The "Mishonesty" of Being Loved Too Much

in psychology •  2 years ago 

I get prickly about honesty and the nature of authenticity.  Almost as if I was never given a chance to know what that actually means. It's an easy place to get into when you take a long time to grow out of the childhood, "people pleasing" many of us go through. For the child, pleasing people is a literal survival technique. The only one it has. Too small to hunt or forage, all the child can do is be cute enough to get fed, changed, and cared for until growing large and smart enough to do those tasks on its own. If the child is REALLY lucky, they might even find themselves with a bevy of knowledge to help them be effective going forward. Of course, none of that is guaranteed.

As mankind has aged, adolescence seems to grow longer and longer. The oldest child practically raising the younger siblings gave way to leaving the house at 18 which gave way to staying on your parents insurance until 25. It's not really to condemn any system or hold one up as the preferred one. It's just to point out that needing to be taken care of means needing to please people. The right people at that. If your parents hate you can kick you out, they most likely won't be paying your medical bills or bailing you out of trouble. If your rich wife finds out about your several paramours, she most likely won't want to keep you fed and clothed while you work on your work on your novel or whatever. What then? 

So honesty... Honesty is freedom. Honesty is the ability to do and say what people won't like and deal with the consequences. Honesty is as beautiful as it is ugly. It destroys as many lives as it saves. Honesty at its core means acknowledging you're ok with nobody else taking care of you because honesty always carries with it a potential risk of separation.  And that is ANXIETY INDUCING. But if you need to be taken care of, you need to be liked. And if you need to be liked, you can't afford to take a risk like that. 

Have you ever told a lie and felt it eat you alive inside as you pray you don't forget who you told it to or what exactly you happened to say? I've found that the absence of honesty feels almost exactly the same. Sitting there hoping someone doesn't bring up the sore subject, and if they do they follow it with "but it's cool though. I get it." A lack of honesty is merely a lie by omission. And if you need to be liked, you'll lie to everyone by keeping your mouth shut or opening to change the subject before things become to damaging to your brand.... 

That's right... your brand. Suddenly, you're in marketing. A lack of honesty is always presence when you need someone to like something. You'll tell them about the savory flavor, but not the MSG. You'll mention the flaky crust, but not the overwhelming caloric amount. You'll mention all your successes (modestly of course) and downplay your failures so other people have no reason not to trust you.  And when you need people to love you, you'll pile on layer after layer of "mishonesty." Yeah... mishonesty. Your'e not "lying" per se. You're not actively misdirecting so much as allowing people to see only the best of you. And for a while your life is good. 

It's good because everyone likes you. Everyone reports nice things about you. No one can think of an unkind thing you've done or said. Your grades stay good. You say "yes" all the time. You're helpful and community minded. You're engaged and delightful to be around. People have no problem picking up the check for you... They love your smile, after all. 

But you don't have an opinion anyone can remember. You don't know how to protest or speak up. You are petrified to ask for what you want to such a degree that it becomes a pathology. You sabotage relationships because you fear you can't keep up the mishonesty. You can't keep not speaking when you feel you should, and saying what people want to hear when you do. You know you'll slip up eventually so it's better to limit time with everyone you come in contact with. Eventually, you stop hearing that inner voice at all. You become so good at judging changes in mood and shifts in energy you can anticipate and correct in mid sentence. 

You didn't do anything wrong, though. You just never got out of the habit of your childhood. Of being easy going and cute. Of making sure your parents stay happy so they don't abandon you or forget to feed you or yell at you or hit you. Unfortunately, you'll do so many things that make you miserable and you won't know why. You haven't exercised the muscle that informs you what your decisions mean. You just hurt and feel detached. But you never lied... You were never dishonest. You just decided not to have anything to say before anybody asked you. Your persona isn't false... it's just not yours. And heaven help you when you start to climb out of that hole. Because that's when the real work starts. 

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