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Integrity, as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, has three distinct qualities:

1) firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values: INCORRUPTIBILITY
2) an unimpaired condition: SOUNDNESS
3) the quality of state of being complete or undivided : COMPLETENESS

Although integrity can be defined in many ways, I believe saying what you mean and meaning what you say lies at its core. So, why is it critical to embody this little word called integrity?

I will share my story. I am the daughter of immigrants with little more than honesty, determination and commitment as the demonstration of integrity. Thus, integrity was the one true value by which I thought I was living, but in actuality, it wasn’t.

I was under the influence of everyone but me. I derailed. I wanted to be in an artistic space but succumbed to the traditional expectations of Asian parents, of becoming a doctor or a lawyer. Quite frankly, I failed miserably at both and, with practicality still at the helm, I found myself adrift in the world of finance.

Here I stayed for a good chunk of my career, chasing what I thought would provide me with happiness and success. And like those before me who wanted more from life, I became disillusioned by the bureaucracy and the perceived notion of job satisfaction and job security by being in said “good company.” (pun intended)

It didn’t end there. This behavior lent itself to various types of relationships. I ignored myself in order to gain love and affection. In my heart of hearts, I knew I wanted more, but in reality I wasn’t honoring it. I truly didn’t even know how to and lacked the courage even when I did.

A tipping point finally arrived. Call it maturity. Call it sick and tired of being sick and tired. Call it “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I simply had enough of treating myself this way. I was out of integrity!

It was at this point that I sought the help of experts, both in person and through books. I started consistently meditating and this helped loosen the identity that stifled my growth. I started listening to me and started connecting to courage. I started steering clear of unhealthy relationships. I walked away from an established profession and into the unknown.

Sure, it was hard. It was scary. I had to challenge each and every perception, but I crawled out from underneath the pile of hopelessness and despair. At the crossroads of valuing and being true to me, I was met with freedom and meaning in my life.

I still have much to learn and strengthen within me. There is no perfect formula, but at least now I am better able to embrace the good, the bad, the ugly, the extraordinary and the ordinary.

Everything comes full circle when the qualities of incorruptibility, soundness and completeness are present. This is why embodying integrity is at the heart of true transformation and lasting fulfillment.

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Jessica Ly is an author, life coach, meditative breathing teacher, and devout poet. She graduated from the University of Southern California with a B.S. in Exercise Science. She values experiential and cognitive learning found in the integration of physiological, spiritual, and mental awareness and teaches it through a set of practices she calls Meditative Breathing for Alignment. She teaches at Common Ground Spiritual Wellness Center, the Marine Corps, the Wounded Warrior Battalion West, along with various other organizations. She also blogs for the Huffington Post and Transcendental Meditation sites. Jessica has taken her own personal journey to meditate with Buddhist monks in the Himalayas and loves traveling to enrich her own connection to communities around the world. She believes it is not so much about gaining knowledge, but living it that leads to infinite peace and joy-and the empowerment of leadership and great change.

For more information, please visit

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. I spent most of my life trying to please others but in the process lost myself, my true identity. How could any one like me for I never showed others who I truly was. This I kept hidden, masked by exaggeration and false faces. No wonder I became so very ill with painful, chronic, debilitating fibromyalgia. I did what I thought others wanted me to do, living a lie, doing what I though was “right” not out of passion or love but out of some sense of earning credits, perhaps for an eternal reward. In spite of numerous doctors, countless, prescriptions and treatments, I just kept getting sicker. Unable to work, look after my home of myself, barely able to move, contemplating living out what I was certain would be my final days, drugged out of my mind but still in pain, I found Joy of Healing. This beautiful wellness work helped met to discover and resolve the numerous unresolved issues in my life that, no matter how hard I tried to ignore them, kept resurfacing and making me so very ill. Thanks the them I finally realize how important it is to show others who I truly am. Thanks to them I have been in remission, pain and prescription free for more than 15 years, happier and healthier than I’ve ever been. I try to live my life with integrity, doing what I want to do regardless of who is watching. I pursue the things I truly believe in, engaging in what warms my soul and gives me pleasure, “helping others to help myself and helping myself to help others.” (quote from

    1. Thank you Janet for sharing your beautiful journey. I am so thrilled you are living true to yourself and unencumbered by what others may think. The truth will indeed set us free and guide the way for our light to shine! I send you lots of peace and love, Jessica

  2. Jess, accepting ourselves totally as we are is the gateway to great peace and freedom. It takes Spiritual maturity to accept what is — knowing that some blessings can contain disaster and some disasters have within them great blessings. Your article and your book eloquently touch on the beauty of integrity and authenticity..There is nothing sadder in the world than somebody trying to live a life that does not fit. Your work and story are so helpful to many others. Keep sharing Truth . Peace and Love JC

    1. Yes, indeed. In any challenge lies a gift…and that gift is learning and growing into who we truly are! Thank you John for your love and kindness. Jess

  3. Listening to your gut, sounds simple but our integrity begins with being truthful to yourself. If your gut tells you something, LISTEN! Don’t lie to yourself. I should know, as I spent years believing the lies I had been telling myself. I still have a long way to go as not being truthful to myself was such a habit and a long term engrained way of living. Meditation gives me that moment of peace before reacting in my past habits. Jessica’s words are helping me on a journey of bettering myself,

  4. Sometimes when we think we are being true to ourself we are as Jessica states, lieing to yourself.

    After my wife passed away I felt so lost with out her. I had never felt such personal pain in my heart before. I truely believe that ones closeness with another person varies and how we grieve with loss.

    A year and a half later I am still struggling in many ways. I can remember on Christmas Eve I was sitting in a parking lot, homeless, no job,
    Tired and not wanting to live life anymore.

    Then I received a phone call from my two best friends and they said, come visit and leave tonight. I did go visit and what a great experience this was for me.

    Over the next several months the craziest and strangest things began happening in my life. Many distractions as well as teachings started to take place. I took a deeper interest in the business world and began telling Myself that I could be an entrepreneur.

    Part of me laughed but deep down I knew I had the qualities to achieve this status. I also remembered how proud my wife was of me and would encourage me to do great things.

    Today I know she is with me all the time and her “Hope” will always inspire me to never give up or give in when the going gets tough.

    There are many things I still don’t understand but I’m willing to work to be the best I can be today. And that starts with being true to myself. Thank YOU for sharing Jess : )

    1. Robin, thank you for sharing your story, our inspiration. Yes, she is always with you and “hope” is truly available to us all. May it light the way, always.

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