Honesty and open communication are often touted as the foundation for healthy relationships, but the truth of the matter is that oftentimes, even when it comes to the relationships we hold dearest, we censor ourselves and our true emotions.
As defined by therapist Paula Lenard, “Emotional honesty means being honest about your feelings and expressing them to another person. When your outward behavior and words are in harmony with your inner thoughts, you’re being emotionally honest. It’s that simple. It means you are aware of your feelings and you express them, not mask them – even when they are a response to something you don’t like.”
While it sounds fairly simple, emotional honesty requires skill and is much easier said than done because to be truly emotionally honest, you have to be comfortable with moments of discomfort.
The absence of emotional honesty is usually the result of trying to avoid conflict and keep the people around us happy at our own emotional expense. As Linda and Charlie Bloom explain in an essay for Psychology Today, “Controlling our feelings is a form of self-manipulation that we perform in an effort to control others’ responses to us in the hopes of winning their approval or minimizing the chances of them feeling hurt, angry, or displeased with us.”
While being emotionally honest with the people we love can feel unnatural and require some uncomfortable conversations, it ultimately leads to deeper, more fulfilling relationships. Here are five good reasons to begin practicing emotional honesty today.
When you fail to share your personal truth and mask your feelings to keep others comfortable, you will often end up feeling resentful and angry.
“When we protect our thoughts, keep them undercover, both of you suffer,” Lenard explains. “You can lose yourself by continuing to cover up what’s inside.”
By sharing exactly how you feel and putting all of the cards on the table, you give loved ones the opportunity to fix what is wrong.
When anger is repressed, tension will fester, slowly eroding away at the foundation of a relationship. Though speaking your emotional truth may lead to temporary moments of discomfort, the tension is ultimately released when you are able to work through conflict with loved ones and clear the air.
We often mask our true feelings out of fear of being rejected, but a willingness from both parties to commit to emotional honesty will always result in greater intimacy and a deeper emotional connection.
“Living an inauthentic life also denies us the possibility of ever feeling truly loved for who we are, and consequently we inevitably find ourselves caught in a relentless quest for love that can never be satisfied or sustained,” the Blooms add. “It’s only when we both reveal ourselves fully that the deepest, purest, most soul-nourishing love can be exchanged. The remedy for coming back to engage more fully is to first be in touch with what we are feeling and then to express, rather than repress, connect rather than protect, and reveal rather than conceal.”