Perhaps the Most Challenging Thing You’ll Ever Read About Self-Honesty (But It's Worth It!)

by Brian Vaszily, founder of

My head has been bumped and bruised, and I am thankful for it. I offer the following in the hope that maybe you can avoid a few bumps and bruises of your own.

Like you, I have heard the advice ten thousand different times in my life, delivered five thousand different ways: honesty is the best policy.

But ideas like this that seem to make perfect sense when we hear them, that seem like givens when we are reminded of them, well … it’s precisely because they are so obvious, as obvious as our own beating heart, that we so often stop recognizing them.

And therefore stop respecting them.

Then we end up spending so much time, energy and money – for many, a lifetime’s worth -- battling the destructive symptoms of this unrecognized cause: this forgetting of our own “obvious” truths.

By way of quick example, consider your own body. When you hear, for the zillionth time, how important it is to eat right, exercise and achieve emotional health to avoid heart disease, cancer and to live a long, vibrant life, it just seems obvious. Yeah, you already “know” that.

But if you’re like most people in the Western world today, you’re overweight. Or you’re battling some health issue, some symptom, based at least in part on lifestyle choices such as not exercising enough, not addressing emotional blocks, or drinking too many Carmel Macchiatos and eating too many Doritos.

So is that really knowing? Does knowing mean understanding and even agreeing with the information, or does knowing actually imply doing it?

What is obvious rarely remains apparent.

What seems sensible is rarely followed through.

And so it is with honesty.

My Headfirst Bumps

When asked, most people tend to say yes, except perhaps for the little white lie here or there, they believe they’re an honest person.

And fortunately, most people are honest on the highest level in that they don’t intentionally set out to prey on and deceive others … to intentionally con and manipulate others out of their money, business, time, knowledge and all the rest for greed, power and other perceived personal gain.

But it is the subtler form of honesty – self-honesty – that can so often be lost on those with even the biggest hearts. And it’s a particularly funny thing about this honesty: though we would all like to believe we’re being honest with ourselves, one day you inevitably bump headfirst into your own actions and realize it isn’t exactly so.

In my own case, my head has been knobbed and bruised multiple times in the last couple years.

In a certain business relationship I had invested a lot of myself in, for example, I finally realized that I had long been ignoring signals that I should’ve run the other way from the start. My heart was in the business, but so much so that it blinded me to the honesty of my own intuition.

In certain personal relationships, meanwhile, I realized that I still had a habit of concealing that which I thought would hurt or burden the other person. My intuition again knew better, but my thoughts – set in a pattern from long ago – insisted that I was better off not unsettling their emotions and instead solving the issues myself … even when the issues directly involved the other person.

Of course, though the other person’s ego may not immediately enjoy it, their spirit, and the relationship itself, deserves the truth. Real trust. Any concealment may “protect” the status quo in the short run, but it can destroy happiness in the long run. Including the things that are hard to say. Especially the things that are hard to say.

There are many reasons, perhaps infinite reasons, that we can lose touch with being honest. Most of these are not sinister – not greed, not the hunger for power – but instead understandable and even well-intentioned reasons, such as a wish to avoid confrontation and maintain calm, or a desire to keep someone safe and content.

But as Aristotle noted, “The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold.”

As author Tad Williams put it, “Every time we tell a lie, the thing we fear grows stronger.”

And as author Ambrose Pierce cautioned, “The hardest tumble a person can take is to fall over his own bluff.”

Not being honest always has a way of bruising us, if not downright slaughtering us, even when we aren’t aware of the dishonesty.

The Self-Scan

It is not an easy thing, keeping the obvious apparent. Eat right and exercise. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another. Honesty is the best policy. These take vigilant effort.

I have learned, or rather, I now strive harder than ever to practice, what I call the self-scan. Whenever I feel the slightest unease, whenever I feel my emotions trembling in any way, and whenever I sense my intuition calling out in any way, I try to step off somewhere in solitude. There I try to assess what the truth of the situation is, and what the honest course I should take is – regardless of whether it is difficult or not.

It is often difficult, and being human I am often struggling with it and forever learning how to do it better, but it has made all the difference in the world to my deep inner-peace and happiness.

Should you want to attempt this experience, and perhaps avoid some of those bumps, bruises and worse in your own life, what follows are some key questions I ask in this self-scan. You will likely want to modify and create some of your own:

  • What is the truth here?
  • Am I avoiding the truth here?
  • Is a desire for money, power, respect, or acceptance, clouding my truth?
  • Is a fear of confrontation, pain, loneliness, death or the unknown clouding my truth?
  • Am I honestly scanning myself to recognize the truth here, am I honestly listening to it even if I don’t like what it says? Or is my pride, or my fear, or other ego and emotional blocks in the way?
  • All honesty starts and ends with self-honesty. The benefits of this honesty seem obvious, but making them apparent takes vigilant effort. Do you also believe though that it’s worth it?