The 5 Lies I Stopped Telling Myself

One Week Without Lying

“No man was ever so much deceived by another as by himself.” – Fulke Greville

This past week I have done my best not to tell a single lie, in hopes of both rooting out the tiny white lies that slip into everyday conversation, and being fully honest with myself about…myself.

I covered my experience with white lies in my recent midweek update, and today I’m going to focus on my adventures in uncovering the lies I tell myself subconsciously.

On Tuesday I took a day off of both jobs (my first since January).  I packed up a bag with some water, fruit, energy bars, and a few books and headed out into the woods without a cell phone or watch.  I thought that the silence and solitude would be a good setting for getting “real” with myself, and it worked wonders.

All told, the experience was exhilarating, a bit scary, and beneficial beyond words.  I boiled it down to these 5 lies that I tell myself in one way or another each day, did my best to seek out the real truth behind each one, and pledged to do my best to cut them out.

1. “I’m just paying my dues.”

Whenever I’m feeling particularly swamped with work, or feel like my life isn’t all I had hoped it would be, I tell myself that if I only keep pushing through those 70 hour weeks for 5, 10, or 20 more years, it will all get better.  There seems to be a pervasive idea that selling off your 20s and 30s in exchange for being comfortable in middle age is the good and safe thing to do.  But I’m not so sure I agree.

There’s nothing wrong with being respectful of your future self and planning ahead, but all we’re ultimately guaranteed is the present moment.  If you’re not happy doing what you’re doing, it’s insanity to assume that you’ll be happy after ten more years doing the same thing.

2. “It’s all about me.”

Okay, okay, I don’t actually say this to myself, but I certainly imply it.  I realized how often I take trivial matters personally, when the reality is that no one has me on their mind all the time except, well, me.  I have to remind myself from time to time that the world doesn’t owe me anything and doesn’t consider me in every decision it makes.

Shit happens, for better or worse, and getting worked up or offended by it is just a waste of the energy I should be spending on rolling with the punches and doing what I need to do.

3. “I’m just too busy.”

“Sir, may I have five minutes of your time?”

“Nope, busy.”

“Scott, could you pick up this table at the other end of the restaurant?”

“Busy.”

“Let’s hang out sometime!”

“Sure… if I’m not busy. I’ll call you.”

It’s not that I’m lying, I am pretty busy, but I’m only busy because I choose to be.

I discovered when I went one week without television that I wasn’t nearly as busy as I thought I was, my life was just cluttered with a lot of small or trivial things that don’t serve any purpose beyond entertainment.

Too often, instead of trying something new or bettering myself in some way, I’ll tell myself that I’ll do it when I’m not so busy.  Astonishingly, that moment never comes.  These past few weeks, I’ve learned that I can do anything I want to, so long as I actually do it and stop talking about it or putting it off.

4. “Normal is good.”

Normal. Average. Regular. These are the baselines by which we judge ourselves and one another.  Little divergences from the median we call character or personality, but anything outside of that comfort zone is frowned upon.  If you’re not doing what everyone else is doing, chances are you’re doing something wrong.

Of course, normalcy is an illusion and most everyone who has done any good in the world has made a concerted effort to be anything but normal.  I realized that if I don’t want to be normal then I shouldn’t try to act normally or judge myself in comparison to what I think is normal.  I’m the only me I’ve got, and I’ve got to act like it, eccentricities be damned.

5. “As long as I keep doing what I’m doing, good things will happen to me.”

We create our own luck.  Simply maintaining the status quo, expecting some life changing opportunity to come your way is a recipe for disappointment.  The only doors that open are the ones you knock on, and if you really want something you have to pursue it unyieldingly.

This was perhaps the most powerful realization of all.  I tend to keep my plate filled to the brim, assuming that if I keep working hard I will eventually stumble upon the life I want to live by happenstance.  The reality is, I’ve got to go find and earn it for myself.

may we all get better together.

-s

Start your own One Week With/out challenge!  Begin here.

Comments

  1. lutek_k says

    There are plenty of blogs out there addressing the question of “How can I help myself?” It’s refreshing to find one that goes beyond that to “How can I help us?”
    Your current “week without” may be the most important of all. We can’t do anything else right if we’re not first being honest, starting with ourselves. I find the “white lies” the hardest to avoid, because they’re often told out of compassion. Lots of fodder for ethical discussion there.
    Great motto, too. “May we all get better together.” There’s no other way. Getting better on your own is an illusion – another lie that people tell themselves.
    By the way, do my jeans make me look fat?

  2. says

    Yes! Eccentricities be damned! People made up normal. This was awesome, what a risky and bold thing to give up, and I think it’s really interesting how not telling lies to other people really put you in a mind set to see how you were actually lying to yourself in some ways. This is why I think these experiments are so great!

  3. says

    No. 3 is definitely something many people give if they want to run away from the fact that they need to do something about their life.

    We always have time…it’s just that most of us don’t cherish its blessing.

  4. says

    How do you implement sustainable mindset shifts? It seems to be easy to become aware of beliefs that are holding us back, but in my experience it seems easy to fall back into them without a proper contextual change. A mentor used to tell me: if you want to change behavior, change the context first, and the behavior will follow. Don’t rely only on willpower.

    Seems to me that beliefs are mental behaviors, and are hard to change without the proper contextual support. What do you think?

    Great stuff, found this blog today, keep it up.

    • says

      Carlos, I couldn’t agree more. I had a friend who had been a smoker for many years, tried to quite many times, but always got back on the horse. But, when he moved to Atlanta, he never had another cigarette again (as far as I know at least). His habit didn’t change, but the triggers that supported it did.

      In my own experience, if you are seeking to quite a habit entirely, a contextual change is essential. That said, what I’m aiming for here is not to quite (most) things entirely, but to use them in better moderation.

      For simpler habits, I think this works without a contextual change, taking a break from something is enough to “reset” the habit. For more difficult/deeply-rooted habits, however, a contextual change will always be helpful, and I personally am still parsing out the line between the two.

      Thanks for the kind words Carlos!