Lauren Josephine
5 min readDec 3, 2019

--

The Lesser Known Definition of Integrity That’s the Secret to Happiness

Integrity: /inˈteɡrədē/ noun — the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.

This is the definition of integrity that most people are familiar with. But there’s a second, lesser known definition that I’ve found to be actually much more critical to personal happiness:

Integrity: /inˈteɡrədē/ noun — the state of being whole and undivided.

Yes I know, it’s not obvious at first how this relates to happiness. And if you’re like me, you’ve probably at many points in your life, glazed over the whole idea of integrity as a trite concept overused by annoying do-gooders. Yeah yeah, moral goodness and all that, I get it. I distinctly remember balking at this concept when I was a kid.

“Integrity is about what you do when no one is watching”, my mom explained to me one day outside Zanotto’s, the local grocery store. I was feeling petulant, having had to wait around while she made us go back to the cash register to pay for an expensive item that the cashier had inadvertently not charged us for.

“But why would you care about that mom? If no one is watching then you can do whatever you want!”

I couldn’t quite wrap my 12-year-old brain around why in the world I should care about what I was doing when I was alone. Who was really keeping score? The Karma Police? God? Maybe, but I didn’t buy into any of that judgmental, all-seeing-being stuff.

What I didn’t realize then, was that there was a lot of wisdom wrapped into this concept of being the same person, regardless of if you were alone or around others. It’s related to having a moral compass yes, but more-so it’s about being congruent in your own thoughts, feelings, and actions.

I came to realize how important congruency is to happiness by spending a lot of time in my 20’s being wildly (but unknowingly) incongruent. I would say yes to things I hated because I thought I should like them. I would drink when I promised myself I wouldn’t that weekend. I would let that guy back into my life after telling myself this time was the last time! I mistook being busy for being happy and would pack my schedule to the brim when really, I knew I needed to learn how to be alone.

None of these behaviors on their own were especially life-ruining, so it took many years living this way for me to notice an intangible sense of un-ease creeping into my consciousness. That’s the insidious part about acting incongruent — it’s not a big deal until it becomes a habit. And once it’s a habit, your trust in yourself slowly begins to erode. You start to realize that many of your feelings, thoughts, and actions are all a jumbled mess of misalignment. As the famous Tom Waits quote says, “the way you do anything is the way you do everything”. You start to notice that your bullshit is permeating a lot more of your life than you realized.

Maybe you keep all your commitments to your boss but none to yourself. Maybe you exercise a lot but you neglect your mental health. Maybe you keep saying yes when you really want to say no. Maybe you are selectively dependable, only showing up to your commitments when you feel like it. Maybe you think you have good boundaries except for that one person that you always make exceptions for. Maybe you keep telling yourself you need to be single but then you get lonely and open up a dating app. Whatever your flavor of incongruence is, it’s slowly eating away at your sense of well-being. Because if you can’t trust yourself, if you don’t have a true north to come back to inside, how do you cultivate stability? How can you be consistently happy if you feel like life is just a haphazard ocean, and there is no congruent self within to wisely navigate?

The good news is, it’s relatively simple to start developing this congruent self. All it takes is noticing where your thoughts, feelings, and actions are diverging and then actively choosing to close the gap(s). For example, for me, I noticed that my FOMO-induced full schedule of social events, dating, and traveling was actually stressing me the hell out. I wasn’t enjoying half the commitments I’d show up to. So I stopped. I stopped committing to everything for a while until I could understand what I actually wanted, versus what I thought I wanted. Now when I commit to anything — events, relationships, hobbies, even my job — it’s because I actually feel excited about it. And keeping those commitments is easy, because I truly want to! Feelings, thoughts, and actions in alignment. Whole and undivided.

It’s not about being perfect, but rather about learning how to unite and respect all parts of yourself. Sometimes your extrovert side will steamroll your introvert side. Sometimes your lonely side will win out over your independent side. Sometimes your achieving side will schedule over the side of you that needs to rest. That’s okay, you are human and these dualities are all invitations to develop your congruent self so that you are living in integrity. Opportunities to observe if there are sides of yourself that you’re giving too much credence to, and sides that you’re not heeding enough.

There is a unique satisfaction that comes with developing this congruent self. A slow building of self-worth that gets higher and higher as you lay the bricks of self-consistency. A budding sense of happiness that comes from the inner knowing that you’re finally doing it! You’re walking your talk! You’re becoming the person you want to be.

I invite you to try embodying the lesser known definition of integrity, for even just a week. Live whole and undivided. Listen to your inner guidance and do what you say you’re going to do. Only commit to what is in alignment for you, and then keep those commitments no matter what. Learn from how you feel while you’re doing what you committed to, and then adjust for next time. You may be surprised at just how good integrity makes you feel.

--

--

Lauren Josephine

I write about dating, relationships, breakups, & emotions. NEW BOOK Looking for Something Serious out NOW! Instagram @lookingforsomethingserious for the latest