The Dangers of Self-Deception

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“The best lies about me are the ones I told.” ~ Patrick Rothfuss

“You can fool yourself, you know. You’d think it’s impossible, but it turns out it’s the easiest thing of all.” ~ Jodi Picoult

“Stop lying to yourself. When we deny our own truth, we deny our own potential.” ~ Steve Maraboli

“Everything will line up perfectly when knowing and living the Truth becomes more important than proving anything to anyone.” ~ Alan Cohen

 

Jim Carrey’s 1997 movie “Liar Liar” is about a man who can tell only the truth for 24 hours.  It was marketed as a comedy, but in truth most of us would think we landed in a horror story is we could tell only the truth for 24 hours.  We uphold honesty as one of the highest virtues, but the reality is that we hate it more than lying.  We don’t want to know the truth.  We even set others up to lie to us.  “Do these pants make my butt look big?”  We don’t want to know the truth – we want to be cajoled, to be lied to.  “How do you like my new haircut/house/car/sofa?”  We don’t want an honest response, we want a polite lie.

The worst lies of all are the ones we tell ourselves.  We lie about our motives, our emotions, our circumstances, our desires, our talents and abilities.  We focus on external sources to blame when things don’t go the way we want them to.  When it suits us, we swell up with self-righteous indignation and tell ourselves that we are better than “those people”.  But then we turn right around and judge ourselves as fundamentally flawed, unworthy, unlovable, and inadequate because we don’t have/do/think like “those other people.”  It’s no wonder we’re always at least half crazy.  It’s no surprise that most of us engage in some form of numbing addictive behavior as a way to hide from our own self-dishonesty.

There is another way.  What would happen if we decided to live our lives under oath?  What if we made a vow to always tell ourselves the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help us God?

It may be painful at the beginning, but it would also be liberating.  It would allow us to stop wasting energy on the lies and excuses and start dealing with the real issues in our lives.  Instead of complaining about our situations, we would start making positive change.  Instead of blaming others, we would start taking personal responsibility.  Instead of wasting energy maintaining the lies, we could live a life of integrity, honesty, love and compassion.  Doesn’t that sound better than chronic deception?

Self-Deception

The worst lies of all are the ones we tell ourselves – the ones we base our lives on.  It doesn’t matter where the lies came from: perhaps you made them up; perhaps you inherited them from friends, family, church, school, society; perhaps you believed things you heard in the media (from people trying to sell you things); or perhaps they were simple misunderstandings born out of innocence.  Regardless of the origins, these lies have a devastating effect on our lives.  Take a look at this list of the most common lies we tell ourselves and think about how you can begin to unlearn them and stand in your own truth.

I Am Not Worthy Of…

Love, happiness, success, partnership, forgiveness – fill in the blank with the word of the day.  Perhaps the biggest lie we tell ourselves is that we are unworthy.  The other side to this coin is the lie that our worth is determined by others’ evaluation of us.  Our culture tells us that our fundamental worth is based on what we have and what we do.  This belief makes self-worth something that must be earned, and it is completely untrue.  You are worthy because you are.  You exist.  You are breathing.  Think about all of the things that had to fall into place perfectly in order for you to come into existence.  It wasn’t random, and it wasn’t an accident.  Being here, alive, on this planet is proof enough that you deserve to be.  And that entitles you to all of the joys, heartaches, lessons and experiences that come with being alive.

I Deserve…

We often stay stuck in our lives because we have a sense of entitlement.  We falsely believe that we are owed something based on the way we have behaved, the role we have chosen, our family name, our heritage, etc.  We even fall into the trap of thinking that other people know what we expect and are just withholding our wants, needs and desires to torture us.  How silly.  These expectations of entitlement usually go unfulfilled because nothing in this world is promised.  We don’t automatically “deserve” anything.  We get what we ask, communicate, negotiate and work for.  Are you asking, communicating, negotiating and working or are you waiting and assuming?

Negative Emotions Are a Sign Of Weakness

Isn’t it interesting that we all want to experience joy, peace, happiness, and fulfillment but we try to hide from (or ignore) pain, hurt, fear, and vulnerability? We have labeled difficult emotions as negative or bad and avoid them at all cost.  We insulate ourselves, numb ourselves and repress anything we label as ugly.  Here is the problem:  shutting off or ignoring difficult emotions keeps you from experiencing pleasant emotions because they are processed in the same way.  Even more importantly, feelings buried alive do not die.  They get trapped in the body and grow like a tumor.  The strongest people are the ones who embrace all emotion.  They feel pain, accept it, learn from it, and walk through it.  Strong people turn their wounds into wisdom and their hurts into kindness for others.  We grow through difficulty, not by avoiding it.

I Can’t Do Anything About…

How often do we choose to become a victim of our circumstance rather than take personal responsibility for our lives?  Victimhood is learned helplessness.  The truth is that we always have a choice, ALWAYS.  We may not like the circumstances surrounding us and we may not like choices we have, but we always have a choice.  The choice to do nothing is still a choice.

Other People Are Holding Me Back

The truth is… most of us don’t want to take personal responsibility for our own lives.  We have hopes, dreams and aspirations but we also have a laundry list of reasons why we can’t accomplish them – and many of those reasons are other people.  It’s OK to choose to put your goals on hold, but it’s not OK to blame that decision on others.  If you aren’t doing anything to help you realize your goals and dreams, the only person you have to hold responsible is you.  It’s a lot easier to point the finger at someone or something else instead of looking within and really understanding your own feelings.  Don’t give in to the lie.

I’ll Be Happy When…

We all too frequently place the burden of our happiness on the behavior of others or on getting (and keeping) a particular thing.  This is like trying to scoop water with a sieve – it’s never going to be enough.  Happiness isn’t about getting what you want; it’s about wanting what you’ve got.  It’s great to have dreams, goals and aspirations, but if you keep living for a future time you just succeed in wasting the time you have right now.  Choose to be happy now.

Success Looks A Certain Way

Life is not about accomplishments, it’s about experiences.  You are not here to live up to other people’s expectations, and they’re not here to live up to yours.  Each of us if different; we have unique fingerprints, unique DNA, unique talents and experiences.  How silly it is to try and force each of us into the same size box.  What if we only made shoes in one size?  Wearing shoes that are too small is constricting and painful.  Wearing shoes that are too large is clumsy and dangerous.  We don’t think twice about wearing shoes that fit us.  Why would we measure success by only one standard?

A Busy Day Is A Productive Day

“Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.”  “Work smarter, not harder.”  We’ve all heard the clichés, and most of us buy into them.  When we greet a friend or family member we seldom ask, “How are you feeling?” or “What can I help you with?”  Instead we ask, “What did you do today?” or “What do you have planned for the weekend?”  Busyness seems impressive, but busyness does not equal productivity.   We run around crazy, filling up our calendars with appointments and expectations.  We measure the number of emails we receive, the number of Facebook posts we read, the number of laundry loads we wash.  We run from one fabricated crisis to another.  But how do we prioritize the things that really matter; a long conversation with a friend, a family get-together, helping others, self-nurturing and creativity.  At the end of our days, we won’t regret the activities that we didn’t do, but we may regret wasting our time on things that didn’t really matter.

It’s Supposed To Be Easy.

This may be the biggest lie of all, and it’s a lie we use to judge ourselves and others.  We beat ourselves up for faltering, for making mistakes, for not being perfect.  We often compare ourselves to others who have “made it” and judge against that standard.  But we don’t see the whole picture:  we don’t see the doubts, the struggles, the setbacks, the ugliness that had to be worked through to get there.  It’s not supposed to be easy.  We learn through the struggles.  We grow by making mistakes.  We learn to forgive by asking for forgiveness.  It’s time to be realistic.  Life is not easy, but it’s worthwhile.

It’s Too Late.

It’s not too late until you’re dead.  Since you’re reading this right now, I know you are alive.  Congratulations, it’s not too late.  It doesn’t matter how old you are, how much time you think you’ve “wasted” or how many excuses you can come up with – it’s not too late.  You can change as soon as you decide to.  You get one try at this life, and you have less time left today than you did yesterday.  Isn’t it time to get started?

 

So, are you guilty of telling yourself any of these lies?  What would it look and feel like to start telling the truth?

Self-Honesty Exercises

If we aren’t completely honest with ourselves, we won’t be able to grow and improve.  Being honest may sometimes be painful, but it is necessary for growing and learning in integrity – which is why we are all here.
The following exercises will help you improve your self-honesty.

  1. Take time to reflect
    1. Take 5-10 minutes every day to reflect.  Ask questions like, “How did things go today? What did I do right? What could I have done better?”
  2. Tell the whole truth with an open mind and without judgment
    1. Don’t ignore the ugly parts of your life or the mistakes you made, but don’t beat yourself up over them either.  This is not a self-esteem destruction exercise.  Simply tell the whole truth without judgment.  Then ask, “What can I learn from this experience?”
  3. Admit when you make mistakes
    1. The most painful thing about being completely honest with ourselves is admitting when we make mistakes.  Instead, we try to blame others, or our circumstances or come up with excuses to defend our behavior.  You can only learn from your mistakes when you admit them.  Ignoring them sets you up to repeat them.  When you make a mistake, admit it.
  4. Pay attention to your feelings
    1. Not everything you feel is true about your experience, but everything you feel is revealing about your experience.  When you have a strong emotion, (particularly an unpleasant one) ask yourself where it is coming from.  What is the true cause behind the emotion?  You will learn a lot when you see it honestly and without judgment.
  5. Admit what you don’t know
    1. A necessary part of honesty is admitting your limitations.  We often assume we know everything about a situation which causes us to react in stubborn and irrational ways.  When you’re evaluating a situation ask yourself, “What don’t I know about this?”  There will always be something.  And that’s a good thing – that’s an opportunity to learn and grow.

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