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By Claudette Rowley

"What's terrible is to pretend that the second-rate is first-rate,
that you don't need love when you do, or that you like your work
when you know quite well you're capable of better." --Doris Lessing

My dictionary's definition of integrity: "Adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty." My own simpler, though less elegant, definition of integrity is doing the right thing when the right thing is hard to do. Sometimes the most challenging integrity to honor is the integrity to which there is no witness - the kind in which the only person you're accountable to is yourself.

If asked, most of us would say we are individuals of integrity. Yet the business of daily life can crack our integrity, leaving fissures of unacknowledged desires and pools of choices made for approval rather than authenticity. Bit by bit, day by day, we lower our standards and settle for less, telling ourselves that "It's no big deal."

A client recounted this story: "I want to get back in shape and just hired a personal trainer. I showed up for the first session holding a cup of coffee." Not the mark of someone ready for a workout. This client recognized that showing up to exercise with a cup of coffee in hand screamed her commitment level to the world: zilch.

Part and parcel of integrity is the ability to have compassion for ourselves, and the awareness that we only deceive ourselves when we fear the action honesty would require. At some level, we know that if we clean up a lack of integrity in one area of life, we'll need to apply the broom to more and more areas. This thought can range from mildly daunting to absolutely terrifying. Still, it's a task worth examining. Consider these clues that your actions may out of alignment with your integrity. You:

  • Tell yourself one thing - but do another. Notice when your actions speak louder than words.
  • Hear yourself saying "yes" when you really want to say "NO!"
  • Tell yourself you have no choice. Notice when you fail to take responsibility for your choices and decisions. Also notice when you try to take too much responsibility for your choices and decisions.
  • Pretend that second rate is first rate?
  • Put yourself last. Be aware of how you're treating yourself. Do you treat yourself well? What do you say about yourself?
  • Frequently choose approval over authenticity

Over time, all the "yes's" that were really "no's" add up and drain us of valuable energy and self-worth. At the same time, it's easy to see why we choose approval over authenticity or tell ourselves one thing and do another. Acting with integrity requires courage, sticking to your guns or saying what no one wants to hear. You may be forced to uphold a boundary or stretch in new ways.

Refusing to settle for less can be exhilarating; there's a clear-headedness and crispness that accompanies setting boundaries and standing your ground. You stand up straighter. You hold your head higher. You ooze that magnetic self confidence that attracts others to you.

So be honest with yourself. Where are you out of integrity? Have years of compromising your ideals for other people's desires whittled you down? It's never too late to turn the tide. Start today by having a good ole' fashioned "come to Jesus" conversation with yourself. And then take action!

© Copyright © 2006 Claudette Rowley
Claudette Rowley, coach and author, helps professionals identify and pursue their true purpose and calling in life. Learn more at Claudette

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