We wear a mask that grins and lies
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes
This debt we pay to human guile
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile
Emotional honesty means expressing your true feelings. To be emotionally honest we must first be emotionally aware. This emotional awareness is related to our emotional intelligence. It is our emotional intelligence, combined with the necessary learning, practice and experience, which gives us the ability to accurately identify our feelings.
Emotional intelligence may also give us the ability to decide when it is in our best interest to be emotionally honest by sharing our real feelings. There are times when it is not healthy or safe for us to be emotionally honest. In general though, I believe we would be better off individually and as a society if we would be more emotionally honest.
If we are more emotionally honest with ourselves we will get to know our “true selves” on a deeper level. This could help us become more self-accepting. It could also helps us make better choices about how to spend out time and who to spend it with.
If we are emotionally honest with others, it may encourage them to be more emotionally honest. When we are emotionally honest we are more likely not to be asked or pressured to do things which we do not want to do. We will also find out sooner who respects our feelings.
Children start out emotionally honest. They express their true feelings freely and spontaneously. But the training to be emotionally dishonest begins at an early age. Parents and teachers frequently encourage or even demand that children speak or act in ways which are inconsistent with the child’s true feelings. The child is told to smile when actually she is sad. She is told to apologize when she feels no regret. She is told to say “thank you,” when she feels no appreciation. She is told to “stop complaining” when she feels mistreated. She may be told to kiss people good night when she would never do so voluntarily. She may be told it is “rude” and “selfish” to protest being forced to act in ways which go against her feelings.
Also, children are told they can’t use certain words to express themselves. I have seen more than one parent tell their child not to use the word “hate,” for example. And of course, the use of profanity to express one’s feelings is often punished, sometimes harshly. In some cases the parent never allows the children to explain why they feel so strongly.
As children become adolescents they begin to think more for themselves. They begin to speak out more, “talk back” more and challenge the adults around them. If these adults feel threatened they are likely to defend themselves by invalidating the adolescent‘s feelings and perceptions. There is also peer pressure to conform to the group norms.
Through all of this the child and adolescent learns they can’t be honest with their feelings. They gradually stop being emotionally honest with their parents, their teachers, their friends and even themselves. They learn it just doesn’t pay to express one’s true feelings.