Always read the alumni magazine. Yours. Your parents’. The one left in the dentist office waiting room. I even read a neighbor’s that was mistakenly delivered to our mailbox before passing it along.
If you want a sneak peek at upcoming trends, treat alumni magazines with the respect they deserve. It makes sense: smart people doing things interesting enough to spark the attention of seen-it-all university administrators are bound to eventually catch on.
Big ideas are often nestled before notes for the class of ’37, whose members still embrace the tenets of YOLO.
My dad handed off his fall issue of Wharton’s magazine to me over the holidays, because it included an essay about yoga. But, being me, I read the whole thing. And that’s how I came across Henna Inam’s essay, ‘The Importance of Being Authentic.’
It shows how honesty with yourself leads to personal and professional wellbeing. An early paragraph in particular caught my attention, about the polygraph test (that reveals when people are lying):
“How does it know? Lying causes stress in the body…when you lie, the detector shows significant changes in physiological responses: a faster heart rate, higher blood pressure, increased perspiration. Telling a lie creates stress in the body, and research shows that continuous stress can contribute to the development of major illnesses…”
So far, so good.
Here’s what got me: “I suspect that hiding the truth about ourselves or suppressing parts of who we are creates similar stresses in our bodies. You might say we’re simply wired to tell the truth.”
Lies stress you out, regardless of their audience: yourself, loved ones, the IRS. I never saw it that way, but it makes sense.
We all know we need to limit stress but we rarely consider ourselves its producers. Stress is all imported, right? From the TV, the husband, the neighbors.
But Inam sets us straight: stress is local. The stories/lies we nurture within and for ourselves undermine us. As we obsess over external provocations, we ignore our role in the problem.
Part of the issue is those stories we tell —no time, no money, no point—don’t appear false. We can justify them. Plus, they can seem unassuming—This is who I am. For example, check out the following passage from Peter Swanson’s thriller, The Kind Worth Killing.
‘“Have you always been this competitive?”
He frowned at me. “I don’t think I’m that competitive. You should see my brother.”
At the time, I chalked Eric’s denial up to a lack of self-knowledge, but now I saw it as part of his fraudulent nature. He genuinely did not want people to know about his driving desire to win at all costs. It gave away too much of himself. And it gave away a part of himself that was unchangeable.”’
Ok, so “fraudulent nature” is a bit much for this context. But the fact remains—lies inevitably ripple outward and multiply as you justify them to yourself and others. How exhausting.
The question becomes, would you pass a polygraph with yourself?
To do so, you must build awareness of your thoughts, your feelings and the actions they inspire. Ask, Do I really believe this? Is that idea completely accurate? How do I know? Why is it true? Like a benevolent echo, question your assumptions and uncover the truth. Your heart rate will thank you.
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