In the recovery process, few things are more important than the ability to assess yourself honestly. Knowing that you have a problem or need growth is the first step towards recovery, because you can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. Other people may tell you you need to grow in a certain area, but their advice doesn’t matter if you aren’t able to see the truth about yourself.
Addiction is sustained by habits of self-denial, of telling yourself that your problems aren’t as big as they really are, or that you can quit or control yourself whenever you want. Breaking these habits is a challenge, but an important part of recovery. Here are a few steps you can take to build up habits of self-honesty.
1. Writing to yourself
Keeping things in your own head can make it easy to rationalize behaviors and thoughts, or perceive them falsely. Writing things down forces you to state things more directly and practice communicating them to yourself. You are no longer simply working things around in your head and then forgetting them, but creating a space to think through things starkly and directly.
Regular journaling about your days creates space for processing how you handled your challenges, to both celebrate what was good and imagine what you do differently next time. You can also do exercises of self-assessment, writing down your strengths and weaknesses and then thinking about what you can do to grow.
2. Open up to another
Often, other people can recognize us better than we can know ourselves. In our own head, it’s easy to minimize or rationalize our weakness or belittle our strengths, and a more objective observer can be an invaluable resource in helping us figure out what’s really going on.
A supportive and thoughtful friend can make an astute observation, or ask a probing question that can set us on the journey of uncovering truth. They can also offer a sense of safety and acceptance that can help us embrace ourselves unconditionally, which can take away the fear and self-condemnation that keeps us lying to ourselves.
3. Take one thing at a time
Attempting to be truthful about “everything” is too overwhelming. You think countess thoughts in a day, with perceptions, fantasies, judgments, and memories whizzing by beyond your control. Vague, broad assessments make it easier to simply glaze over things. Specificity requires us to really think about areas where we’d like to improve, and make more concrete, direct action steps.
Don’t simply speak in vague generalities, but connect your self-appraisal to specific, real life events. Focus your attention on one area of your life at a time, such as physical health, abstaining from harmful behaviors, or healthy social engagement. By focusing all your thoughts on that one area, you will be more likely to see your need for growth realistically.
4. Don’t forget your strengths
One of the barriers getting in the way of self-honesty is a judgmental attitude, or fear that you will not like what you find if you really examine what is within you. True self-honesty does not mean nitpicking and dwelling on your every fault, but rather seeing your full self as you really are.
The truth is that you have some things about you that are good, something you do well, or strengths that can benefit yourself or others around you. Pay careful attention to these as well. You haven’t gained a full picture of yourself until you recognize both the things you do well in, and the goals you have yet to gain. Self-assessment should be done in a spirit of gentleness and self-love, and this is the only way it will lead to productive change.
5. Remember the past and celebrate progress
Another benefit of journaling, writing things down, and sharing them with others is that it creates a record of where you were in a particular moment. Every now and then, go back and review where you have come from and what you have accomplished.
In all likelihood, you will discover that struggles that seems insurmountable at one time get overcome as months and years pass. This can be a cause of celebration and satisfaction in yourself, reminding yourself of the things you are capable of making it through and learning from. This can create a “snowball” effect, as you are further encouraged to continue looking for ways to keep growing, and feeling confident in your ability to meet those challenges.