“You cannot look at someone’s exterior and know what’s going on inside.”

This quote from the book The Journey Called YOU is a very profound statement because what it means is that looks can be very deceiving; someone who seems to have it all together may in fact be living a life of lies.

Many people live with secrets: A mountain of credit card debt. Spouses who are addicts, alcoholics, or gamblers. Others who have affairs. The workaholic or timid person who makes excuses to avoid being a parent. Children who are sexually promiscuous or using drugs or alcohol. Incest. Physical or verbal abuse – screaming and yelling at others. Men addicted to pornography and the wives who deal with it or deny it.

Secrets could be more subtle such as no longer having sex in your marriage but having a “convenience” relationship with your spouse. Pretending to be more successful than you are. Worried that you are not good enough. Or living in ways that are dishonest such as cheating on your taxes. Whatever it is, you know it’s not good for you, you feel uncomfortable, but it’s “easier” to do nothing rather than face it and accept responsibility for changing it.

Any secret you live with that you would be horrified if the world found out is keeping you stressed and is hurting you. Your secrets keep you sick. They don’t have to be big and bad secrets; but by lying to yourself and denying your pain, you live with the stress of being exposed and you waste energy by keeping it hidden. Secrets cause you to hide, to stay isolated, or live a life of pretense. In other words, you put on a happy face, go out into the world and pretend that everything is just fine. But inside, you are hurting and that pain can impact you physically; often it is when the physical pain occurs that you realize life is too short to put up with unhappiness and lies.

You Have Choices
There are no easy answers. Often, we make bad choices. It doesn’t make us bad people. But that doesn’t mean it has to continue or that you have to continue to put up with it. Today, you can announce that you want a new life. And today, you will need to learn to make new choices so you can begin to create that new life.

Can you imagine living without any secrets? Not that you would want everything in your life to be front page news, but if things in your life were exposed, it would be no big deal. Consider the peace that comes when living without fear of being found out. That is true freedom. And it is possible. But it requires a few key steps to achieve this kind of freedom and peace of mind. You can start living well right now but you must be willing to do the work. Most people look for an easy way out. There is no easy way; you must face whatever is there to face or live with the lies.

Here are 4 steps to a life of freedom:

1) Choose to live in integrity. Yes, integrity is a choice. This means, doing the right thing for you. Integrity is that fine line between what feels good to you and what feels bad. If you feel as though you will regret it, then it’s probably out of integrity for you. No one can tell you what is best for you. You have to decide this for yourself. Consider that what you are about to do or say will be plastered on the front page of every newspaper and online publication for the entire world to see. Would you be proud of your choice? Is this decision how you want to be known in the world? If yes, then go for it. And if not, then don’t.

Why is integrity first on this list? Because integrity must become your priority. You must believe that honoring yourself by doing what is right for you - what feels good for you – is more important than living a life that is fake and full of make-believe. Your life might look good but it doesn’t feel good.

“To have your life ‘look good’ but not ‘feel good’ is not living; it’s existing. That’s not success and in your heart, you know it. To not honor yourself, to choose not to do what you know is right for you, is a crime against yourself.”
~ Julie Fuimano, The Journey Called YOU

2) Identify your secrets. In what ways are you scared of being found out? Whatever your secrets are, you first must open up to the reality of them so that you can move beyond them and make new choices.

Awareness is crucial to identifying what needs changing. Start with areas in your life that don’t feel good. Where are you most unhappy or frustrated? What keeps you up at night? All of your fears and concerns, all of the areas where you feel like you must pretend or hide, these are clues to your secrets.

3) Face the truth. Being willing to face whatever is there for you. This is hard. It will be hard to change your approach to life and it will be a challenge to accept responsibility for your past behavior. But nothing can be as hard and as self-defeating as living your life as a fraud. And guaranteed, you will grow from the process, you will become stronger, and you will create a better life because of the changes you make to live in truth.

4) Take positive actions to create positive change. Each day, you can make little choices that honor you. This can be difficult as you wrestle with questions about what you deserve. You fear change as well as what other people think and how they will react to your new choices. You doubt yourself and your choices.

It will take courage to make choices that are in your best interest, to be honest with yourself and others when you’ve been used to living differently. But with each choice you make to honor and respect yourself and others, you will learn to trust yourself again (or for the first time!) and others will learn to trust you too.

Anything new takes time to acclimate and get comfortable. Take baby steps. Each new choice to care for yourself brings you closer to success and to it becoming habit.

Giving up a life of secrets – giving up anything, any kind of change – means letting go of the story you’ve been living by for years. Expect to mourn the loss. You’ll need to script a new story to live by which will drive your future thoughts and actions. Take one step at a time and keep the vision of freedom and peacefulness alive as you pursue it.

"To be nobody-but-yourself - in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you somebody else - means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."
~ E. E. Cummings

Once you face your truth, choose to keep things open and honest. Living your life grounded in truth is easier and healthier in the long run. And if someone plasters YOU on the front page, it’s no big deal – you might even enjoy it! You are free you to simply be YOU.

Author's Bio: 

Does Change have to be so H.A.R.D.? Julie Donley, a psychiatric nurse and author of this essential book on change, was tired of life being SO hard and went in search of an easier way. What she found was quite intriguing: “Hard or easy, it’s how you think about it!” Want to learn more? Contact Julie@NurturingYourSuccess.com to arrange a free 30-minute coaching session to learn how you too can change a HARD challenge to something EASY. An addiction and change expert, Julie is named one of the top 100 thought leaders in her field. She has published hundreds of articles and is author of several works including Does Change have to be so H.A.R.D.? and The Journey Called YOU: A Roadmap to Self-Discovery and Acceptance. Visit www.NurturingYourSuccess.com to learn more about her work, sign up for her newsletter or arrange to have her speak at your next meeting or conference.