Conventional Wisdom 2 - Conclusion

My month of honesty finished at the end of Februrary, though this writeup is coming substantially later. Partly that's for reasons that will become clear in the next Conventional Wisdom, and partly because I had a lot going on. Mostly, though, it was just because honesty was surprisingly draining.

I wrote a little about why honesty is difficult in Small bravery. The habit of not saying things when you don't need to is deeply embedded and difficult to shift. What I found is that it required a constant level of attention in order to avoid inadvertent self-censorship, and while that didn't involve enormous effort, it did just make everything else a bit more difficult. If I had some problem, now I was figuring it out and talking about it. If I was feeling down, I was dealing with that and talking about it. It added a kind of parasitic load to everything else.

That's not to say it wasn't worth it though. In fact, compared to early to rise I feel like the cost/benefit was quite substantial. I wrote in Archivism about the idea of just putting out information without regard for whether it's useful. Or, more accurately, without presuming to know what other people will find useful. I think there's a powerful core to that idea, in not worrying so much about your "audience" or what reactions people might have to what you say, but just following your own sense of right and if people don't like you for it, well, you probably don't like them either.

So how did my actions stack up against my original goals? I said I was going to get more active on Twitter, which I undoubtedly did. I wrote about being distracted, what I was up to during the day, random ideas, figuring out career direction, money/work stuff, and stupid problems I had. I feel like both the quantity of tweets and their level of personalness rose substantially. Also, the response was quite positive, and I usually found that other people had similar thoughts.

Another thing was extending honesty into my personal life, which was more daunting but actually not so bad. It helps that most of the people in my life already hold honesty as an important value, and are also fairly familiar with me and what I think, so it wasn't like a surprise turnaround. Business stuff was a bit trickier, but I actually found that honesty helped more than it hurt. Although I theoretically put myself in a more vulnerable position in a few conversations, the actual result was that the other person better understood what I wanted and we both did better as a result. The mythical win-win seems to require honesty, though I expect the win-lose does as well.

The last thing I wanted to do was write more personally on this site, which I wouldn't say I really succeeded at. In fact, I just generally wrote less. I think that's mainly because of the parasitic load problem I mentioned earlier; writing consistently is already hard, and writing consistently with more honesty was more difficult than I was ready for. I would also have liked to get to a point where I felt comfortable writing about more controversial topics. I think that I was too distracted with surface-level honesty to really get to a point where I was saying things where the honesty actually made me uncomfortable. Probably that just would have taken more time.

And that, ultimately, is my conclusion for honesty is the best policy. It definitely made a difference, and actually has been the most substantial and liberating change I've made so far, but it was hard to make serious progress on in a month. Devoting yourself to openness and truth is a process, perhaps a lifetime worth, of unlearning the internalised judgement of others. But this month gave me a taste, and the taste was good.