What Does Integrity Mean?
I was sitting in my second weekend of yoga teacher training and the facilitators handed out an article for us all to read. The topic of the article was integrity and honestly a little confusing. I thought to myself, “Sure, I know the word but…” We read the article through a few times by ourselves and then with small groups. We read and discussed the article until it started to click.
The facilitators went on to set the foundation of integrity in our training. They let us know that if they say something, it’s going to happen. That if they’ve decided something shall be, then it will. They won’t be late, cancel, or flake on us. They will uphold their commitment to the group. It was refreshing. So simple and honest, serious and comforting, all at the same time.
The follow through. The commitment. The dedication. I started feeling heavy… guilty. Memories of me flaking on my friends and making up excuses if I didn’t “want to do ____” came flooding in. I felt overwhelmed. Have I lived my entire life without integrity? I honestly wasn’t sure. White lies are so easy… and blurry.
I wanted to take the article to everyone in my life and shout, “Say what you mean, do what you say! I’m starting right now and you should to!” (Don’t worry I didn’t, but I really wanted to - haha).
I brought the topic up to Chandler to see what he thought of this whole integrity thing (this was still very early in our relationship so I felt a little silly to admit that I’d never really thought about integrity until now). But he just looked at me and simply said, “I think of it this way: What you say, what you think, and what you do are all in alignment.”
What!? YES! That one really clicked! I liked it. Easier to understand and navigate when you’re not sure.
I then wrote in my journal some time after “mind-mouth alignment” or something like that. Meaning, are your thoughts and words matching up? Are you really speaking your truth and following through? Or are you saying one thing and thinking another?
I think a nice example is:
“Hey you wanna hang out Thursday!”
*Thursday rolls around and you actually just want to stay home and do nothing.
You immediately start to formulate and dig for excuses as to why today is now not a good day. You land on something that seems just honest enough to work. But it’s stressful and what if you’re found out. What if your friend thinks your an ass for bailing. The internal dialogue goes on and on.*
Instead…. You can simply say, “You know what, I’m honestly not feeling up to it tonight. Can we reschedule?” How the other person takes that is their own business - not yours.
Truth. Honesty. Simplicity.
It’s so not easy saying No or letting someone know you’ve changed your mind, but you’re allowed to.
Also, there’s a kicker… having an awareness of how often you do this. If you constantly make plans and then politely cancel last minute there might be something there for you to think about… to examine.
There’s a balancing act of thoughts, words & action. Integrity (or lack of) impacts your relationships with other people, and with yourself.
An example from the Self perspective:
I’ve been thinking about handstand for…. Years? Like I really want to effortlessly do handstands wherever I am. Only… I don’t practice much. No one really knows this because I don’t talk about it. I just think about it A LOT.
I’m missing the biggest piece of the puzzle: Action.
I know the missing piece and I still barely act to do anything about it. So… I have to ask myself, “Do I even really care about handstanding everywhere? Or is it just something I feel like I should be able to do because others can?” That’s a toughy. And I’m still not sure.
I do know I want freedom to move in my body. To play and not be scared of falling or looking like an amatuer. So why don’t I practice more? I’m not sure but I think maybe I’ll start and let you all know.
On the flipside, I could just beat myself up forever because I can’t handstand (because I don’t practice). And I could resent others forever because they can and it’s not fair. Yes this is crazy, but also an option.
SO I have a choice to make, in every moment of my life, with a few simple questions.
- What do I think about X
- How do I talk about X
- What do I actually do about X
Take this into a different scenario: not-so-great relationships. It seems to be the most glarying place where integrity is lacking. Someone isn’t happy so they internalize. They constantly look at the other person as the problem. And, they never do anything to make a change (for better or worse). They just stew in their minds, or bitch to their friends, and wonder why they are miserable. It’s interesting. I’ve been there before.
In my mind, you pretty much just stay stuck until you start looking. You won’t always like what you see, but you will see something. And then you must do something.
I didn’t like the realization that I’d been “flaky” before. I felt like I’d lacked integrity for 20 something years. I felt really taken aback by it all. But once I sat down and starting thinking about all of the places I was out of alignment, things started to shift. I could no longer ignore (or mindlessly block out) things that mattered. Things that need my voice and my opinion. Now I constantly look at my life and ask if things are in alignment (they won’t stay in alignment forever - nothing is fixed). So take a deep breath, examine, write, think, and decide what tol do next to get closer to alignment... integrity.
Some questions to think about:
Integrity with Self
How might I be lacking integrity (with myself)?
Ex: “I’ll do it tomorrow…” “I’ll start Monday…” But you put IT off for days/weeks/months”
Specifically, what do I think A LOT about, but never do anything about?
Ex: Ah-hem… me + handstand. This one can be pretty obvious. Just take a look at your habits+thoughts and what you want oh-so badly.
What do I tell myself that I know isn’t true (or know isn’t as important as doing the damn thing)?
Ex: “I’ll look stupid” “I won’t be able to…”
Am I doing things that don’t match up with those constant thoughts?
Ex: “I want to get in shape” <-> I flop on the couch every night and watch Netflix for a few hours instead.
Now consider how the above might be having an impact on the important people in your life...
Where might I (or someone else) be lacking integrity in an important relationship? (You find yourself making excuses, saying you’ll do something but don’t and it affects that person OR viceversa someone in your life is doing something like that and it’s affecting you)
What am I struggling to communicate to partner/best friend/parent? And why?
How might I tactfully address an issue without placing blame or starting an argument?
When we start to notice our own stuff, we start to notice everyone else’s too. It’s a little overwhelming, and dangerous territory to start telling others, “HEY YOU LACK INTEGRITY YOU CAN’T DO THAT!” No one wants to be attacked or be told their bad/wrong.
Try on this fill in the blank and see if it’s helpful for navigating these new waters:
I feel _________ when ________ and what I need is __________. Try to remove blaming the other person and simply state what’s going on.
Ex: I feel anxious when the dishes pile up in the sink. What I need is for them to be put in the dishwasher instead.
INSTEAD of: I feel anxious when you leave your dirty dishes in the sink and I really need to you clean up after yourself! <- this one might not sound as tactful as you’d like.
Let me know what you come up with. And remember, this is a lifelong awareness practice. Not something you fix and move on from.
So much love,