Integrity and Self Esteem do go hand in hand and is often thought of as moral uprightness and steadfastness—making the “good” choices, doing the “right thing.” In fact, it is far more than that. Integrity is actually a phenomenon in and of itself. It has to do with authenticity—being true to ourselves—and it is the foundation for power and effectiveness. It is a home, an anchor, a continuing commitment—a way of being and acting that shapes who we are.
Integrity resides in the ability to constitute yourself as your word, to be true to your principles, and ultimately, be true to yourself. You’ll learn that integrity is not constrained by, nor does it reside in, rules, prescriptions, or imposed demands. Integrity creates an environment of freedom, power, and joy.
When we act in line with our personal values, we act with integrity.
If we behave in a way that conflicts with our values, we respect ourselves less and our self-esteem suffers.
This means we need to know first what our own personal values are, which may take some time and experience.
If we value honesty, reliability, and trustworthiness, for example, then we ask ourselves: Am I honest with myself and with others? Do I keep my promises? Can others count on me?
More important to ask is: do my words and behavior match?
It’s one thing to say the “right” thing and another to put it into action. Many people talk about honesty, fairness, and commitment but to actually keep one’s word, stick up for other people and honor commitments when it is hard to do so or when others may not agree with you is much harder.
You may find yourself coming up with a white lie to a friend, in order not to hurt their feelings; make commitments to yourself of what you will get done, then find yourself procrastinating; or failing to say how you really feel in order to keep peace and harmony…
The way out of this conundrum is to move through the negative messages. To challenge the messages you’ve learned and figured out what is true and what needs to be healed.
- knowing yourself is more difficult.
- being honest with yourself is harder.
- self-deception, repressive coping styles, re-imaging stories are all rabbit holes we can fall into.
- it becomes harder to say, “that you don’t want to be the person I just was”, and even harder if we actually practice to never act that way again.
The beauty of acknowledging personal integrity is that it is also a way of allowing yourself to acknowledge your imperfections with less and less judgment.
It is the only way to own your hard-earned self-esteem and become more fully who you need to be.
We need to remember that this is a PRACTICE. As we aspire to be honest, reliable, and trustworthy and live up to our values more and more, we increase our self-esteem. As part of the process, we invariably run into situations where it becomes difficult to practice our values and we occasionally fail. When you become frustrated with yourself and you’re not doing what you would like to be doing or something isn’t working out the way you thought it would, you have a choice to make.
You always have three different options:
- Go down the road of blaming and shaming yourself which results in feeling like there’s something fundamentally wrong with you.
- Blame others which results in getting angry and not being able to see your choices.
- You can open yourself up to looking at the situation as multifaceted. There are many ways to look at a situation and interpret what’s happened. You might find a different reason than you thought and that can lead to thinking about problems in new ways. You can look at where you’re responsible and where you’re not and what you need to do to improve the situation.
Option 3 gives you an opportunity to grow. It gives you the space to see a situation from multiple viewpoints and perhaps come up with a creative solution.
What do we do then?
- We own the fact that we did what we did without beating ourselves up (self-acceptance).
- We seek to understand why we did what we did (with self-compassion).
- If others are involved, we acknowledge to the other person the harm we have done.
- Take action to make amends for the harm we have done.
- Firmly commit to behaving differently in the future.
Without all these steps, we continue to feel guilty over some wrong behavior, even though it may have happened years ago.
In practicing personal integrity, we raise our self-esteem (see how integrity and self-esteem go hand in hand?). We may not be able to do it perfectly, but that’s okay. If we set our intention, do the best we can and strive to improve, we increase our self-respect. In the process, we might realize that some of the values we held no longer serve us or are not as important as we previously believed.
What are your most important values? (being honest, never promising unless you are certain you can do something, etc)
Give yourself 5 minutes every day to answer the questions:
Are my goals, attitude, and actions in alignment with my personal integrity? How might this affect my self-esteem?
Where are the places I need to re-adjust and step more fully into whom I’m meant to be?