Stop lying (to yourself)

"The truth will set you free. But first it will piss you off."

-Werner Erhard

"I don't lie to myself!"

And that's the first and biggest lie. Or maybe you know that you lie to yourself a bit, but you think it's necessary in order to stay "positive" and not "get too discouraged." That's another lie. Lies on top of lies.

"But I would know if I were lying to myself."

No, you wouldn't. Because there are benefits to the lies that you tell yourself. Yes, they are mostly short-term benefits (with big long-term costs). But you don't want to lose those benefits. If you were so easily aware that you were lying to yourself, it would interfere with you getting those benefits. It's similar to the idea, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." (Upton Sinclair).

Lying to yourself wouldn't cause a lot of problems if you didn't also believe those lies

If a friend/family member/colleague/vendor lies to you but you know they are lying, it doesn't necessarily cause a problem. You can make whatever adjustments that you might need to make to still be okay. Someone lying to you only causes a problem if you don't know they are lying and you believe the lie is the truth. When you lie to yourself, you both tell the lie and believe the lie. You're like pinocchio lying to himself! What a farce!

"Others may lie to themselves, but not me. I'm pretty smart. I think I'd know."

Okay, smart guy. A smart guy will always be looking for possible evidence that they might be wrong, right? That's one of the best ways to become even smarter. And maybe you're right. Below, I'm going to suggest some ways that you may be lying to yourself. Take a moment after reading each one to see if that way of lying to yourself might apply to you at least some of the time, okay?

Ask yourself (and answer) these questions

  • When I am planning my day, do I take the time to roughly calculate how long each task is likely to take in order to ensure that everything will probably fit into the time I have available? Or do I still somewhat believe the lie that I have told myself every time I plan my day, "Somehow I'll get everything done," because I haven't done that?

  • Consider situations when I am making a promise to someone (or myself). Examples: "I'll wash the dishes after I finish this phone call," "I'll call you before Monday to let you know my answer," "I'll get at least fifteen prospects in the room for your presentation next Thursday," "I won't charge anything more on our credit card until the balance is under $500," "I'll never do anything to hurt you," "I'll start my fast tomorrow," "I'll never get drunk again," "I'll walk at least 45 minutes a day for the next month," "I'll call my uncle tomorrow and apologize for ghosting him." In all the situations when I make a promise (or say I'll do something, which is also a promise), do you ask myself the following questions to help ensure that I'm not lying to myself (since I know I've had a pattern of doing that in the past)?

    • Am I recording this promise now in a way that I am very likely to be reminded to do it when the time comes for me to do it? Am I sure that I will be reliable in keeping this promise if I don't do that put that structure in place?​

    • Am I paying attention to the fact that I just made a promise (or am about to make a promise) so that I ask myself the appropriate questions both before making the promise (including whether I can prudently make it and that I am taking care of myself in making it) and, if I'm going to make it, what is needed to give me a great batting average on keeping my promises, especially for this promise?

    • Am I promising a result that's not really within my control (and therefore has some real risk of not being accomplished) or instead of just promising the actions that I will take (that I can control) that has some chance of resulting in the desired outcome?

    • Have I checked in with myself to ensure that I will be taking care of myself at the same time I am keeping this promise to this other person?

    • Have I checked in with my Now to have good reason to believe that Now be will okay or even eager to enjoy the process that will be needed in order to fulfill on the promise my Next wants to make?

    • Have I made friend with my fear yet (using Undoing fear) and honored myself for the courage that I will be choosing in order to keep this promise?

    • Have I or am I putting the structures in place that are needed to support me in fulfilling this promise?

    • Am I under promising, maintaining some buffer, and being a good "traffic controller" of my life so that I'm unlikely to end up in a "traffic jam," which affects my ability to keep this and other promises?

  • How often do I lie to myself that I can't find time to get anything important done because I have to get everything else done that is more urgent?​

  • How often do I lie to myself (in a disempowering way) by indulging in the thoughts or words of "never," "always," "have to," "must," "all the time," "need to"?​

  • How often do I lie to myself by over generalizing, like "I called three people. No one wants to pick me up at the airport." or "Two of my customers got upset with me today. I really must suck at my job." or "I've been trying to get my new business going for over six months...it's never go to turn a profit." or "All of my friends have girlfriends, but I don't...I must not have what it takes."?

  • How often do I lie to myself by focusing just on the negative, like "My mother is never happy with me" or "It seems I'm always messing up" or "I can't remember anything happy from my former marriage" or "Trump (or Biden) never does anything right."?

  • How often do I lie to myself by believing thoughts like "This is difficult" or "Life is hard" or "You can't be too careful."

  • How often do I lie to myself by discounting the positive, like "I've made some progress, but it's not good enough" or "My friend treats me very well, but he still hasn't apologized for what he did" or "I've learned a lot, but I'm still not knowledgeable enough"?

  • How often do I lie to myself when I have some idea or thought that I'd like to remember while I'm in the middle of doing something else (watching TV, taking a shower, talking with a colleague, in a Zoom session, finishing up another task), and I say to myself, "I'm sure I'll remember that later when I need to."

  • How often do I lie to myself when I'm sure I know how something will turn out in the future, like "My husband's going to cheat on me again," or "I'm sure my team will pull together and we'll finish this project on time" or "With this investment, I can't fail"?

  • How often do I lie to myself when I assume that I know what other's think, feel, or believe, like "I wouldn't like anyone to give out my number without my permission, so I'm sure that's true for my friends also" or "I know that my friend will like this restaurant...so I don't need to check with her" or "It's so obvious what good people would believe about this" or "Getting divorced is going to be rough on my friend...it was for me" or "There are just some things that everybody agrees with"?

  • How often do I lie to myself when I believe things about myself (or my situation or my group) that I've not taken the time to gather or consider comparative evidence to validate or invalidate my belief, like "My husband/wife would never be disloyal to me" or "I'm a better-than-average driver" or "I would never kill myself" or "I try harder in my relationships than they do" or "Whenever I have a disagreement with someone, I am almost always right" or "My country is more peace loving than most other countries in the world" or "Christians are kinder than atheists"?

  • How often do I lie to myself by drawing conclusions from how I am feeling, rather than looking for and considering evidence that would argue for or against any conclusion, like "I'm feeling so discouraged about my life...there's no hope for my future" or "I'm feeling so stuck in this problem...it must be unsolvable" or "I'm feeling there's no way to fix this disaster in my life...it must mean no body can help me" or "I got my first two clients right away and I feel so great...I'll reach my goal much sooner than I planned" or "I'm so in love with this woman/man...I just know we'll never have any big difficulties in our life together forever"?

  • How often do I lie to myself (and then belief the lie I just told myself) by using words like "should" and "ought to" or other words that contain an implied "should"? For example, all the following words are often used in ways that includes "should" or "should not" as part of their meaning. The reason that "should" is often a lie is that you are not fully aware of the fact that you are fighting with reality by using the word.

    • good

    • bad

    • right

    • wrong

    • deserve

    • not deserve

    • worthy

    • unworthy

    • at fault

    • to blame

    • innocent

    • selfish

    • unselfish

    • cruel

    • insensitive

    • kind, generous

    • giver

    • taker

    • loyal

    • disloyal

    • betrayed

    • hard-working

    • lazy

    • loser

    • failure

    • honest

    • dishonest

    • liar

    • cheater

    • quitter

    • immoral

    • moral

    • ethical

    • unethical

    • strange, weird

    • racist

    • sexist

    • stupid

    • unreasonable

    • perfect

    • imperfect

    • whore

    • cunt

    • and many more...

  • How often do I lie to myself when I ask someone, "Why did you did that?", thinking that I was curious and asking for information when my primary motive was to blame them?​

  • How often do I lie to myself (and then believe the lie) when I tell myself or another, "Maybe I will exercise tomorrow" or "Maybe I'll be able to attend the meeting," when, in fact, I am lying to myself by implicitly believing I don't have the power or the courage to say, "Yes, I will" or "No, I won't."

  • How often do I lie to myself when I think I need to get defensive or think that someone else has wronged me and I justify my believing they are the bad guy?

  • How often do I lie to myself when I believe that others are victims and that they need to blame the bad guys in order to take care of themselves?

  • How often do I lie to myself by thinking I would be a bad guy if I made requests, said "no," and set and maintained the boundaries I need with others in order to fulfill my #1 responsibility of taking care of myself?

  • How often do I lie to myself when I don't look for or I ignore the things that I did or I didn't do that contributed to a dispute with another?

  • How often do I lie to myself when I feel guilty (by blaming myself), thinking that I should feel guilty rather than acknowledging that I'm trying to beat others to the punch in their blaming me or possibly blaming of me (and also trying to prove that "I'm not such a bad guy")?

  • How often do I lie to myself when I over generalize by using positive or negative labels toward others or myself, like:

    • loser​

    • self-sabotager

    • no good

    • jerk

    • fool

    • failure

    • S.O.B.

    • immoral

    • motherfucker

    • asshole

    • this list could almost be endless

  • How often do I lie to myself when I believe thoughts like, "I won't be okay if others blame me" or "I need someone to love me" or "It's too scary to open myself up to others."​

  • How often do I lie to myself when I believe the thought, "I need to do what others expect of me rather than live a life true to myself"?

  • How often do I put an additional lid on top of my lies by finding others who tell themselves the same type of lies and who will agree that what I believe is true (rather than looking for and acknowledging how I might be lying to myself)?

Choose courage

I could go on. As you're probably already aware, you can only begin to start to get curious about how you may be lying to yourself if you're willing to choose courage. The most common short-term benefit of lying to ourselves is to avoid the feeling of risk that we (unconsciously) anticipate will be stimulated if we start discovering what's more likely true than what we've gotten ourselves to believe.

Step by step for a lifetime...

I can look back and recognize the many lies I told to myself (and believed them) that I no longer tell nor believe. Yet, I regularly uncover new "lies" here and there. Check out Thank God it'll take a long time!