#3 – How to Express Uncomfortable Truths

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#3 - How to Express Uncomfortable Truths

I will never forget when my beautiful girlfriend Emilia taught me the concept of The Truth Dial. She was trying to help me become a more impactful leader and gave me hard feedback.

She said, “Alan, you’ve been conditioned to suppress your truth to protect others from their insecurities, but you can’t lead or help others grow without the courage to express uncomfortable things.”

Since then, I have realized I am not alone. After thousands of coaching sessions with people all over the world, I know this is not just a problem I have, but something with which everyone struggles.

Whether it is telling your child Santa isn’t real, or letting your spouse know you disagree with their family’s religious beliefs, expressing uncomfortable truths is extremely challenging.

In Figure 1 above, you will see what I refer to as The Truth Dial, and it is a gauge of how expressed you are. It is similar to a light dimmer that goes from zero to 10. Zero represents full suppression and 10 represents full expression. The more you dial up your expression, the brighter you will become. This is a great analogy for anyone living outside of their truth. Remember that time you wanted to express something uncomfortable to your boss but didn’t? Or that time you wanted to tell your mom how strongly you disagreed but instead you held it inside? That is the opposite of self-expression; that is actually self-suppression, and it is far more common than you think.

You see, this happens constantly. We walk around suppressing our truth around others we are afraid to offend, because we are afraid they will not like us or we will not fit in. We are afraid they will judge us harshly, make fun of us, or gossip behind our backs. So, instead of trusting our truth and risking vulnerability, we suppress it and tell ourselves a story that we are protecting them. We say, “it’s just not worth it” or “they wouldn’t understand anyway” instead of putting ourselves out there.

The simple truth is, we are scared. We do not like confrontation because we have been so hurt in the past, and instead of being courageous and stepping into the person we aspire to be, we shell up and dim our own light. Instead of living in the truth even when it is challenging, we slowly shrink ourselves to stay small and safe. After all, a dim light does not challenge anyone or anything, and that is exactly where we are most comfortable.

Years ago, I came up with a specific phrase to help me remember the dangers of suppressing my truth: “The suppression of self-expression leads to depression.” It means that when we are not fully expressing ourselves, we become deeply unfulfilled, and if we are not careful, this can catalyze a dangerous downward spiral. Often we start seeking unhealthy behaviors like over-eating, drugs, or alcohol to compensate, which dims our light even more. As we shrink further into darkness, we unconsciously start surrounding ourselves with others who are doing the same.

If we remain on this downward trajectory for too long, anyone we come across who is living in their truth, becomes too bright for us. Think of it as leaving a dark theater after a long movie and stepping back into the sunlight. It can feel blinding and overwhelming. Similarly, if you dim your light for too long and get used to avoiding hard truths and constructive feedback, your ability to handle that will atrophy. You may get to a point where you cannot handle much truth, if any, and you might become the person others have to tiptoe around.

Figure 2 – Unfulfilled Alan

Figure 2 is a depiction of my personal downward spiral. While I did not fully understand this at the time, I was avoiding all of my own truth. Deep down, I knew I was not maximizing my potential or living my best life, and I avoided allowing that truth to surface. Instead, I kept pushing it down and surrounding myself with all of the wrong persons, places, things, and ideas in an effort to numb my self-disappointment.

I will never forget this one specific memory. I was in the theater watching the new Superman movie with a friend. We had gotten dinner earlier that evening and I had been drinking. Instead of just having a few drinks with dinner, I decided to spike my huge, theater-sized, Mountain Dew with Captain Morgan. I knew I was miserable deep down, but it took one specific trigger for all of my truth to surface.

During the movie, there is a scene where Superman gets out of a lake shirtless (Figure 3 below). After seeing his physique, the feedback was too much and I had to leave the theater. I went to the bathroom by myself and started to cry. I looked in the mirror and realized the man staring back at me was not who I aspired to be anymore. Instead of seeing a bright, confident, young man capable of great things, I saw a frail, cowardly, and deeply unfulfilled kid living outside of his truth. I cried alone for quite some time that day and that experience changed my life’s trajectory forever.

Figure 3 – Superman Scene

Not long after that evening in the theater, I got into a car accident that made me question everything even more. This was another massive amount of truth delivered to me all at once, and I once again faced how much I was not living up to my true potential. The car accident is a long story for another blog, but to provide some context, my father passed away in a car accident when he was 28. I was 26 at the time of my car accident, and fortunately, I got the second chance to turn my life around that he never did.

After the accident, I embarked upon a personal development spree. You know those movie montages where you see a character finally getting their life together? It felt a lot like that, but instead of a 10-minute scene, it was a several-year process.

I created a vision board, started working out again, and read every personal development book I could get my hands on. Instead of shrinking in fear of offending others, I started facing my fears head on and expressing my truth. I started to behave boldly and with courage, and I even started tracking my habits in little black notebooks every day. I started putting myself out there again and chasing my dreams. I quit my full-time job and became a fitness model, fitness competitor, and fitness coach. I performed in three fitness competitions over the course of three years, started my own business, created a personal brand, and started a podcast. Instead of shrinking when others were insecure around me, I stayed bright like the North Star, to be a bright light who inspired and guided others.

Figure 4 – Fulfilled Alan

I need to make something clear – the work I put in was not all great. The transition into this new version of myself came with a lot of growing pains. It was a lot of hard work and most of my friends did not like the new me. Some were very explicit and even harsh to me about it. My past colleagues and family were not always supportive either. In hindsight, the hard truth is that very few people really believed in me or what I was doing. There were a lot of lonely nights and days where I questioned myself and my journey. Fortunately, I stuck with it and persevered. I stayed focused and in alignment with my truth and my calling. Why? It was not because I am special or extra courageous, but because I knew for certain the alternative was a life I was unwilling to live any longer.

It has been over eight years since that day in the theater and I can still remember exactly what it was like to feel regretful and helpless in that moment. Perhaps that is how you are feeling right now. If it is, my hope is that you decide to start dialing up your truth like I did.

Have you ever heard the incredible quote by Marianne Williamson?

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?”

I do believe this to be true, and just like me, I believe you are capable of far more than you may be currently accomplishing. I know you are scared. I was too. I still am, honestly. Whether it’s coaching, speaking, training, podcasting, or even writing this blog, I am putting myself out there every day. My hope, again, is that this blog gives you the courage to start doing the same.

So, where is your truth dial right now on a scale of zero to 10? Are you ready to start dialing it up? While I cannot promise it won’t be hard or scary, I can promise it will be worth it. The alternative is just too great of a price to pay.

Lastly, before I leave you to contemplate this further, I want to share what I end all of my speeches with:
I do not wish for you to have an easy life, but a deeply meaningful one. I do not wish for you to take the common path, but the challenging and far more rewarding one, and I do not wish for you to do what makes you happy, but rather, to do what makes you great. Because what makes you great will make you happy.”

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I’ll never forget when my beautiful girlfriend Emilia taught me the concept of The Truth Dial. She was trying to help me become a more impactful leader, and she gave me hard feedback I’ll never forget. She said, “Alan, you’ve been conditioned to suppress your truth to protect others from their insecurities, but you can’t lead or help others grow without the courage to express uncomfortable things.”