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Getting Honest with Ourselves When No One is Watching

quote, the privilege of being who you are

On Tuesday, I shared my interview with Sharon Jones, author of the self-reflective journal Burn After Writing. The premise of this journal is to get honest with ourselves. Really honest. Which we might not do that often.

As Jones writes in the introduction, “As adults we learn to focus on representing ourselves in a manner pleasing to others.” This means that we censor ourselves. When we know that others are watching we adjust ourselves — even if just a bit. We do this at work, on social media, maybe even at home. It’s human nature to want to belong, to want to be liked and to be loved.

So it’s important to regularly get quiet, close our eyes, shush all the other voices and focus on our own voice. It’s important have a kind of dialogue with ourselves. You can start the conversation with these prompts from Burn After Writing:

Burn After Writing cover

  • Something I’ve wished for repeatedly …
  • The biggest hole in my heart was left by …
  • I am …. I’m not …
  • I adore …. I detest …
  • I like … I don’t like …
  • I need … I want …
  • I’m afraid of … I’m not afraid to …
  • I want more … I want less …
  • Create your own definitions for the following: Regret is … Success is … Happiness is … Faith is … Peace is … Religion is …
  • Capture everything you wanted to say using just one word for each (no pausing or criticizing): My job; my body; my sanctuary; my fear; my childhood; my passion; my kryptonite; my regret; my fantasy; my guilt; my greatest virtue; my vice.

(Learn more about the book at

Also, here are questions you can explore, as well. Pick one to play with, or go down the list. Return to the above prompts and below questions regularly. Because we change. Because we are, constantly, in motion.

  • Who am I when no one is watching?
  • Who is the real me?
  • Do I pretend to like (or dislike) certain things in public that I actually don’t?
  • Do I pretend in other ways in public?
  • What would I be afraid of other people finding out about me?
  • How do I show the real me on social media?
  • What don’t I show on social media?
  • When I get quiet and still, what thoughts arise?
  • What is sacred to me?
  • What thoughts keep coming back throughout the day or week?
  • What do I love about my life?
  • What bothers me about my life?
  • What would people be surprised to learn about me?
  • What would I create or do if no one were watching?
  • What do I think about but rarely say out loud? Why?

All of us naturally censor ourselves with others. That’s why it’s so important to get quiet and get honest. One helpful way to do that is to sit down and write. To answer questions like the above, or to simply start with: How am I feeling right now? What am I thinking right now?

Remember that getting to know yourself, like getting to know anyone else, is a process. Which we engage in our whole lives. Which we forget is a privilege.

Getting Honest with Ourselves When No One is Watching

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2015). Getting Honest with Ourselves When No One is Watching. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 Aug 2015
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