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Why Are You Lying To Yourself?

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I want to start this post off with a quote. Shakespeare said it best in his play Hamlet.

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Hamlet Act 1, Scene 3

This above all: to thine own self be true. What does that mean to you? For me, it says that if there is anybody you should never lie too, it is yourself. It is hard to be a man of integrity and honesty if you lie and especially if you lie to yourself. Yet, we often will lie to ourselves on several fronts.

The whole quote to me says if you can’t lie even to yourself. For if you easily lie to yourself then lying to another person is no problem. You will simply make the needed mental gymnastics to lie to other people. Honesty is the best policy, right? So why do we lie to ourselves so much?

Thinking a lie

Now I can hear a couple of folks who lie to themselves often screaming I don’t lie! I would never lie! All I can say is, “Here is some sandpaper for you Pinocchio.” We lie to ourselves and we do such a good job of disguising it. Because our brains so desperately want to be correct. There is this thing called the cognitive dissidents which is the anxiety you feel when you wrestling with a self-deception. Because you are lying to yourself and because you are reacting in such a way that shows that your subconscious knows what is to be true.

Here is a little experiment for you to understand these cognitive dissidents. What is a certain “Truth” you tell yourself daily? Maybe it is that you are fat. You are unwanted. You have uncontrollable social anxiety. Try to dispute that mindset. Tell yourself that you are the right body size. Go outside and see how many people actually like to see you.  Do you feel that stress? Another way to experience it is to tell a person who has anxiety that their emotions are generated by their thoughts and watch the reactions as they try to come up with every reason possible as to why they are wrong. That is that dissidents in action.

It takes work to overcome that personal bias. You have to stay on top of what you are thinking. That is a very tough thing to do because you are thinking something the neighborhood of 65,000 different thoughts a day. Many times they are things like Turn left or go to the bank or are we out of macaroni. Your brain loves to be as efficient as possible. So when it can run on autopilot as much as possible your brain will do so. That is also where we get into so much trouble. We don’t pay attention to our thoughts.

The Butthole

When you do start paying attention to what you are thinking you will understand where the problem of lying to yourself comes into play. We don’t like to be wrong or look bad. So we come up with lies and these lies are most often wrapped up in a covenant story. That story is often called an excuse. If you were ever in school sports in Texas you may have heard this following line.

Excuses are like buttholes, everybody has one.

Every football coach in Texas

Now if you were in high school butthole was changed to a different word but I will let your imagination roam on that one. Yet it is true. You ask why someone did something stupid and they will have the most elaborate tale they can spin as to why it wasn’t their fault.

Excuses are lies

If you haven’t figured it out yet this post is about excuses. We all tell them. They never work, yet we all see right through these flimsy lies we tell. These lies are so often not told for the sake of other people but for ourselves. These are the biggest lies to tell ourselves. Especially when we did something we know was dumb. Our minds are quick to make sure that we have a story to answer why.

For example, I had a coworker who drove the same truck all the time. Yet he was always running out of fuel. More than once I was told to stop and help this guy out. I would have to siphon diesel out of my tanks and put into his. Then take the effort to reprime his fuel pump. All while on the side of a busy interstate. The first time I did it. His line was that his gauge told him it still had a ¼ tank of fuel left. My response was to the tune of, “Why were you driving with less than a half hank of fuel?”

Photo by Benjamin Davies

A month or so later I was told to stop by and help the same dude with the same problem again. The questions I threw at him this time was why are you out of fuel again? He threw the blame off with another excuse, “I told the Mechanic that the fuel gauge was off.”  My response was, “but you were still driving while under a half a tank of fuel. You have to keep fuel in it. Assume it is always wrong.”  

Finally, I got another call to rescue The Run Dry Kid. He tried to instantly throw up yet another excuse about supposedly supposed to be fixed. All I said is, “I wasn’t going to listen to it” This is my third time and you have been rescued by several others for the very same infraction and they claim that he was using the very same excuse. I had enough and Sat in the truck and let him do all the work. He eventually learned when nobody would listen to his excuses when he ran out of fuel. He was forced to face the hard truth that his trucks fuel system is his responsibility. Nobody likes a victim because they don’t take responsibility for their actions.

We all see through excuses that is why my very wise coach hammered that line of truth into my head and tail end several times. Excuses sound good to us, not to anybody else. Because everybody eventually sees that you are shirking your personal responsibility. As before that is why nobody likes a victim. Yeah, the first time we may by the story. But each time after that it becomes evident that the victim got themselves into the trouble they are in.

Why do we lie?

Now that is a very good question. Why do we lie to ourselves? Most of the time it is because I believe it is easy. If there is anyone who will not call them out for lying it is themselves. They don’t have to worry about the embarrassment of public humiliation if they lie to themselves. According to a few Psychology sites, it is because we are afraid to be vulnerable. Even with ourselves. We know that we don’t know it all but we tell ourselves that we know all that we do need to know. This line of thinking is often found in people with a fixed mindset. They don’t want to be caught not knowing something they believe they should know and so they lie not only to others but to themselves. The truth of the matter is hard to swallow for sure. So, we lie in hopes of not being embarrassed or looking like a fool. Though in the end the lie often comes out and we do look like a fool.

Common Excuses

As I mentioned earlier we become very good at lying to ourselves. So good that there are some very common excuses we will tell ourselves when we are pressed against the wall. While being coached, many people will often say the same sets of excuses. Especially when confronted with a truth that generates cognitive dissidence. When I let them know that their emotions do not just happen to them they are generated by their thoughts. I get these four responses over any of the others.

  • It’s not that easy
  • Wished I could
  • You can’t just change your mind
  • That’s just how my mind works

When in reality the first one is sort of true. It’s not easy but it is possible and in reality, we don’t need easy we just need worth it. There is often work that is involved in paying attention to what you are thinking. While I wish I could just tell me that they don’t really want to do the work they are comfortable in their world even if they are miserable. The effort to climb down from their tree of woe is more of an effort than they want to apply. When that is the case it takes a little time to get through the defensive wall and show them the flaw in the logic of wanting to stay in misery than to make an effort to get out into the sunshine.

The excuse you can’t just change your mind is also a reaction to getting too close to the truth and the thought of getting out of your comfort zone is often too much for many people who suffer from anxiety, commonly have this mindset that they are broken. They can’t be fixed when in all reality the fix is amazingly simple. Again, it takes a bit of effort to pay attention to what you are thinking. Yet, if you allow for emotions to live, by accepting that you are feeling scared, nervous, anxious, or any other emotions that is deemed negative or too uncomfortable to experience. You find that the emotions are not that bad. Even the dreaded anxiety is just a small vibration that will not hurt you in the least. You can accept the emotions and decide that you want to feel differently. You can change your thought patterns and have a better experience.

You can go from having a bad day to having a pretty good day, whenever you choose, but again it depends on what you think. What is the mindset you are referencing? Are you approaching a problem with that fixed mindset of that you can’t change anything or are you coming at the problem with a growth-based mindset? The difference can make for a literal night or day view of your attitude. You can be a Ned Flanders if you so choose. All you have to do is start adjusting how you think.

Mindset Shift

One of the best ways to change your mindset is to write out a gratitude journal. Think of all the things you are grateful for. Your mindset will be in a better place if you express gratitude. Yet the key is no “Buts”. Anytime you use a “but” you void everything before it. For example, I am grateful for my Wife but she never cleans the house. That but says I am not grateful for the wife because she doesn’t clean the house. You have to make very distinct declarative statements. Each day make a list of at least 5 things you are grateful for. If you really want to up the difficulty level and find out how grateful you really are. You cant repeat a gratitude statement in a 2 week period.

Photo by Maximilian Muselmann

If you are wanting to focus on your thought patterns then do some mindful meditation. This helps train your brain to stay focused on one task at a time. It also helps you realize when your mind is wandering around unattended. Then you are able to gently redirect it back to the task at hand. Instead of obsessing over what people are going to think you can redirect your thoughts to it doesn’t matter what they think.

You can make all the excuses in the world. The fact is that you are doing yourself more harm than good. You may think you are saving face but the public sees that excuse for what it is, and that is a lie. Sadly that lie is pointed more at you than it is to the outside. Become the greater person call out when you lie to yourself. You don’t have to say it aloud but fess up to the lie. You will see that you start taking pride in your honesty. Especially when it comes to the honesty you tell yourself. Once you can be truthful with the self-deceptions you tell yourself you can start making changes needed to get you closer to the path you were made to walk.

If you need help with getting past your excuses, perhaps you want to put my thoughts to the test and have me coach you through this obstacle I would like to see how I can assist you. To do so just go to my coaching page and fill out the form for the free 30-minute mini-coaching session. You have greatness in you and I want to see it grow.

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About Bryan Goodwin

I like being able to help people find their "why" and achieve the personal freedom they desire. Besides writing for Relaxed Male I also am a life coach. By helping men find the leader that is found in each and every one of us. I do this by encouraging men to get outdoors and find the balance they are missing. Realize that they need to be in contact with the outside as often as they can. It is not only good for them but for their families and relationships.

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