Today you may learn something about honesty from Sujata, the 19-year-old Nepali girl I’ve been mentoring for the past 18 months.

My name is Sujata Baskota, and here’s how I discovered that despite considering myself an honest person, I wasn’t telling the truth, and that it’s quite hard to really be honest. It takes more courage and bravery than I had expected. I hid the truth to look good in front of others because I thought it was easier, but ultimately, it was hurting me more than I knew.

I received a scholarship to become the first person in my family to go to university. The scholarship was awarded to me because I had a vision to make student loans accessible to everyone in Nepal. One of the perks of the program is getting a mentor. While working with my mentor, Noam, he got me to do a lot of things to make my dream a reality: I created an “about.me” page, where I told the whole world I wanted to become the banker who would change the current conditions of student loans in Nepal, and I met with people inside and outside of banks to learn more about how to achieve my vision. Noam even linked me with people in his network in a similar field. In short, I was working very seriously towards this vision and people invested time, money and trust in me.

Things were going fine enough, but still, it wasn’t quite right. There was something that made me feel somewhat uncomfortable. There was something on my mind but I couldn’t express it. I had started losing momentum, and I wasn’t feeling good. Then one evening, a year into my mentorship, I finally got the courage to say what was so hard for me to tell. I admitted to my mentor that I was not completely sure I wanted to become a banker.

The truth is that I wasn’t sure about becoming a banker from the beginning of the program, but could never really say it because of one thing: fear! I feared not being selected in the program in the first place. I feared being judged if I changed my vision. I feared that the scholarship would be withdrawn, and I wouldn’t be able to continue my university studies. I feared of being kicked out of the mentorship program. In short, I feared failure, rejection and loss. So I lied to myself, and this made the acceptance of truth very difficult, let alone an expression of truth.

And when I emptied my heart, I felt so light, as though a huge stone had been moved aside from my chest. I felt as light as a feather. I felt content and elated. I had conquered my fear after all.

Now I have realized that when I choose not to be honest, I may feel like I am making others happy – after all, I am saying what they want to hear – but deep inside, I became sad and gloomy. You do not feel things are right. You have to pretend all along. And, to cover up one lie, you have to speak a hundred more lies

Then it was his turn to respond, the reason I could never say it. I feared his response. Actually, it was the moment I both dreaded and longed for. Moreover, my mentor’s positive response made me feel so delighted, I just can’t express it. And this was only because I dared to be honest this time. The outcome of it was all so positive.

If you choose to be honest, you will be free and content within yourself. One bitter truth is better than a hundred sweet lies. This will reflect your honesty and personality. This realization was hard to gain, but now that I have reached it, I will be honest for the days to come. Honest not just to others, but to myself too. Now I can give something else a chance in my career, as I do not need to force myself to think about banking.

Now that I had faced my fear, there was nothing else I was scared of. (This reminds me of “The Fringe Benefits of Failure” by J.K. Rowing.)

Another benefit is that now I can just say whatever I feel to my mentor, without fearing his judgement, because I know he would never judge me. I am more comfortable with him than ever. Once he said, “You have shameless confidence”. Well, now I believe I can accept that compliment with my head held up high.

This experience is one of those that has taught me a real great lesson in life. The lesson was not a new one, yet the courage I gained to implement this lesson in life is more fearless than ever before.

Summing up all my learning in one sentence: honesty really is the best policy.

This is the policy I will be following, because it is not that hard after all. It isn’t a Herculean task. I have learned that all you need is to grow the courage to say what’s on your heart. And then, it is all yours!

Our parents and school teachers have all taught us to tell the truth, yet telling the truth about certain things would get us in trouble. Don’t tell the truth about stealing, cheating, lying, or about losing money your parents gave you, because otherwise you will be punished and told off. We have been taught to tell the truth, as long as it doesn’t get anyone angry. Tell the truth people want to hear. You don’t tell your boss or a client that you arrived late at a meeting because you were chatting on Facebook.

We are walking contradictions. In a survey made in Europe, over 90% of people said that if their partner has cheated on them, they should tell the truth. Yet in another study, over 90% of people said if they cheated, they wouldn’t tell their partner. We all want to believe that “Honesty is the Best Policy”, but we hardly practice it. Here’s a few questions and a game to practice the “honesty muscle”.

SELF-REFLECTION 1:

  • What do you NOT want people to know about you?
  • What do you REALLY want that you haven’t asked for?
  • What do you want to say that you’re scared of saying?

GAME:

  • Tell someone what you don’t want them to know about you
  • Ask for what you really want
  • Say what you’re scared of saying

SELF REFLECTION 2:

  • After doing each exercise above, what difference did each one make?

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