How to Exercise Your Honesty Muscles

5 ways to become more honest with yourself and others

Shira Miller
In Fitness And In Health
5 min readMay 30, 2021

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Photo by Timothy Dykes on Unsplash

Sure, we’ve all heard the term “you can fake it ’til you make it.” Sometimes you can, like confidently pitching a new business idea when secretly freaking out inside or asking that hottie from your yoga class out for coffee despite thinking they are out of your league.

But that adage doesn’t fly when it comes to honesty and purpose. As Ron Carucci author of To Be Honest: Lead with the Power of Truth, Justice and Purpose says, “you either mean it or you don’t and if you don’t, people will see right through it.”

It makes sense, right? Unless you veer towards being a pathological liar or have become de-sensitized to being untruthful, consciously being dishonest can create a burden that brings you down. Science has also proven that your physical, emotional, and mental well-being is bolstered by practicing honesty.

“The more honest we are, the better we feel,” explained Carucci. “Numerous medical studies have shown that honest people are less prone to illness, have less anxiety and depression, and enjoy healthier and deeper relationships. Clearly, our health thrives when we are being honest.”

Carucci references a whole host of studies that show human beings prefer to be honest and receive that courtesy of the truth in return. Citing the Bloomberg Global Health Index and universities in the U.S. and U.K., he notes that the most honest countries are also the healthiest.

For example, Switzerland ranks as the most honesty country and the sixth healthiest in the world, while Norway comes in at #2 in both categories. In contrast, the most dishonest countries — China, India, and Russia — are also the most depressed.

The good news is that you can do something about it. Honesty is a muscle that can be developed with intention and practice. Just like developing a strength training routine to increase your fitness or committing to a few minutes of daily meditation to gain more clarity and peace in a chaotic world.

“Honesty is more than an aspiration; it’s a capability,” noted Carucci. “To be good at it, you have to work at it. That begins with believing you can be better at it than you currently are.”

Ready to get started? Here are five tips from Carucci on how to gain more honesty with yourself and others:

Identify your honesty story.

Think about your earliest memories about honesty. Was it a lesson learned from your parents when you were caught in an outright lie, or feeling upset when someone you trusted lied to you?

I keep going back to learning in elementary school about how a young George Washington supposedly chopped down a cherry tree and then contritely confessed the deed to his parents when asked. The moral for my fellow third graders was that honesty is the best policy, and a character-building trait that can give rise to great leadership.

Consider past behaviors.

What situations have prompted you to distort or withhold truthful information? The first one that comes to my mind was when, as a freshman in high school, I told my parents I was spending the night at one of my BFF’s houses — leaving out the fact that we planned to walk over to a party with minimal parental supervision a few blocks away from her home.

What I didn’t anticipate was having another classmate’s parent ask my mother if I was attending that party. When she called my buddy’s home and learned we weren’t there, mom blew a gasket. She showed up at the party, catching me chugging a beer, which I despise to this day — and I was grounded for a month.

Yes, I deserved it and learned a powerful lesson about omitting the entire story. Conversely, what situations caused you to embrace your most honest self?

Recognize honesty as a redeeming force.

Note when being honest, even during difficult circumstances, contributed to the greater good or significantly helped others, including yourself. Has embracing the truth ever changed the outcome of a negative situation?

Engage in honesty conversations.

Carucci recommends talking to your friends about honesty, delving into topics like how to determine if someone is lying or not. Inspired by the ABC-TV show “What Would You Do?”, he says it can be fun to come up with moral and social dilemmas and determine your individual responses.

Here’s a topical situation. Let’s say that you just boarded a flight, abiding by current airline guidelines to wear a face mask. When entering the plane, another passenger refuses to wear a mask and starts verbally abusing a flight attendant who is asking them to do so. How would you handle that scenario? Speak up on behalf of the flight crew or shrink back in your seat and ignore the entire situation?

Reflect on your proudest moments.

In discussions with friends, family members or co-workers, ask people to share their proudest “honesty” moments where you had to tell a hard truth, confront and unjust practice or stand up for someone being treated unfairly. Have them explore how the actions they took made them feel proud.

“Behavioral science has proven that when we talk about these moments, the neuropathways in our brain become stronger, reinforcing our commitment to honesty,” added Carucci.

Like physical wellness, the key to building your honesty muscles is commitment and repetition. Practicing that behavior while reflecting on the benefits of being honest makes it a stronger instinct moving forward.

“When we are honest, our sense of purpose is amplified,” said Carucci. “Every one of us wants to feel like we matter, that our contributions are making a difference and that we are being true to who we aspire to become. When there is a disconnect between what we say and do, we need hope that we can close the gap between right and wrong. It requires a solid moral compass and a reasonable level of resolve. But the journey is so worth it.”

For more insights, check out To Be Honest. It’s a great resource for anyone looking to make transformative choices of integrity and courage and inspire others to do the same.

How has embracing greater honesty impacted your personal or professional life?

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Shira Miller
In Fitness And In Health

2x TEDx Speaker, Executive Coach, Chief Communications Officer and Writer with a strong passion for well-being and self-improvement www.shiramiller.com