The 7 Lies We Tell Ourselves And How They Destroy Personal Growth
If you think back on the last time you felt lied to and the moment the truth came out, you’ll most likely remember the words, “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
This is because when people lie (either to themselves or the people around them), they do so not in an overt effort to lie, but out of a subconscious belief that speaking the truth would cause more harm than good.
There are several ways human beings do this, not only in our relationships with others, but also with ourselves.
The good news is, by becoming aware of the lies we tell ourselves, we’re already on the road to living a more honest life.
These are the seven common ways people lie to themselves, according to School of Life on YouTube, and according to everything I’ve learned in therapy:
Distraction and addiction
While every lie we tell ourselves is a way of keeping feelings at bay, addictions can be the trickiest one to break out of.
While School of Life claims that the person who is engaged doesn’t enjoy the substance as much as its effect of keeping away negative feelings, as an addict myself, I’d beg to differ.
In fact, it’s the feeling you get from the addiction that makes it so hard to stop. There’s also the shame that accrues from living the life of an addict.
More than any other lie we tell ourselves, addiction is the most damaging.
That’s because it’s more than just a lie; it’s a disease.
These are the kind of people who are consistently cutting people out of their lives for “being too negative,” or the kind of people who get visibly uncomfortable when you talk about how crappy your day was, often trying to force you to see terrible circumstances in a positive light.
In truth, they are covering up a deep sadness they haven’t been able to admit to.
If you do this, it’s good to ask yourself how avoiding your sadness is serving you.
What’s the thing you’re afraid will happen as the result of facing your grief?
General irritability about minor things in your life, like the lights being left on by your roommate, the dog walker showing up 15 minutes late or the way someone dresses, are all indications of someone who is denying real anger about something.
This is a common lie we tell ourselves when we’re angry with people whom we live or work closely with, like a romantic partner, roommate or a co-worker.
We fill our heads with these minor annoyances because the true issue feels as though it would be too disruptive to our every day lives.
When we tell ourselves and the people around us how much we don’t care about the house, the job or the person we are in a relationship with, we safeguard ourselves against disappointment.
We go to great lengths to show everyone how little we care, suppressing not only feelings of sadness, but also joy and excitement.
That’s because of a deep fear that any feelings at all will be too much to handle.
When we censor, judge and deeply disapprove of certain types of people or their philosophies, it’s in an effort to ward off the awareness that we have the potential for those same qualities within ourselves.
We attack certain sexual preferences as deviant or entire political groups as racist when we fear that we possess these qualities ourselves.
By facing what it is we fear within us, we could heal or change our beliefs, rather than cover them up.
Defensiveness is a diversion tactic people employ to avoid listening to information they find unpleasant.
You can see it everywhere on social media, regular media and across political parties. In fact, one could argue that defensiveness on both sides is one of the main obstacles to having a productive discussion in American politics today.
This tactic is used on a personal level as well. It happens when instead of listening to someone, we take offense to what they’ve said and defend ourselves with outrage.
This is a dangerous block to self-awareness because it often comes up when what we’ve heard is actually true, and it could provide an opportunity for growth and change.
Cynicism and despair
Instead of directly identifying something that upsets us, we lean on the false belief that everything is pointless and there’s no point in trying.
In truth, cynicism is a defense mechanism that can quickly become a permanent character trait because it’s actually a belief system.
Like a negative affirmation, the belief that “men are all disappointing” begins to precede experience.
For instance, if you believe men are disappointing, they’ll prove themselves to be.
You’ll always be on the lookout for proof of your negative beliefs, and those beliefs become your experience. It’s a vicious cycle.
These lies are the biggest obstacles to our personal growth. They stand in the way of an honest assessment of ourselves.
Unfortunately, without uncovering the feelings below the surface, we’ll never be able to get ahead of our harmful eating habits, or our tendency to date narcissists or our smoking habit.
We often try to tackle those negative habits first, by doing Dry January or setting a resolution, instead of facing the feelings we are most afraid of.
This is the real work we have to do to continue to grow.