of whether or not it was painful for them. It’s likely they would rather you be honest.
  • Often, we lie because we are embarrassed that we aren’t good enough at something or we fear what others think of us. Sometimes it’s good to take criticism on board so that we can understand how we need to improve ourselves and become better in the future. 
  • Acknowledge and accept your flaws. None of us are perfect, and no one expects us to be. People are much more likely to accept your flaws than if you lie to them. Trust is so important to people and the moment you lose someone’s trust it’s very difficult to get back.

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