When you are honest with yourself, you accept yourself. Public opinion cannot shake you, writes Dr Kousar A Shah for South Asia Monitor
One of the first lessons I learned about integrity was from my father. I was a teenager, and I was learning how to ride a motorcycle, way back in 1988-89. My elder brother had a bike, and as was typical of boys my age, I wanted to ride it. But I was still in the process of obtaining a driving license.
Hence, my father did not permit me to ride the bike outside the official bungalow boundaries. I was upset with my father. I tried a variety of methods. I tried to coax him and event went to the extent of giving him the cold shoulder to change his mind. He was unmoved.
I argued that I could ride the bike, and no one needed to know that I had no driving license. But my father was clear. He said: “Son, it is not whether someone knows or watches you ride a bike without a driving license. Others may or may not know, but one person knows and that is you. Remember that you are always a witness to all your deeds. In this case, it is also illegal. Just ask yourself if you did ride the bike without the license, would it be wrong?”
While I did grumble away as a teenager, I only realized the value of that incident later on in my life. At that moment, I learned something from my father through opposition and disagreement. Such small incidents in my life and the discussions and debates with my father shaped my life and built my character.
So, work on building your life with such small habits of integrity. They will slowly reflect in your personality. When you reflect such positive vibes, people will feel them. We feel the positive vibes of a person when they are strong in their character.
You too can exude such positivity and affect people positively when you cultivate your character by adhering to the virtues of honesty and integrity. The quicker you realize that being true to yourself is the greatest gift you can give yourself, the better.
There are many who can be brutally honest with the world and the people around them. However, they do not offer the same luxury to themselves. They live in constant denial of themselves. They find it hard to face themselves and constantly put themselves down.
They are a mess internally as they know that they do not fit the disguise they have donned. It is an itch that refuses to go away. If they spend too long denying the truth about themselves, they may become numb to that irritation. However, they will never be at peace.
When such people assume a leadership position, the end result will probably be an unhealthy work culture. Such leaders will be problematic to the team, to the organization, and to themselves as well. They will be driven by feelings of inadequacy and will tend to compromise when it comes to making a stand. Leaders need to be honest and inspire a culture of integrity.
Here are some reasons why leaders must practice honesty and integrity:
You reflect what is inside you: You may don many guises and wear different looks. They may be of different hues and varying contrasts. However, if these are not the project of your true personality, your disguise will be found out. Nothing lasts forever and nothing stays the same. There is one exception that stands the test of time. It is the truth. So, stay true to who you are and you will last longer. When you stay true to yourself, you will also discover your hitherto hidden self-worth.
You become more courageous: When you are honest with yourself, you become more accepting of yourself. You do not berate yourself over your flaws and weakness. When you are honest with yourself, you also know your strengths and capabilities. Being honest with yourself is not the same as self-pity or self-loathing. When you know yourself, the opinions of others will not be barbs that will hurt you.
You have healthier relationships: When you are honest with yourself, you remove a burden from your relationships. When we are not honest with ourselves, we look outward to our relationships to provide us the worth and esteem that we cannot provide for ourselves. This can be taxing on any relationship and will burden the other person to pull more weight in that relationship.
Your lead a better life: This is a consequence of the aforementioned three points. When you are not stressed with images and labels, you shed the disguise that you had forced yourself to wear to have a positive image in public. When you live your life dictated by public opinion, you will wear clothes that you do not like and speak in tongues that you do not favour. When you are honest with yourself, you accept yourself. Public opinion cannot shake you. You would have gotten rid of one of your greatest burdens. When you come across this realization, you will lead a far more plentiful, happy and productive life.
One may think that honesty and integrity can be tough tasks. It is certainly easier to life and get away than to say the truth and face the consequences. The consequences of telling the truth can be bitterly painful sometimes, but the consequences you may face when your lie is exposed can be far worse.
(The author is Group COO at Aakash Healthcare, New Delhi, and a transformational leader. Excerpts taken from his book, “Unlocked: Identifying the Godfather Within”, Stardom Books, Washington.)