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The Cost of Integrity

Monday, July 26th, 2010

The events of the past few weeks, both personally and professionally have left me contemplating the true cost of Integrity. Let me start first by defining what integrity is – it is the true opposite of hypocrisy where you say one thing and do the other – Integrity means that your words and your actions are consistent, that you act on your morals and stand up for your beliefs.  Integrity is one of the personal virtues that I value over all else, both in myself and in those around me. I think this stems back from years of living with uncertainty, a lack of confidence in others and some serious breaches of trust – but those issues are for another blog, another day.

It has taken me a great many years of personal reflection and emotional battles to finally come to realize not only who I am as a person but my emotional and moral identity as well and after having been introduced to them, the struggle to form an acceptable relationship and finally learn to not only respect and accept those parts of me but to embrace and love them, has been a well fought battle and one that I don’t regret for a moment enduring. I have come to a place in my life where I love who I am, I know myself intimately, understand my values and have the confidence to express my opinions and beliefs to those around me without fear of them abandoning me or not wanting me around. I have learned that those people that really matter will accept me for who I am and while I never expect agreement, I do expect and demand respect for what I believe and who I am. Those that cannot or will not do that, have no place in my life.

This may sound like a harsh statement but when you look at it closely you realize that I am not saying that I expect everyone around me to agree with me or even like what I have to say, but if they can respect my ability to say it than we can co-exist. Those that turn against someone just for their opinion on a topic, are not people I choose to be around because they are only interested in people who think and act like them or who conform to their ideas of what a relationship should be. I prefer to surround myself with other people who value integrity and have the confidence to say what they think, act on how they feel and know that the people who love them will respect them more for it than if they say one thing and do another – how could you ever trust someone who want talk to you directly but prefers to talk about you to others? I know I can’t.

I believe that you teach people how to treat you and if you are upfront and honest with them but don’t demand the same respect from them, then they will never extend that to you and the relationship will forever be strained and tainted. It’s like complaining for 20 years that your husband is always late for dinner and your food is cold but yet refusing to NOT make dinner unless he is on time. When your actions are inconsistent with your words, you set yourself up for a lifetime of negativity.  

Beyond personal relationships though, Integrity in business is also a subject very close to my heart. Just recently I chose to close my retail store. Now many many MANY people have commented (most of course hid behind anonymous Internet posts to do so because they don’t have the integrity to stand behind their words), they have commented on the fact that perhaps my ‘attitude’ contributed to the lack of retail business in my store. Many have said that if I would stay out of local politics, if I would stop upsetting people over community and local issues, that my business would have done better. Many have also said that if only I would sell ‘weight-loss products’ instead of healthy food and exercise, the store would have fared better.

I have listened to all of these comments with both ears and to both suggestions I have to say…  you are probably right. No, you are actually DEFINITELY RIGHT! Surprise!!!  Of course I realize that if I were to sit back and watch events without comment, without voicing my opinion, without getting involved and putting my name behind my statements, I would have more friends and more business. Perhaps if I chose to do like so many others and complain only in the coffee shops and never take action, I would have better business and perhaps if I chose to promote the unhealthy and useless weight loss supplements, pills, fads and equipment that promises fast and easy results, exploiting people who want to lose weight without work, I would have better business.

Yes it is true – if I did all of that I would have more people in my life. I would be surrounded with ‘friends’ and family and my business would thrive. I know that. The only difference between me and the many others who are successful in their minds by doing things that way is that I absolutely flatly refuse. I chose NOT to do those things that would guarantee my business financial success because well… no amount of money can buy my integrity back.

I would have many more peope in my life, agreeable and happy conversations, never a harsh word, hurt feeling or heated debate or discussion. Never any demands, never any admonishments. But to me – those relationships just aren’t worth the time – who wants to be surrounded by yes-men and people that you know don’t care about the real you enough to respect your true self? Who wants to be surrounded by people who will say one thing to your face and another behind your back? Who wants to be surrounded by hypocrites who will say whatever is needed to keep the peace and avoid conflict, sacrificing honesty in the process? Not Me.

Do I like money? Absolutely. Am I upset at the loss of my retail store? Of Course. Am I willing to abuse the trust people have placed in me as a professional or take advantage of people’s desperation in order to make a few dollars? NEVER. I would rather wait tables for a living – the way I did when I worked to put myself through school and raise my son on my own. I don’t need any amount of money badly enough to sacrifice who I am and everything I believe in. There is always more money – and no amount of it can purchase dignity.

yes, there are high costs to doing what you feel is the right thing, for standing up against the crowd and demanding to be accepted for who you truly are, not just the good parts. I have lost relationships, a marriage and family over refusing to be in the company of people who treat me without respect. Never have I asked to be worshipped, but never will I accept being dismissed or belittled and those that cannot or will not accept that part of being in my life, just have no place in it. I have lost business, I have lost a great deal of money because I choose not to do what so many others have done and sell out for profit. yes, the costs of Integrity can be high but the rewards….

Ah the rewards! What have I gained after all of these losses? What do I know to be true in my heart? Well after many years of suffering with no confidence, with a constant fear of people leaving me if I didn’t accept whatever treatment they were willing to give and with not actually knowing myself who I really was as a person, I can now honestly say… I don’t care.  I am who I am. I am loud, opinionated and emotional. I get passionate over issues and will stand up and fight for what I believe in even if I am the only one who does. If you ask me what I think or feel, I will tell you and you may not always like it. If you hurt or offend me, I will tell you. If I say something behind your back you can bet your paycheck I will also say it to your face. And I have very little use or patience for those that will not do the same. I can be extremely judgemental – a personality flaw I constantly battle and hold everyone to very high standards because I believe they should always want and strive for the best for themselves and excuses don’t have any place in my life. I can still be quite sensitive as well which sucks but most people are quite surprised that I am not as much of a hard-ass as I seem lol. But most of all I am generous to a fault and will always do whatever I can to help those that I see helping themselves but will never offer sympathy or charity to those that sit with their lips and hands out. Pity is not in my repertoire.

Yes, the costs of Integrity can be very high but the reward of being able to walk anywhere I go with my head held high, knowing that I have nothing to hide and no secrets or lies to fear being uncovered, that I can sleep at night knowing that I have lived that day to the best of my ability and don’t need to fear the morning. The relationships that I have in my life are strong and true and deep, I can trust the people I am with, I can be my honest and open self without fear or worry and I know that I can always count on them to be there for me with open arms and acceptance oof the real me. Those rewards are the ones that are far more valuable than any financial or social gain. I am who I am and conceit be damned, I love me!

Posted in General, Mental Health, Weight Loss, Wellness Store | 35 Comments »