Today’s article is inspired by an amazing video from School of Life: How We Lie to Ourselves. This is a very interesting topic after the Choice Training I did in December last year and I wanted to use that opportunity to dig into it for myself. As most of you, I have been quite good at lying to myself. We will look at my own experience through this topic as well as learn the wisdom from School of Life.
Lying to ourselves is one of the major obstacles to self knowledge and you will have a chance to see how. So why would we lie to ourselves? The main point of the video is simple, we mostly do it to avoid pain. We tell ourselves very nice stories to make a situation, that could have been damaging, okay. These stories are here to protect us. We had a commitment towards a loved one or a colleague, but we didn’t follow through. Is that okay? Not really, as it will likely damage the relationship and make us feel bad. Our mind is very good in making up excuses, finding “valid reasons” for us not keeping that commitment. We are hoping that with a bit of luck, the other person might even forget… In reality the other person might simply be hurt and build resentment. The next main point is: Lying to ourselves is hugely decreasing our chances for happiness and we will also explore that.
Four common things we like to lie about
“We lie about all the problematic aspects
We lie because we need to think well our ourselves
We lie because we don’t want to feel so inadequate
We lie because we’re furious with certain people we’re supposed to love“
Let’s see how all of this makes sense.
The first one may need some clarification, the point here is that managing many aspects of our lives is very demanding, possibly, too demanding. Jobs, relationships, friendships, health, habits and ideas are our daily struggles and we lie about these all the time. When was the last time you told yourself a sweet lie to make something okay? Today? Do not worry, you aren’t alone!
I personally lied to my self-today, before going to work, I took a bar of chocolate. To make it okay, I bring one with a cup a tea to my wife sick in bed. Me wanting chocolate turned into being a very caring and loving husband, how sweet is that? This was even a triple lie! My mind was happy for this to be the only treat I will take today. After all, I am trying to pay more attention lately to the food I feed my body with. But you know, just one bar of chocolate at 9 am, it will indeed be the last extra of the day. One mocha latte and 2 sweets later, it was hardly the truth. This lie was making the action of eating chocolate smooth and acceptable. So I can think well of myself.
Do you ever feel not good enough? Do you feel you let others or yourself down? Then you know why we lie to ourselves: to not feel inadequate. I do that often, it is quite a national sport on planet Nicolas. Inadequacy is very uncomfortable, it is tapping into our insecurities, our fears or we simply project our own issues on others.
The last common lie has to do with certain people we’re supposed to love. How can the people we love the most, drive us so crazy? Their actions and words can make us furious, in an instant. It is shameful to realize that a towel knocked down on the floor, instead of hanging and drying, is making us feel upset about our loved one.
How do we lie to ourselves?
That is probably why you started to read, so let’s dig into it!
Addiction and Distraction
“We like them to keep us away from what we fear”
It is mostly about keeping our mind busy. We found many ways to achieve that alcohol, drugs, work, online pornography or food. One of my favourite is video games, it is a safe place for many years. I can start a game I love and play for hours, it will give me a break from all my fears and worries. They will come back later but in the meantime, it is easy to just keep going to stay distracted.
You may have acted like that one day, you felt this need to show happiness and joy to one of your favourite friends. There was a need to look cheerful… Too cheerful. In fact, fake cheerful. It is usually to hide how we feel inside and to show the world something a lot brighter than our thoughts and worries. It is putting a mask on and putting up a show. After all, if we look so cheerful, we can’t be sad deep down inside… Right?
I personally very rarely go there and someone going there tend to make me uncomfortable, it is simply too much and confronting to handle. Instead of seeing it this way, I’d like to remind myself that this person is just like me, not able to fully cope with him/herself and that’s totally okay. I’d like to offer acceptance to others.
Things or people can make us angry easily, we are hiding from our truth and we pay a heavy price. We are on the edge of yelling at someone at all times. We could be upset about any little things that is going wrong or against the way we like it.
“Our brains are so filled with how frustrating, annoying things are. We have cleverly left no space at all for focusing on the true and very sad issue”
This one is very similar to the above, I would rarely go there and I also handle it poorly. Witnessing someone losing control of their emotions makes me more uncomfortable. I’m afraid of anger in general. Most of my life I tried to be the opposite of someone who is losing his temper, because of shame and fear to do so one day. I’ve been successful at it, but until very recently, I didn’t know the price I was paying for that. The disconnection I have with my anger is unhealthy and I also people within my boundaries without standing up for myself.
“We tell ourselves that we simply do not care about something”
This can go even beyond that, we will make it loud and clear to others and ourselves that it isn’t something we are interested in. Actually, we will jump on the first occasion to do so. In these moments, we can feel that there is some discomfort by doing so. But we can’t always be sure why exactly and it is stronger than us, we can’t help it but we keep doing it.
“We grow censorious and deeply disapproving of certain kind of behavior and people”
This one is interesting and causing a lot of shame. We are censorious because we half know that we have some interest for the condemned element. The example taken is “sexual tastes” in the video and such tastes are offend not explored, nor communicated. We are afraid we may like pain, give oral pleasure or to be dominated so we condemn it firmly. Here as well it feels a bit wrong to do so inside but we hope that others aren’t able to see it.
We just put our defenses up and blame others, we victimize a lot in such a state. We are afraid of the truth or we can’t cope with it so to survive, we have to deflect and defend ourselves. Ego could be at stake here but insecurity too. Receiving feedback could be scary and make us feel like we are worthless and responding openly and maturely isn’t a given for most of us. We feel we have to protect ourselves from pain.
I would love to say that I don’t do that and I’ve spent quite some efforts trying not to. Insecurity is very critical here for me and as I understand mine better, I can see it in others too. When our fears or worries are triggered, it takes a lot of self-awareness and courage to put our defenses down and open our heart and mind, be there in the moment and stop repeating past experiences and froze thinking about a possible dark future.
Cynicism and Despair
“We’re sad about particular things. But confronting them would be so arduous, we generalize and universalize the sadness.”
This one was quite confusing to me first, but the principle is quite simple and I can hardly put in better than in the video: “We say that everything is rather terrible and everyone is rather awful”. The sadness just become impersonal, it is about everyone and everything, it is not ours anymore. It is other fault and here to we blame and victimize.
The price of lies
So far we looked at the mains 4 topics we lie to ourselves about and the 7 ways that we do so.
Lies are providing a short time calm. We accumulate short term relieves but pilling on lies after lies. We grow our addictions, make them okay with sweet stories but all we do in reality, it make the bill of lying bigger. We slowly but surely, go in a place of potential harm and assured darkness.
By doing so, we miss key opportunities for growth and learning. Many times when we lie and victimize, we just get stuck, we feel it inside, we can’t breath. Freedom becomes a dream, a far away one and are pulled back by the shackles of our lies.
We could move forward but we decided not to. We prefer to give our power away to other people or even things and let them rule us momentarily and repeatedly. By the time we start to understand it, we have probably accumulated months or years or such systems and they drag us down like gravity.
One other price is that we are not nice to be around. We hurt people’s feeling, we are selfish, we act out of fears and we push others. We could be tyrans, bullies and dismissive to others and we may even keep wondering what is wrong with everyone else. We don’t realize how not appealing it is to be around us and our sweet stories make it okay. Until loneliness, depression or worst is knocking at the door.
It is important to note that we can’t hide from others, people playing the same games, telling to themselves the same stories will see right through us. Even when we think we are at the top of our game, other people will find out. We will lose the control we desperately try to have over others and ourselves.
“We become insomniac or impotent. An eyelid starts to twitching. We acquire a stutter, and scream in our sleep or lose energy. We fall into depression.”
As we just seen, it can have critical impact on our lives.
Such lies can have small to big impact on our lives. It will damage our relationships, make us isolate but not only. It could even impact our health, our sleep, we can fall into depression.
“We owe it to ourselves to dare to start to confront our real nature”
To go further
The 6 minutes video is fully packed, it worth watching and watching it again a few times to really get it. To really look at yourself through that videos and see what sticks. How do you lie to yourself? How often? And most importantly, which price do you pay for it?