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.