• Barbara L. Ciccarelli, PhD

Honesty Is the Best Medicine

You can't grow if you are not honest.

Butterfly from Cocoon

You can’t grow if you are not honest.  It is like you build a pyramid-shaped bubble around yourself to get to the summit of success, but the whole time there are marauders with shovels and picks working to dig out the treasures buried in your live tomb. The pyramid is your false image, your lie of yourself, and meanwhile your authentic self is wrapped around head to toe in embalmed bandages meant to last to eternity.  But what is at stake?  For one thing, where is your voice?  You can’t speak if you are covered in bandages.  What you can do is unroll a little at a time until you can take ownership of your qualities or treasures and exit them from the tomb of the pyramid yourself.

Years ago, I was embroiled in this process of unwrapping and trying to exit from beneath an object that seemed to let me reach to the stars but really weighed me down like two cement blocks chained to either ankle. I was like the clichéd cocoon waiting for the butterfly to be released. I had outworn the mental uniform my immediate family and culture generally had encased me in, and it was time to venture forth and grow my own wings. To do this required a lot of honesty with myself and with others. I knew that if I wanted personal growth, I would have to be humble and face myself. I had to accept where I came from as well as figure out which path I would take next.

You could say that I grabbed my treasures and ran out from under the pyramid to start a new life. It is a leap of face you might say given all the grains of sand that I might have to tread over to find an oasis—a future that would be in my hands.

Shahram Heshmat writes in “Three Key Elements of Personal Growth” that to become a mature, responsible functioning adult you must satisfy three psychological needs: competence, relatedness and autonomy. Although I don’t disagree with him, especially the reference to autonomy, I would argue that none of these things can be obtained without establishing a high degree of honesty with oneself. Afterall what will you find at the top of that pyramid you’ve built with lies. You’re mummified body will still be waiting in the tomb for the marauders.

Perhaps Heshmat’s argument assumes honesty at the outset, but in today’s world honesty can hardly be taken for granted. In the current political and cultural climate, many of us are hanging onto our integrity with our dear lives. Social media alone allows for the creative self-invention so many are seeking, but when does this self-invention crossover into telling lies about oneself and others. What happens when the digital meets the real-time? When we start creating versions of ourselves that rely on distance to sustain, they we really must question what world we are creating for ourselves.

The thing to remember is that although the butterfly can’t return to the cocoon and break free again, human resilience allows for people to rediscover themselves time and time again. For these repeated tribulations, I would say honesty is the best medicine.

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