"SO, ARE YOU INTERESTED IN RENTING THE PLACE?" the landlady asked me, after she'd taken me on a tour of the kitchen, the bath, the bedroom, and the porch. It would have been so easy to say, "Yes," and I almost did, just to keep my options open. "I mean, what's your feeling about it?" she added. And because she put it that way--as if she really did want to know what I was feeling--I told her the truth.
"It might be a bit too isolated for me in this town," I said. "I'm thinking about moving out altogether." A year before, I'd relocated to this one-saloon town, tucked between bay and ocean and hills, to write and surf and hike. When my lease ended, I went searching for another rental nearby. But as I stood there in the cottage's hillside garden, I found myself wondering if perhaps the loneliness of the place had begun to outweigh its natural beauty. "I'm really not sure what I want to do," I told her.
"Oh?" she responded, with the wisdom of someone who knew where she lived and why. "It sounds to me like you've already made up your mind."
Three weeks later I was happily ensconced in a flat in a small city 25 miles away, closer to friends, potential friends, cafes, and the cheery shrieks of children playing in the neighborhood. Apparently, I had known what I wanted. But it didn't come to my attention until I spoke past the easy lie and trusted the truth with a stranger and, therefore, with myself.
The size-12 sham
SMALL LIES are a big part of our lives. We tell them for convenience and comfort, to smooth things over for others as much as for ourselves. "It's all right with me," we say when it's not. "I'll call you," we insist when we won't. And, perhaps the most pervasive prevarication of all, we say we're "fine" when we aren't. "The most common lies are told to avoid conflict," says psychotherapist Susan Campbell, Ph.D., author of Saying What's Real: Seven Keys to Authentic Communication and Relationship Success. "People want harmony. But this compulsive quest for harmony gets in the way of true harmony."
To admit the truth to oneself and then speak it to others can be difficult. But the rewards far outweigh the risks. "The most important thing you can do for your personal growth is to be honest with yourself," says life coach Harriette Cole, author of Choosing Truth: Living an Authentic Life. Honesty, she explains, begins with the self and emanates outward. Once we face our own true feelings and beliefs, we can start to act on them, bringing our behavior, relationships, and professional lives into alignment. "Truth is essential for healthy living," she says.
For an example, Cole offers up the story of a woman she knows who tells herself she wears a size 12, when actually she's a size 16. As a result of this self-deception, she squeezes herself into clothes that neither feel nor look good, which in turn causes her to be ill at ease in her dealings with the world. In addition, her health is compromised because she's not facing the truth about her need to exercise and eat better. And her relationships suffer: Since no one is supposed to mention the size-12 sham, it's become a barrier to intimacy with friends and family.
Road sign image via Shutterstock