As a person was was manipulated, gaslighted, and lied to for all of her childhood, truth-telling matters deeply to me. Even though I was often punished for it, it became extremely important for me to always tell the truth. I realized at a young age that truth and my own integrity were all I had, and as much as my abusers tried, they couldn’t take them away from me. Even if no one believed me, I knew that at the very least, I could trust my myself. My own integrity is what helped me discern the difference between what I was told by my abusers and what was actually happening. I value truth more than anything, and even though sometimes truth does hurt, I believe in its power to heal.
That said, holding to the truth in the face of abuse is not easy. In many cases, it’s easier to accept the deceptions and lies of the abuser that nothing is wrong, it’s not that bad, and to just get over it. Over time, victims of abuse cope by deceiving themselves often become their own worst enemies. It’s almost always done in an effort to keep the peace, but each time a person holds back the truth, a piece of their own true identity erodes away with it. When victims accept the lies of their abusers, they hold themselves in their own mental prison, attacking anyone who points out that they are standing in front of an open door.
There have been times where I thought I was being honest, but in retrospect, was actually frozen in my people-pleasing conditioning to not upset my abusers. I’ve since shed much of that, but every once in a while I’ll get those familiar pangs of anxiety about speaking up. In spite of what is sometimes severe physical pain in my head and my gut, I make a conscientious effort to speak the truth at all times, even when it may not be what someone wants to hear. Especially when it’s something someone doesn’t want to hear.
Guess what? Some people really don’t want to hear it. Some people are upset with the truth. Some people are upset with me for speaking the truth. As a highly sensitive person who used to cope via people-pleasing, it’s an extremely uncomfortable place to be. I am never blunt in a mean or insensitive way, but I am direct, and some people can’t handle that. Some attack, blame, defend, deny, anything but stop and look at the gleaming gem of truth I present to them. For those who do not like to have a bright light shone on the lie they hold on to, a direct answer is perceived as a threat.
But also guess what? The more I speak the truth in a direct, open, honest way, the less I am tied to how someone perceives it or reacts to it. This is huge progress for someone like me who physically flinches in anticipation of being attacked. And when someone does attack me, I take it less personally. I have finally come to a place where I no longer feel guilty or responsible for someone else’s poor reaction or projection. That isn’t to say it doesn’t still hurt, but it hurts less. I have finally internalized that when people try to tear me down, it’s a poor reflection on them, not me. It sounds obvious, but for someone like me who was programmed from birth to feel responsible, it’s a huge breakthrough.
Personally, I’ve always welcomed the truth from others, even when it’s unflattering. As sensitive as I am, I generally don’t take offense when none is given. I look for the truth in all situations and I can easily discern when someone speaks from the heart. But there lies the rub. Narcissists and sociopaths have no heart. They lack empathy and therefore can only perceive input in the form of flattery (good) or attack (bad), so they seek to destroy anyone who fails to properly build up their fragile egos.
Narcissists are lost causes. They are the reason why I am nervous about speaking up, because how someone responds to truth is often the first way I know whether they are toxic. But I also know that truth telling is best and only way for me to live. I recently had the wonderful experience of someone actually thanking me for telling them some unpleasant (but honest) information that would have gotten me in serious trouble with my abusers. The more I can find people like that, the more my hope in humanity is restored.
Yes, sometimes the truth cuts like a knife, but when accepted, the knife can perform life-saving surgery. The recovery from a painful truth is so much better than the slow death rot of a lie.