In my last post, I shared a quote/statement from Mark Manson’s Facebook page that read – Personal Growth is merely the process of learning to lie to yourself less. This statement totally intrigued me and got me thinking about how much and how often we lie to ourselves. The truth is we lie to ourselves all the time. We lie to ourselves about actions we’re going to take, things we’ve done, how we feel about ourselves, and the reasons behind our lies in the first place. So if personal growth is helped along by lying to ourselves less, how do we do that exactly? Here are my thoughts on how to stop lying to yourself (or at least be lying to yourself less).
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Let’s dive into how to stop lying to yourself about your actions and feelings.
Just to clarify, this post is more about the lies we tell ourselves, not other people but there may be a bit of crossover between the two because the lies we tell ourselves can be the same ones we tell other people.
Realize that you are lying to yourself
Perhaps your first thought was – but I don’t lie to myself, so nothing to work on here!
That’s great and I support your confidence but it might be more beneficial for your overall personal growth to dig a little deeper because there may be more to work on then you think!
While the lies we tell ourselves can be specific to our personal situation, there are some general areas that we tend to have in common.
Let’s take a look at some of these –
- the food you eat
- how much alcohol you consume
- how much exercise you do (the lie ‘I’m going to go to the gym three times this week’ springs to mind)
- how much television you are watching (when you tell yourself you don’t have time to do other things)
- how you are spending your free time
- how you are spending your work time
- the way you spend and earn money (this one is a particular hotbed of lying to ourselves)
Obviously, this is merely a snapshot to get you started but you can see where I am going with this. There is a lot of opportunity in this lot alone for us to lie to ourselves.
Related posts –
- How to Be Congruent and Why It’s So Important
- 10 Ways to Have More Confidence
- 10 Ways to Improve your Self-worth and Self-esteem
- Know your Emotional Trigger Words and How to Deal with Them
- 12 Techniques to Stop Feeling Inferior
- 5 Ways to Stop Taking Things Personally
Be self-aware about your lies
The above list is a good place to get you started. Before you can start lying less, you need to work out when you are lying to yourself in the first place.
Then it’s about ramping up your awareness and starting to change your thoughts and behavior. Once you can see where you lie to yourself, you can do something about it.
One of the areas where I lie to myself is about Write Change Grow. More to the point, I lie about how I am going to get all the work done that goes into WCG.
The main way I do this is by having a massive to-do list, overscheduling that list to the point of being ridiculous, and just to add the cherry on top, giving in to what I tell myself are reasonable distractions.
Now by distractions, that doesn’t mean that I promise to write for 2 hours and then go off and watch television. No, it’s much trickier than that. What I do is pick something lower down on my to-do list and distract myself with that.
I lie to myself that designing new Pinterest images (without actually adding them to Pinterest I might add) is a justifiable use of my time when I need to be writing and publishing a blog post instead.
I lie to myself that these two tasks have equal value.
By the end of the week, there is no new blog post for you, my lovely readers and I am frustrated with myself. Now that I am aware of this charming little lie I tell myself, I can schedule my time more appropriately so that I get the most important thing done first and then have some guilt-free time designing Pinterest images.
I want you to try this awareness exercise as well. I want you to pick one major lie you tell yourself (that has a lot of importance to you even though you might be procrastinating and lying to yourself about it) and work on that one lie.
Focus on one big lie for now, because you don’t want to overwhelm yourself.
Once you have tackled your big lie and feel more confident, do an experiment to see how many times you lie to yourself over the span of a week. Actually, track the number of times and write it down.
When we aren’t aware of the lies we tell ourselves we self-sabotage. Getting real about how we lie to ourselves can stop us from self-sabotaging.
An excellent book for self-discovery and self-realization is How to Stop Feeling Like Sh*t by Andrea Owen. I had some seriously – Yikes I do that! – moments reading this book. The book focuses on the many ways we self-sabotage and how to do things differently.
Take a close look at your excuses
Often by looking at our excuses we can shed light on our lies.
Whether we realize it or not, we often use the same excuses to lie to ourselves.
More interestingly, we often have an excuse pre-selected for certain lies. Meaning even when we tell the lie to ourselves, our brain already has an excuse selected for how we can get out of it. It’s like pushing the buttons on the vending machine and particular lies come out!
These lies are often quite broad and common. Read through the below list and you will get an idea of what I mean –
- I’m too tired
- I don’t have enough money
- I can’t do that
- I don’t have time
If you are a perfectionist or someone who is really hard on themselves, this isn’t about beating yourself up more about your excuses. That won’t help, in fact, it will probably further hinder your personal growth.
Looking at your excuses is another awareness exercise. Once you start to hear yourself using your excuses constantly, you can make a plan to change your thoughts and behavior. Make sure you focus on making positive changes, and not just coming up with a different excuse because we tend to do that as well, we just pick another excuse from our list!
Related post – 10 Situations Where Awareness Can Help with Changing Habits
Don’t tell yourself you are going to do things you aren’t
I think we all do this to some degree. We have all these great plans in our head and tell ourselves we will do this, this and this. We might even get really excited about it at the time.
At the time, we might not technically be lying to ourselves, we might think we can get all the things done. But, then we realize that we can’t.
But even then we keep telling ourselves that we can and we will.
Don’t get me wrong, changing your to-do list is fine. Most of the time, it’s required. Being persistent is also a good thing!
It’s when we know deep in our hearts that we need to amend our plans but we refuse to do it. This leads to deluding ourselves and in essence lying to ourselves.
The problem with lying to ourselves is that once we miss that one big action, then we start skipping the other ones as well. Then it’s a slippery slope to not doing what we need to be doing at all.
That’s usually the time the television or video console game starts calling and we get stuck in a binge that takes hours of our time (that apparently we didn’t have). By the way, there is no judgment here, I am guilty of this one myself!
We would be a lot better off if we focused on our big important task and did that.
Part of lying to ourselves can involve pushing ourselves too hard on actions that are not important, all the while ignoring (and lying to ourselves) about the ones that are important.
Of course, there are also times when it has nothing to do with to-do lists, we just say things to sound good, full well knowing that we have no intention of doing them. This is often the time we share our big plans with someone else because they sound impressive.
This is where we start lying to other people as well as ourselves.
Talking about stuff that you have no intention of doing is just ego. It’s important to understand that if you are doing this on a regular basis, telling people about your plans then bailing on them, you will start to come across as unreliable to people. Though we might not be great at picking up when we are lying to ourselves, the people closest to us who know us well can often spot our lies a mile away.
If you want people to respect and trust you more, stop saying that you will do things that you have no intention of doing.
Sometimes it’s self-doubt that holds up back from our big plans. If you need help with breaking the habit of self-doubt, the creative folks over at CreativeLive have an excellent online course run by the amazing Mel Robbins. The course is How to Break the Habit of Self-Doubt and Build Real Confidence.
I took this course myself, got a lot out of it and you can read how it can help you in my review post.
Break the lying habit
Unfortunately, lying can become a habit. This includes lying to ourselves as well as lying to other people. While we all know people who lie regularly, we most likely don’t view ourselves the same way.
Once you’ve done the awareness side of things, you’ll have a better idea of how often you are lying to yourself and consequently how much of a habit lying has (or hasn’t) become.
Habits are made up of several steps. You have your cue, craving, response, and reward.
A great book on changing habits is Atomic Habits by James Clear.
Atomic Habits looks at the four laws of behavior change. This book also has an excellent section on identity. This fascinating chapter focuses on how your habits shape your identity and vice versa. Your identity is the place to start for serious behavioral change.
Whether we like it your not, we act according to who we believe we are. This can also apply to lying. If you believe you are a dishonest person, you are much more likely to lie to yourself and others.
If you believe you are a person who is honest and values their integrity, you are much more likely to act along those lines.
Work out what you are really afraid of
Often it’s our fears that cause us to lie to ourselves in the first place.
Things like health issues and the current state of our relationship can fill us with stress and anxiety and have us lying to ourselves about our actions and most certainly the ramifications of those actions.
Unfortunately, I have been doing this exact thing myself lately. Every week for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been telling myself I will book a doctor’s appointment. The first week I said it, I believed it (or at least I wanted to believe it). Then weeks kept passing and I kept telling myself the same thing every week.
Then I realized I was lying to myself because I was afraid to go to the doctors. More to the point, I was afraid of the tests I needed to have once I went to the doctors.
I’m currently reading an excellent new book that helps deal with fear. The book is Think Like a Monk, by Jay Shetty (who was actually a monk for 3 years in India). Think Like a Monk has a section on dealing with fear (which is a primary motivator) as well as the three other primary motivators (desire, duty, and love). I’ve just started reading this book and I’m really enjoying it! Make sure you grab a copy for yourself.
Be honest about our feelings
While we may be very good at doing what we say we are going to do, one area where we may struggle with lying to ourselves is about our feelings.
We lie to ourselves about how we feel.
This might mean we lie to ourselves about how someone else has made us feel or it could also mean that we are lying to ourselves about how we make ourselves feel.
All too often we suppress our feelings. We tell ourselves we are fine when inside we are hurting or sad or angry or lonely. We think that by pretending (also known as lying to ourselves) these feelings don’t exist, that they will just go away.
Dealing with them, processing them, taking the positive action steps we need to work through them is the answer. But first, we have to stop lying to ourselves about them.
An excellent way to get real about your feelings and emotions is to write them down.
I personally use Brendon Burchard‘s High Performance Planner. I love this planner/journal and use it every day. It’s been an important part of my personal growth for well over a year. This journal is an excellent way of checking in on how you are feeling on a daily basis. More importantly, the journal helps you set intentions for how you want to feel for the day.
The journal is based on Brendon’s book High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way.
This book is based on the six habits of high performers – clarity, productivity, necessity, energy, influence, and courage. This planner leads you in a positive direction while pushing you and nurturing you at the same time.
I was writing in my planner on the weekend and I realized that I had been regularly missing filling out certain sections (the sections being the monthly review, monthly reflection, and the month at a glance calendar). While I had been doing all the daily and weekly journaling, I had completely been missing the monthly planning.
It suddenly dawned on me that I had been ignoring these sections for a reason, I didn’t want to have to deal with what they might reveal. I had been lying to myself about there importance and about how I had been afraid to review my progress. Once I had this realization, I immediately completed the neglected sessions.
Completing this exercise did reveal insights but they weren’t scary as I had imagined. Most importantly, they highlighted the exact actions I needed to be working on to do better next month. Now I am super excited about filling them in on a regular basis. 🙂
By skipping what was difficult, I was depriving myself of learning and growing.
If you are consistent and honest about your feelings and yourself, you will gain a lot from using this planner.
Start being more honest about your physical and emotional needs
Sometimes what our bodies, hearts, and minds need is to rest.
But often we are so consumed with work or our responsibilities that we don’t allow ourselves downtime when we should be resting or we slack off when we are meant to be working and then feel guilty when it’s time to rest (and therefore don’t get any!)
I think one of our biggest problems and what makes us lie more to ourselves is multitasking.
We need to pick a camp and stay in it for whatever time is allocated to that situation. When you are meant to be resting – rest (don’t rest with your laptop on your lap or the mobile phone in your hand – so guilty of this one myself but definitely working on it).
When you are spending time with your kids or partner, be with them, not doing or thinking a million other things.
When you are supposed to be working – go all in. Make that commitment. Commit to working now and resting later. If you don’t divide these two camps properly, you never really commit to either.
I know it can be very hard switching from work to family to rest to sleep to whatever else you have going on but the more you don’t commit and switch from one to another to another (without really focusing and committing to anything) the more scattered your life will get and the more you will lie to yourself about it.
Plan your work time and your downtime by being more honest about your physical and emotional needs. Allow yourself time to rest.
Part of personal growth is being honest with yourself. When you know yourself, your habits, and your worth, you will lie to yourself less. Less lying to yourself, more personal growth, and contentment. Bring it on!
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