As I’ve said before, minimalism isn’t just about chucking out that chintz or buying a sleek new entertainment unit and matching dining table from Ikea. It’s a lifestyle, because it’s a way of living, not a decorative style (although you can decorate your house in a minimalist style it doesn’t make your life become minimalist). We’re going to get all deep and meaningful on this theme of minimalism today.
Part of that minimalist way of living is the commitment to live a straightforward, honest life. You can’t minimalize all the clutter in your head if you are a man for every seasons or if you can lie as soon as open your mouth. That, in fact, causes a lot of clutter. Just like if you filled your house with post-it notes with little lies written on them, stuck everywhere to help you keep track.
You can’t fully minimalize your life, therefore, if you aren’t prepared to minimalize your internal landscape. And that’s the difference between minimalism and decluttering.
What is truth anyway?
I’m a bit sceptical of the concept of some sort of “ultimate truth” that is totally objective and can be derived from every situation. Everything in the world is down to interpretation BUT there is a difference between telling the truth based on your honest and uncritical view of something and telling a lie where you have intentionally misinterpreted the feedback you have gotten from the environment. Telling people someone said something which they didn’t actually say is a deliberate misinterpretation of what your ears heard. Telling people you’ve not had time to do something when you know you were just lazy is a deliberate misinterpretation to make yourself look good. These are both examples of not being truthful and honest. Likewise, telling people that someone lied when they were being (to the best of their knowledge) truthful is a deliberate misinterpretation of what you know about a situation compared to what they know.
How can you minimalize your internal landscape?
You need to be honest with people. If you’re in a situation where you feel uncomfortable being honest, instead of making up a white lie or a convincing story, you need to step back and look at what LED to the situation. What action did you take (or not take) that is so shameful that you feel the need to deceive other people about it? Why does it matter to you what they think? It’s the actions you take that should be honest – if you don’t want to get found out, don’t do it in the first place. When you think about doing things, taking into account other people’s thoughts, feelings and opinions is important. It’s not “to fit in” so much as to be a genuine person who doesn’t have to lie to people they love. The words you say need to match up with your actions to live an honest life.
Is lying to the people we love ever a good idea? Having done some things I’m really not proud of in the past year, things I was uncomfortable telling my husband about, I still don’t believe lying about the things I’ve done is a good idea. As a child, I used to lie about things (when I was seven, I told the girls at school that I was secretly a fairy godmother and that I could grant wishes), and I always got angry at the people who saw through that and who led to me getting caught out. I had no understanding that I needed to change my own actions and not put myself in situations where I would need to lie later. The dishonesty was only the symptom of the problem of me doing things that I didn’t like, that I was ashamed of and embarrassed of, and that the people who saw through those lies were not the enemy – I was. I had to become a person who I didn’t have to lie about to gain my own self respect and self worth (which is what it comes down to when you’re trying to control whether other people think well of you).
As I grew older, I realized that you cannot have any genuine and open and honest relationship with another human being if you can’t respect them enough to tell them the truth. It’s a way of being controlling – you are controlling what other people think of you and the image they have of you. Unfortunately, when you habitually lie about everything, the only image they’re getting of you is that you’re always bigging yourself up and wouldn’t know the truth if it hit you in the face. They’re getting the image that you are untrustworthy, unreliable, unable to accept genuine affection because you’re too busy with your own agenda. At this point in time, I don’t believe that we can love anyone we lie to. I think people who habitually and persistently lie are incapable of love in the way the rest of us understand it; it has become a contorted, self-serving love that will never fill the void.
When people find out that I am honest with my husband about EVERYTHING, they tend not to get it. They ask “but surely you wouldn’t tell him if you did X, Y or Z?” And I say “Yes, I would.”
And I know that he is totally honest with me. Because people like to think they can fool their partners, but most of the time, your partner is just going along with it and dying a little inside when they hear your bullshit again. When I went a bit manic a couple of years ago and took ecstasy for the first and only time, I came home the next day, despite the fact that my friend told me I mustn’t tell him and that he wouldn’t understand, and I told him the truth about what I’d done, what it was like, and that I had no intention of ever doing it again because I am generally anti-drugs and didn’t really know what had come over me. When I started to question my gender, I told him before I posted about it. He’s the first person in my life and has to be the first to know everything.
Honesty means not keeping secrets from people you care about. Secrets and lies, aren’t the problem – it’s the behaviours that have caused you to have secrets, tell lies to loved ones, hide things, that’s the real problem, and you need to work on those behaviours to minimalize the stress, the different threads that you keep track of and the fundamental disrespect that it shows for the people around you.
How can this side of minimalism help narcissists?
I write this post for anyone struggling with mental clutter, but primarily for all the narcissists (and here I’m talking individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which is very underdiagnosed because most narcissists don’t have the insight into their condition to seek help for the real problem) in the audience. Yes, for once, you’re right: This one really is about you. And you have a choice. You don’t have to live this life of constant secrecy and distortion, and the biggest key to minimalizing your internal landscape is to stop blustering and pretending, and take down those barriers (even just to yourself) and be totally honest with yourself, and start to love yourself for it. Because the saddest thing about narcissism, the ironic tragedy, is that narcissists make out they’re the best thing ever to everyone they meet, but they can’t fool themselves, and when they address that internal self-loathing and self-lying and rebuild from scratch, they actually have a pretty good prognosis of recovery and personal growth.
The active commitment I made several years ago to living a fully honest life (rather than the passive commitment we all vaguely make to live a mostly honest life) is the best thing I ever did, and I can actually feel myself dying a little inside at times when I’ve been in situations which have conflicted with that, to the point where I cannot any longer actually tell a lie (yes, I can still write fiction because it’s clearly fictional) because it is too distressing; but I don’t have racing thoughts or ruminations about things that have taken place during the day, I don’t have a deep and unending feeling of inadequacy in my heart of hearts any more (I still have no confidence in my abilities and a crapton of other mental health issues which were nothing to do with those constant white lies we tell every day without thinking), and I love someone very much and respect them greatly and that is the most important thing that has come from being totally honest. I highly recommend honesty, people will respect you for it, and yes, it is a hard journey sometimes, I have lost jobs and friends over this, and there are LOTS of times when it would seem to be easier to lie, but it wouldn’t really be easier because you would have to live with that lie, and living with the truth puts all the stressors firmly outside your sphere of self-blame. Lying always hurts someone, even when it seems like you’ve gotten away with it.