Growing up, I remember my mom telling me to “act with integrity”. I didn’t know what that meant so when I asked her for clarification she said “act in a way that is good”.
I understood my mom’s definition of integrity as following the ways and expectations of other people. Be good and do right by others even when their ways didn’t feel good or right to me. This is how my disease to please started.
As it turns out, by definition, the word integrity means “the quality of being honest” and “the state of being whole and undivided”. So, for most of my life, I had integrity all wrong.
What does integrity mean to me now?
For me, integrity is being true to your feelings regardless of the opinions and expectations of others. It is the embodiment and integration of genuine love, excitement, and peace in all aspects of your being. Even in the face of external pressures and conflict, when you live with integrity, you maintain your position of truth.
Recently, when I realized that living with integrity means to live your truth, I began living for myself for the first time. I found myself thinking about integrity as being at ease with yourself. For example, if you are in a situation that makes you feel comfortable or at ease, then you are aligned with your truth and you are in a state of wholeness. On the other hand, if you are in a situation that feels uncomfortable or uneasy, you are likely deviating or dividing from your truth, which can lead to “a state of dis-ease”. When you think of it in these terms, it becomes abundantly clear that living with integrity paves the way to good health.
As a commitment to practicing good health, I question my integrity all the time now. In conversations and relationship dynamics, I ask myself: “Am I at ease with this decision?” “Am I at ease with this person?” “Does this situation feel good to me?” “Does this person make me feel good?” If the answer is no, I determine that I am out of alignment with my truth and therefore I am lacking integrity in that moment. A clear indicator that I am not good or healthy in that particular situation.
From my experience, a great way to discern between ease and unease is to understand when your essence is driving your choices or your ego has taken the wheel. Here are a few ways to stay connected to your truth, or essence, on the path:
1. Keep your word. Be honest with yourself in all situations, no matter what. Each year, I like to choose a word that aligns with my truth and I wear it on my body so I don’t forget it! This year, I chose two words to guide me on the path: flow and discernment. My intention is to be in flow with my truth while practicing discernment. In essence, I want to move with ease while exercising good judgment. As a way of keeping my word, I engraved the words on a necklace. Here is my 2022 necklace designed by Deer Hazel with flow on one side and discernment on the other.
2. Don’t deny your truth. When you feel “off” or uneasy, stay in your truth. Walk away, exit the conversation, take the higher road to authenticity. It is important to remember that when you deny your truth for the sake of pleasing someone else, you betray yourself. A betrayal of self is not a sign of integrity.
3. Notice when your ego gets in the way of your truth. Your ego is the part of your self that needs to be acknowledged for being good, or pretty, or smart. Your true self doesn’t need acknowledgement. It needs love. Although words of acknowledgement feel good in the moment, they are fleeting and temporary. Your ego experiences truth in comparison to others: “You’re only as good as your last project.”; or, “You’re the best”.
The truth about love is that it is found in presence, not in praise. I invite you to think about integrity as the way to good health and true love.
For anyone interested in digging deep into this work, I highly recommend Martha Beck’s latest book, The Way of Integrity. Martha is a well-respected life coach who, in the book, guides you through a four-stage process to find integrity using Dante’s Divine Comedy as the framework of the journey.
For those of us holding on to fear about our future or the future of our children, Martha’s book is a helpful guide to overcoming those fears. The audiobook feels like a personal coaching session with Martha so if you’re ready to train with a coach, this is a great next step!
It can be hard and utterly terrifying to stand in your truth. But, when you do, it is liberating and soul-affirming. You may not meet the expectations of others, but you will rise in your own power. You may not follow the popular group, but you will bravely explore the mysteries of life and discover your own happy place.
Please remember that you are never alone in your truth on the path to authenticity. This community is walking with you every step of the way. Next time, we’ll explore the topic of acceptance.
Let’s journey together.