According to a study conducted by the University of Massachusetts in 2002, 60% of adults can’t have a ten minute conversation without lying at least once! Frighteningly, it gets worse – those that did lie in the study (the majority) did it at least three times! Unfortunately, it may appear that we lie to ourselves much more often. Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said that “Lying to ourselves is more deeply ingrained than lying to others.”
There are a number of reasons why we lie to ourselves:
- The truth is painful or unpleasant. A half truth or subtle lie can remove the bitter taste of truth and make life more palatable.
- Who we feel we are may not reflect what social expectations may demand. So we will pretend in order to show alignment.
- We may lie to reflect aspirational goals, “I am not going to eat desert tonight to watch my weight,” (but all of my friends are eating it now so I will start again tomorrow…but I am serious about this!).
Self deception suggests that since we are both the giver and receiver of the lie – it can create a situation where the deceit can be both simultaneously believed and disbelieved. That is not an easy truth to explain but it exists non the less. What it means though, is that for the lie to be believed, we must convince ourselves that it is true in order to manage the internal discord it creates. Again, we do that because, in many instances, the lie is more acceptable and convenient. But what is the cost?
Many of us rationalise that such behaviours are no big deal. “So, I tell myself I’ll start tomorrow, or I pretend to be happier than I am. So what if I make life a little more pleasant by believing the perception versus the reality. Hey, I’m an optimist!” That makes sense right? Actually, wrong!
I believe that self deception leads to ruin. Think of the emotional cost to keep up the lies and pretence! Here are some personal costs that I see:
- If we ignore reality, we can’t change it. We can only accept the facade.
- If we can’t change it – we subtly start to feel powerless.
- When we feel powerless, we lose our sense of personal worth.
- When we lose our sense of worth and thus our true identity, we become lost and miserable.
This may at first glance seem grandiose in taking something so small and common place and then taking us to a destination of despair and misery. But is it a small thing to lie to ourselves everyday? Also, can we truly measure the consequence of this habit over time when it is multiplied many times a day over many weeks, months and then years in our subconscious?
The quality of our lives is proportionate to the quality of our emotions. Creating pretence in the present forfeits future felicity. When subconsciously, we become aware of this, we start to lose hope in our future, if we refuse to change the habit. Why? Because hope is a virtue that is centred in the future (it is all about anticipation). Do you want to have more hope in your future? Paradoxically, you may need to start by accepting the uncomfortable truths of your present!
I promise you that learning to be honest with ourselves, whilst scary and uncomfortable at first – is liberating. It lifts a burden you don’t even realise you’re carrying. It fills you with hope that things can be different because now you have taken the first step to positive change – admitting that something has to!
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