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Integrity: To Thine Own Self Be True

In Hamlet, Shakespeare tells us, “To thine own self be true.” You might indeed prefer to “be yourself.” And did you know that when you are, you’re likely to have more success socially, in business, and in romance? Scientific studies now show that being yourself – tuning into your emotions, accepting them, and acting accordingly – not only increases your psychological health, it also attracts and more likely keeps friends, lovers, and loyal employees.

Being oneself, being authentic and genuine, is one definition of integrity, which comes from the Latin word for wholeness. It includes knowing and speaking the truth plus taking responsibility for how one thinks and feels and how one behaves.

Our parents are often the first people who teach us about being ourselves and being in integrity, and they often give us mixed messages. Often parents teach children to speak the truth and impose lesser consequences for confessing than for lying. However the same parents might demonstrate avoiding the truth to maintain apparent peace in relationships.

If you want to encourage greater integrity in yourself, psychologists Jonathan Haidt and Ben Dean recommend exercises such as:

  • Refrain from telling white lies, and if you do, admit them and apologize;
  • Every time you tell a lie each day, add it to a list, and aim to make this list shorter each day; and
  • Notice when you’ve attempted to impress others, and commit to being authentic next time.


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