The Key To Living A Good Life

The concept of happiness has been vehemently explored and researched in attempt to provide humans with answers to their desperate pursuits to live happy, meaningful, or fulfilled lives. Often, we’re encouraged to find meaning or a sense of purpose in our careers and in our relationships, both of which do significantly contribute to feelings of happiness and overall well-being. However, even if we have accomplished or gained beyond what we have desired, many of us will still struggle to find a sense of contentment in our lives.

I personally struggled with this for a long time. To my core, I believe that I have everything I will ever need in this life time, and even still, there are times that my entire being is hijacked by a feeling of profound emptiness. This experience used to leave me feeling deeply confused and overwhelmed with helplessness about what needed to be fixed to release me from this feeling.  After many years of immersing myself in self-development rhetoric, engaging in daily self-reflection, and talking openly about my experiences with my closest friends, I eventually understood that my struggle was because I was looking for the world to make me feel whole; for success, validation, and approval from others to somehow fulfill me.  

As a natural caregiver and people pleaser, I was constantly trying to take care of, or manage other people’s expectations and feelings by doing whatever they asked of me (or at least trying to and later failing to meet their requests –and letting many people down in the process— because I had taken too much onto my plate). In trying to win the affection of others, I came to believe that self-sacrifice was the way to people’s hearts, so much to the point that I actually identified as being a “chameleon” and felt proud to say I could be anything people wanted me to be. While chameleons are fascinating creatures, there is nothing fascinating about changing yourself to meet the often-unrealistic expectations of those around you. I didn’t respect or value myself, which only led to repeated experiences of feeling like I was everyone’s door mat. It is an insanely lonely path; having no clue who you are anymore or feeling like people won’t approve if you show up exactly as you are. And this strategy does not win you solid, healthy, meaningful friendships. If anything, not having a keen sense of who you are and what you bring to a relationship has the capacity to destroy potentially wonderful connections. 


If you google “integrity,” you will see two dictionary definitions:

  1. The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles, and;

 2.The state of being whole and undivided. 

Before you panic that what is to come is going to be some moralistic judgment about your conduct, this is not the direction I am taking as I offer insight into my learning. When I use the term “integrity”, I am speaking about alignment with your own subjective standards and the degree to which you can live by them. 

A lack of integrity simply suggests inconsistencies in what you think, say, and do. When you’re inconsistent, you disempower yourself, and then all kinds of symptoms or challenges can occur. When you act in ways that challenge your values or you fail to take action that you know you need to be taking, then it is impossible to feel a sense of wholeness or wellbeing. 

A simple example of this is to think about the feeling you get when you feel pressure to do something that you do not want to do. Maybe because you don’t want to let someone down or for fear that you will be criticized or punished if you do not do it. So, we capitulate. We give in to others because in the moment it feels like the easiest thing to do, it is the path of least resistance. Those feelings of resentment, irritation, pressure, discomfort, unease, etc. that begin to surface are all present simply because ‘what you want’ and ‘what you feel you must do’, are not aligned. Those emotions only build in intensity and will bear more weight on your shoulders with more complex and challenging life circumstances.

When you’re out of alignment with yourself, it can feel like you have the whole world right in front of you, literally everything you have ever wanted, but it is out of reach; you cannot feel it or experience the joy you know it has to offer.  

Step into Integrity

This is the hard part. This requires us to get brutally honest with ourselves, to connect with our hearts, and to take action that will certainly be uncomfortable at times. But I can promise you that the return on this investment in yourself will be worth every painful or uncomfortable moment you endure along the way. Remember to be gentle with yourself. These things will not change overnight.  

1.  Feel your Feelings 

Getting in touch with emotion is the foundation for alignment. Emotions are often communicating something important to us and their wisdom can provide us with valuable information about our boundaries and the things that are important to us. This insight is what will guide stepping back into integrity because you will be able to feel when things are “off”.  Suppressing or attempting to alter emotion is an instant derail from yourself. 

Feeling your feelings does not mean that if you’re upset in a board meeting, you allow yourself to have a breakdown in the middle of it. Feeling your feelings is a mindful and patient practice. It means taking note about how upset you are in the board meeting and then when the time is appropriate, you sit with, process, and feel everything that is coming up for you. –Why am I so mad? Do I feel offended? Were boundaries of mine crossed? Have I ever communicated those limits? Maybe get a piece of paper and write in an uncensored and honest way about everything that comes up for you – what emotions are you really feeling? Is it anger? Or do you feel rejected? Do you feel not good enough?

Feeling our feelings and being reflective about them is one of the most powerful ways to master your life. This empowers you to refrain from being reactive and to make tough decisions to avoid drama, even if that means being lonely or in a place of pain.  This process provides you with insight into your needs, wants, and limits, which enables you to be able to clearly communicate these things with others.

2. Take Responsibility 

This is not easy. This requires you to get comfortable with the fact that you will upset or disappoint people throughout your life time, and owning it is the only way to set yourself free from the burdens of guilt and shame for your actions. When you take ownership of your actions, you not only empower yourself, but you also create opportunities for others to share how they feel, to respectfully work through the issue, and to create trust with others that future challenges can be dealt with in a healthy manner.

If you lie or avoid taking responsibility, no one will ever trust you, and you will never feel good about who you are (even if you try to convince yourself otherwise – there is no joy in living this way).
Please note that taking responsibility is not about assuming blame, and most certainly should not be about giving in to appease others (e.g. you’re right, this is my fault). No, taking responsibility is about ownership of your actions and the consequences.

There may be times in your life where it is extremely painful to take ownership for your mistakes and you will have to live with the impact of your actions on others. Some of your healing then will involve acceptance that you may never receive forgiveness from others and they have every right withhold that from you. This does not mean you have to continue to internalize the judgement, criticism, and shame that others may try to cast upon you. All you can do is take responsibly, practice self-compassion, work toward self-forgiveness, and make efforts to be a better person in the future. Remember that we all make mistakes. Mistakes are essential to personal growth and expanding our awareness. While it may feel like “you’ve ruined everything” in the moment, people do recover from their mistakes every day.

3. Speak Your Truth 

Sometimes you will have to make tough decisions to communicate your feelings, knowing that it may inconvenience or hurt someone else. Often, we want to skirt around issues to prevent an unwanted reaction or to protect the well-being of the person(s) on the receiving end. Speaking your truth, does not mean that you are being malicious or that you intentionally want to hurt people, it simply means that you are stepping back into alignment with yourself and communicating honestly so that you can make decisions that feel good for you, rather than for the purpose of placating the feelings of others.

Speaking from our hearts is extremely hard because it forces us to be vulnerable. But I have learned that people are craving more depth in their relationships, and the only way to achieve this is to begin to bring some of our walls down and to feel proud to show up in this world as we are. Everything you feel is valid and you deserve to have a voice. If speaking your truth to others feels very overwhelming, I would encourage you to start first with being honest with yourself and validating your own needs, wants, and emotions. As you get more comfortable with this, practice communicating this with people who you can trust. If you speak with kindness and if you take ownership of how you’re feeling (rather than blaming others), your truth will be received much more openly by others. (Please note though, there might still be people who are not aware enough to hold that space for you. This is not about you).

Speaking your truth is about asking for what you want and need, when you want and need it. For example, if you’re feeling dismissed by your partner and you’re wanting to feel closer to them, it is most beneficial to explain this to your partner in the moment and to ask for you what you need. If you let resentment or upset feelings fester over time, you are likely to react to something unrelated later, which only causes more confusion and pain in a partnership. One thing to remind yourself is that we all have a version of our own truth, so when you’re communicating with others, this is not about trying to convince someone of your beliefs or perspective. In honouring and expressing your own truth, you may want to consider how you honour others who speak their truth as well.

4. Be Impeccable with Your Word 

Keeping your word might be the simplest way to maintain alignment within yourself. Do not make promises or commitments that you cannot keep. I understand that many of us have a desire to be helpful and available to others, or perhaps some of us feel obliged to do so, but there is nothing more frustrating than someone who says one thing and does another.  I would encourage you to be very transparent with people about your commitment level to reduce any pressure you may feel and to mitigate the risk of disappointing others. It is okay to tell people that you want to be supportive, you want to be there, but you’re not sure if you can commit at this time. People are likely to be far more understanding of this than if you are to cancel last minute.

It feels amazing to hold yourself to this standard; to uphold and follow through with commitments you’ve made with yourself; to respect and value other people’s time and energy, as much as I’m sure you want others to respect yours. Living with integrity will only attract more of the same energy and value into your life, and this is the key to living a good life.  

Where to Begin

I want to point out that integrity is not about being selfish and disregarding of others, simply because you’re doing what is best for you. True joy comes from having a loving and caring heart for the people in your life and having awareness of the impact of our actions on others is vital to having meaningful relationships. Personal integrity is more about standing solidly within yourself and letting go of fear of rejection or the need to please others, which will often result in sacrificing parts of ourselves to gain acceptance.

If this is something that you want to begin practicing, here are some questions you may want to honestly ask yourself and maybe even asking yourself what actions you might need to take to get back into alignment with yourself.

What lies have I been telling myself? 
What challenges have I avoided dealing with? What emotions am I not acknowledging?
What do I need to take responsibility for and who do I need to apologize to? 
What do I need to communicate to someone that I have been avoiding? 
What agreements have I failed to keep? 

Thank you so much for reading and I hope this offers you some value as you move forward in your own process of development and growth. 
Please feel free to share your thoughts, comments, or any feedback you might have below!

With love,