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Honesty is the best policy

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Imagine for a moment seeing a good friend in the street and literally screaming and jumping up and down with excitement. Or disliking the meal that your host has just served you; so much so, that you just spit it out. Not even into a napkin, just onto your clothes.  Sound odd? Well, not if you are a young child, this is standard behaviour and completely natural. They are honest and express however it is they feel at any given time; something, as adults we have certainly forgotten how to do, or more likely have learnt not to.

When my husband comes home from work my son screams at the top of his voice in excitement to see him, every single day! My daughter is at an age where she can express herself and say exactly what she thinks; she is beautifully honest. I can only imagine that speaking as freely as she does must be so liberating. She has no concept of social etiquette or hurting someone’s feelings and she, like others her age, just say it like it is. To them it is not rude or inappropriate. It is just purely what they think.

Of course this can lead to some embarrassment on my part, like when she says “can we go home now mummy, I don’t like it here” when we have just arrived at a friend’s, who has put a lot of effort in to hosting us. Or when she declares that she doesn’t like this piece of food, or item of clothing that she has just received as a gift.

It makes me wonder when did we stop being so honest? Of course we need some self-censorship and to be emotionally intelligent enough to know that what we say may impact on someone else’s feelings. However, do we self-sensor too much? Is it to our detriment that we don’t let ourselves say or express what we really think for fear of acting outside of the social norm?

I would love to feel so happy I literally jumped up and down in the street. To shout if I was cross; or spontaneously burst in to tears when my favourite food runs out (Ok, I may have actually done that). Wouldn’t it be great to be so free that we can behave and say whatever we want, whenever we feel it? Would we suffer with less stress and tension? Isn’t it heathy to express how you feel when you feel it, so that we can let go of negativity.

As adults we often try and teach our children how to behave, how to fit in and become the adults we want them to be. Yet, children don’t hold on to emotions, they are honest and express themselves really well. They let themselves feel and say what it is they need to and as a result the emotion is over in minutes. They don’t hold on to the feeling; it is felt and gone as quickly as it came. How freeing that must be? So, perhaps there is a more middle ground? Adults could let their ‘hair down’ a little more, and relax their self-censorship slightly. Whilst we teach our children that its ok to feel and think honestly but sometimes they need to do that in a sensitive way. Perhaps we should all join our little ones and jump up and down in excitement when we see someone we love, but maybe we ought to draw the line at spitting out the food we don’t like.

  • I first wrote this piece for my monthly magazine column for etc – Horsham and Mid Sussex. November’s issue.
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