This week, we’re going to discuss how to stop lying to yourself.
The Danger of Lying To Yourself
“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky
When you lie to yourself, you falsify reality to serve your vices. Why is this dangerous? Because you become delusional while failing to achieve anything you can be proud of.
For example, if you declare publically and privately, you want to lose weight, then you set expectations. However, you continue to eat bad food and avoid the gym. You’re lying about your desire to lose weight because your actions are not aligning with your declarations. What does your deceit accomplish?
- Firstly, you won’t get in shape. Thus, you’ll have to deal with various health and self-esteem issues.
- Secondly, you’ll lose respect for yourself. Will you believe yourself when you make a new declaration to improve your life? If you’re not sold on yourself, then you’re less likely to fight for your future.
- Lastly, others will trust you less. They will be less likely to believe you have proper follow-through when you make a promise.
Lying to yourself leads to despair. Therefore, we need to examine why you lie to yourself. Then, we will detail how to avoid lying to yourself in the future.
Why We Lie To Ourselves
“I lie to myself all the time. But I never believe me.” – S.E. Hinton
Despite the drawbacks, lying to ourselves is an age-old practice. Humans are very capable of self-delusion, and this power helps us deal with a variety of struggles. Further, practicing self-deception gives us access to power, virtue, and pride.
So, why do we lie to ourselves? There are three main reasons:
1. We Lie To Gain Power
Lying is a popular way to garner power through manipulation and deceit. Overall, such power grabs are a net negative for society and the individual. However, the rush one receives from lying can convince us to pursue this self-destructive path.
For example, you may lie to yourself about your intentions to go to the gym. The power you gain from lying is to settle your feelings of shame, so you can focus on enjoying your vices without interruption. Such a pursuit gives you control over yourself in the short-term, but you will suffer in the long-term.
Self-deception gives you power over your guilt, shame, and regret. This lying makes your vices stronger, while your quality of life will deteriorate. Therefore, it is better to be honest about your intentions, especially to yourself, so your virtues can dominate your vices.
2. We Lie To Achieve Moral Legitimacy
“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.” – Virginia Woolf
Self-deception gives access to virtue while maintaining your comfort. For example, let’s say you want to help the poor. The best way to help the poor is to use your money to support charitable organizations. Or use your energy to assist those who are struggling directly. The worst way to help the poor is by voting and supporting politicians. Why? Because the government doesn’t help anyone even with trillions of dollars of debt and annual revenue through taxation.
However, you may lie to yourself. To avoid the personal work of helping the poor directly, you lie to yourself and state voting or protesting is helping the poor. Objectively, you are incorrect, but your lying convinces you of your moral superiority.
But what really happens? The poor aren’t helped, your local community deteriorates, and you haven’t grown as an individual. In the end, if you have enough influence, you’ll leave your deteriorating community, while patting yourself on the back.
Therefore, we lie to ourselves to deceive ourselves. We want to be morally superior without having to sacrifice our comforts, money, time, or energy towards becoming better people. Virtue is only accomplished through personal growth and the overcoming of vice. You will not achieve virtue by exporting the responsibility to an external force.
You can try to convince yourself otherwise, but such lying will not change reality.
3. We Lie To Hide Shame
Have you avoided going to the gym? You can lie to yourself to cover the shame of your laziness. For example, you might say, “I haven’t had time to go to the gym” or “I’m working on finding a new gym.” These lies give you the appearance of making plans, even when you are doing nothing.
Why do we do this? So, we can give ourselves the illusion of progress. This illusion of progress helps hide the shame caused by laziness. Such lies convince us we are doing something even when we’ve made no plans, promised no rewards, and have not moved toward our goals.
Of course, all we gain in such delusion is a lack of trust in ourselves. The more we lie, the less likely we are going to believe we can deal with future struggles.
How To Stop Lying To Yourself
As individuals, we must focus internally. Therefore, your focus is on stopping your self-deceit, instead of stopping dishonesty in the world.
Here are the three techniques you can use to stop lying to yourself:
1. Stop Lying To Yourself By Accepting There Are No Easy Solutions To Complex Problems
“The world you desire can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.” – Ayn Rand
The best way to prevent lying to yourself for moral legitimacy is to recognize there are no easy solutions to complex problems. For example, the poor will not be helped by a bigger government or people voting. The poor will be helped by a complex combination of personal responsibility, reasonable expectations, and external aid.
You can lie to yourself, and state problems can be solved with simple solutions and bumper sticker declarations. However, such a path will solve nothing and help no one.
Therefore, you have to accept life is nuanced. The faster you accept this reality, the better you can deal with challenges. The better you deal with challenges, the less incentive you have to lie to yourself. The less you lie to yourself, the better you can handle the responsibility you have to pursue virtue.
2. Stop Lying To Yourself By Narrowing Your Focus On The Local
The more local your focus, the more impactful your actions. Collectivists love to focus on the broader society when trying to help others. Such a broad focus fails to produce meaningful, measurable results, and we’re worse off for it.
Therefore, keep your eyes open to those around you. Help people who are in your immediate sphere of influence. By helping people close to you, you will see how your generosity is producing positive results. Seeing your virtue improve the world will eliminate your shame and give you moral pride.
You will do more good if you treat your children with decency and respect versus if you assume voting is all you have to do to solve poverty. Your kindness will stretch further if you volunteer on the local level versus if you protest for more political control. Always remember, your life has a greater meaning if you help people closest to you.
3. Stop Lying To Yourself By Always Pursuing Virtue
Lastly, if you keep the 13 virtues at heart, you will reduce and eliminate feelings of shame. Reduction in your vices will decrease your need to lie to yourself. Additionally, the fewer vices you have, the less power they have over your life.
I cannot give you all the answers to a perfect life. However, I know the 13 virtues are a good place to start. Courage, Generosity, Industriousness, Discipline, Persistence, Patience, Gratitude, Zeal, Magniminity, Loyalty, Fortitude, Authenticity, and Frugality. What is lost when you pursue virtue? All that is lost in the pursuit of virtue is comfort.
Pursue virtue, and your reasons for lying will disappear.
Reduce Self-Deception And Stop Lying To Yourself
Your self-deception does not serve you, your community, or your loved ones. When we lie to ourselves, we ensure abuses and failures continue onward, unimpeded, to the next generation.
Stop lying to yourself. The world is complex; you cannot live a comfortable, virtuous life. Furthermore, lying only grants short-term results. If you wish to have a sustainable, meaningful life, then you need to be honest.
Become an individual. Study and adhere to virtue. Stay focused. You can and will win.
- What’s the latest lie you told yourself? Why did you tell it?
- List frequent lies you tell yourself. How does your lying affect others, especially the people you care about? For example, if you lie about wanting to finish your work, then you may run out of time. With less time available for your job, you may have less time to spend with your family.
- What virtue do you struggle with the most? Why?
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.