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Is It Brutal Honesty or Just Brutal?

We view brutal honesty as the ultimate honesty.

We tell our loved ones we’re “keeping it real” before we proceed to eviscerate their life choices. Then, they get defensive and rail back on us for hurt feelings. We, in turn, claim we’re just “calling it like we see it.”

But is it all even necessary?

At what point does brutal honesty become just brutality? Are we lying to ourselves about what it means to honest with others? I have a few points to consider.

Are Your Beliefs the Absolute Truth?

It’s important to distinguish fact from opinion. Just because you believe something to be true, it doesn’t mean it’s reality. Let’s consider the phrase, “I just tell it like it is.” Exactly what is it? Think about what you believe the person’s problem is versus what they’ve actually told you.

For instance, I had an interaction with a friend recently. I told them I was having a bad day. They proceeded to say “Quit complaining and do something about your life. I don’t want to hear you moan and groan anymore until you do!”

I was actually at a point in my life where things were going exceptionally well. Most of my days went swimmingly. That particular day wasn’t going great. So, where did my friend get everything else from?

Turns out, they were basing their opinion on events that happened to me several years ago. They remembered when I was at a low point in my life and for some reason hadn’t caught up since. That goes back to belief versus facts. The fact was me saying I had a bad day. The belief was my friend thinking my life was in shambles and in need of fixing.

See the difference?

Are You Helping or Hurting?

Brutal honesty usually comes across as negative. I’ve personally never heard someone say, “I’m gonna be brutally honest with you. You’re an amazing, talented person.” Instead, I’ve heard, “I’m going to tell you something you might not like…” followed by an unnecessarily harsh monologue.

Think about it. Is negativity towards someone designed to help? Doesn’t positive reinforcement work better than tearing someone down just to “toughen them up?”

Is your intent to truly help someone or simply get something off your chest? How you say something is just as important as what you say. Do you ever offer praise or encouragement? If honesty is the goal, shouldn’t those aspects also be a focus?

Consider the Relationship Dynamic

Too often, brutal honesty occurs in a relationship that is unequal (or perceived that way). A high-level exec at a company may berate a lower-level employee. Afterwards, that exec might “flower it up” by calling it tough love. However, if the tables were turned, would this be acceptable? Probably not.

If a person perceives themselves to have it “more together” than someone else, they’ll usually feel comfortable giving that person advice. However, would the person who has it “together” be okay with the other person administering tough love? Probably not.

Butal honesty too often gets rooted in a need to feel superior while belittling others. Consider how you’d feel if someone you perceived to be “less than” gave you the same advice you give others.

Why Do You Need to be Unkind?

We live in the age of social media and its perceived cancel culture. Naturally there will be those who resist what they feel is censorship. In a time where facts often get discarded in favor of opinions, we also misconstrue what counts as honesty.

Truth doesn’t have to be unkind. It doesn’t have to hurt or demolish. So, why do some of us gravitate towards the brutality of it? The world is filled with cruel words, especially on social media. We, in turn, believe that we’re helping others by feeding into that negativity by giving our unfiltered opinions.

Except, it doesn’t have to work that way, especially with people we care about. Being able to tell the truth without hurting is a sign of emotional maturity and empathy. People have feelings, and they’re allowed to protect them.

How Do We Gain Emotional Maturity?

It starts with a sense of self. In my book, Life After Low Self-Esteem, I talk about the many methods I used to overcome self-doubt and low emotional intelligence. The good news? Anyone can overcome any of the items mentioned. Check it out, and let me know what you think!

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11 Effective Ways to Conquer Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem is a lifelong struggle for most of us. As someone who has had a longstanding battle with a negative self image, I get it. There are days when I just don’t feel pretty no matter what I do.

And believe me I put in the effort. I get up in the morning and do my best like many people do. I get enough sleep. I eat breakfast. I work out (sometimes). I put hundreds of sticky notes on my mirror telling me how awesome I am. I even try to read each one every single day.

Yet, try as I might, it never feels like it’s enough some days.

So the question remains. Is there such a thing as “life after low self-esteem?”

The short answer is: absolutely. However, it’s not going to be an easy journey. Luckily for you, there’s a few tips below to help you get started.

Stop the Comparisons

Your value as a person isn’t measurable. In fact, it’s immeasurable. That means it’s time to stop with the comparisons. Someone has a nicer car? House? Job? So what? Material things can be gone in an instant. At the end of the day, all you have is yourself. You and your unique life are more valuable than any material possession.

Avoid Social Media

Look, social media is designed to make you feel inadequate. You log on every day just to figure out a way to get “likes” or whatever popularity currency is being used at the time. How many likes you have seemingly determines how funny, smart, or likable you are. But here’s the thing. Such a system doesn’t exist in the real world. So leave it on social media where it belongs and avoid it.

Don’t Assume People Will Hate You

How many of you have struggled with this? You avoid socializing because you assume you’ll be hated the moment people look at you. Seems a little unfair though, right? Think of it this way. What kind of person would go out of their way to hate someone they don’t even know? It definitely sounds like a personal problem, doesn’t it? It just isn’t yours. Not everyone will have a problem with you. Give people the same chance you’d want them to give you.

Social Skills Are Just That: A Skill

There tends to be a stigma towards socially awkward people. People even go so far as to treat it like some sort of disease. Luckily for you, it’s not. In fact, with practice, anyone can overcome it. I know most of you hate the dreaded act of small talk. However, it’s a useful skill to develop when interacting with new people. Over time, it’ll become so second nature you won’t even realize you’re doing it.

Embarrassment is a Choice

I don’t care how poised of a person you are. We all goof up sometimes. Whether it’s tripping and falling in public or having a booger in your nose, life happens. However, you can choose what you’re embarrassed about. Everyone trips, and everyone at some point doesn’t realize they have a gigantic booger in their nose. So really, what’s the big deal? Blow your nose, pick yourself up off the ground, and keep it pushing. Learn to laugh at yourself, too.

What You Think Isn’t Always Reality

You walked into a store and felt like everyone was staring at you. Their eyes burned into your skin, and it seemed like they were judging you and deeming you unworthy. You ran out of the store and vowed to never return. Remember what I said earlier? People who decide to dislike you at first sight have problems of their own. Let them deal with that and remember this. It is not the event that destroys us. It is our interpretation. Those people simply could have been looking to see who was entering out of curiosity and nothing more. By the time you walk past them, they most likely won’t remember or think anything else of your presence.

Counseling Isn’t an Admission of Failure

Low self-esteem can often lead to bouts of depression. Seeking help doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a person or that something is wrong with you. Just as we all get sick physically, we also get sick mentally. Just like some treatments require physical therapy to regain strength, the brain also needs counseling. Catching a cold doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a person, right? The same is true of any mental illness.

Passive-Aggressiveness Solves Little

Part of overcoming low self-esteem is learning how to communicate your feelings. Often, people with a negative self-image can resort to passive-aggressive behavior instead of being assertive. Have you ever given someone the silent treatment when they’ve made you upset? Did giving them the silent treatment really solve anything or simply delay the inevitable conversation where you revealed what you were upset about? By being assertive and calmly expressing your frustration at the beginning, the issue could have been quickly neutralized. Passive-aggressiveness doesn’t give you peace of mind. It simply drags on issues for much longer than necessary.

It’s Time to Set Boundaries

It’s time to stop being a “people pleaser.” If something makes you uncomfortable, it’s okay to say so. Each one of us has limits, both physically and mentally. Setting boundaries is one of the several pillars that hold up your overall well-being. Because, how can you be fair to anyone else if you’re not fair to yourself?

Letting Go is a Skill Too

Often we can get attached to the wrong thing. We can get involved in abusive relationships or one-sided friendships. We find it hard to let go of these relationships because, subconsciously, we feel we deserve to be in them. It can take time to develop a mindset where we truly recognize these relationships as what they are: toxic. Again, this isn’t something that’s learned overnight. It takes time and effort just like everything else on this list.

You’ve Already Accomplished Enough

Recently, I spoke to my classmates from high school. Many of them expressed how they felt like they hadn’t done enough or weren’t “successful enough.” I reassured them that as long as they were living and breathing that they were accomplishing more than what anyone could ask of them. No matter where you are in life, your very existence is an automatic success story. You are enough, were always enough, and always will be enough.

 

I hope this list helped you. As someone who used to struggle deeply with self-image, it took a long time to develop the self-awareness needed to fight back against my depression and low self-esteem. And I don’t always get it right each time.

Listen, you’re still going to have your days where you feel like utter crap. But guess what? Everybody feels that way from time to time. Yes, you are a unique, special person. But you’re also not alone in your fight. So join me and everyone like us as we beat low self-esteem into submission.