The Truth about the Lies We All Tell


I caught myself telling a lie this week. Not only that, I realized something: I lie constantly.

Oh, not to other people. With them, I usually tell the truth. But in my head, to myself, I’m often a liar. And I’ll bet you are, too.

Here are some lies I was telling myself this week:

“Matt, it all depends on you.”
“Your lack of discipline and effort have kept you from fixing your flaws.”
“You should be more like that guy.”

They drain me and stress me and belittle me, but at the same time, they are somehow addicting. I’m not sure why, but comparison, expectation and shame are oddly enabling. They give me permission to worry and numb, worry and numb, worry and numb. I’m doing something, just not necessarily something that’s helpful.

So on it goes, limiting me and keeping me from reaching my potential.

This habit of lying to ourselves likely started when we were young. I see my kids forming the habit in first grade, and it makes me sad.

“No one plays with me because I’m not good enough at the game. I’m horrible.”

And now as adults, unfortunately, we carry over that lying habit.

Habits built up and reinforced over a lifetime are hard to change. The lies will probably keep coming. So the bigger question is, what will you do with them? Will you ignore them and remain comfortable and enabled? Or will you:

  1. Name them. Like mold, lies need dark, damp environments to grow. When we expose them to the light by calling them out to ourselves or a trusted confidant, we see their irrationality more clearly.
  2. Replace them. Recently a close friend encouraged me to imagine myself talking with God about my lies and replace them with truth. Despite the shame I’ve sometimes associated with religion, I have a deep sense of God saying to me, “You are a wonderful creation and unconditionally loved.”
  3. Train them. My colleague Maureen Tubbs calls the lies “scripts” because we rehearse and memorize them. Our environment is our training ground: our co-workers, what we read, what plays in the car. What do you rehearse in your head based on what’s around you—and what steps will you take to rewrite the script?
  4. Use them. Here’s what the lies are good for: reminding us that we are all human and that everyone falls victim to the lies. So help other people name them, replace them and train them through trust and appreciation. At work, at home and in the community (through political elections and the holiday season), let’s remind each other, “You are a wonderful creation and unconditionally loved.”

Be honest: How do you manage the lies in your head?

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7 Comments

  • Mike Norman
    October 17, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Matt, Very thought provoking. I have been going through this recently in my role as President of the condo association. It is one of those thankless roles where you put in lots of volunteer time working on behalf of the other 71 owners and only hear from anyone when they have a complaint. So, I find myself allowing the vocal minority to determine my opinion of how successfully I am fulfilling my role. There, I have now “named it”. I will begin following the other three steps you outlined to keep my “head screwed on right” and my focus where it needs to be. Thanks. Mike

    • Todd Martin
      October 17, 2014 at 7:51 pm

      BAM – right between the eyes! This is a daily choice: Truth or lies

      I often think I am not qualified in my current sales role, disorganized and lacking in creativity and drive. I witness others on the sales team doing good things, and I think I should be more like them. I have successes, and chalk them up to luck, or having good accounts. I think “yeah, this is a good month, but this success will probably not continue”.

      Instead, I choose to believe the Truth – that I am uniquely qualified for this position; I am not here by accident, or as some cruel joke, but God put me here for a purpose; God loves me and He will never leave me or forsake me. 🙂

      Thank you, Matt. I needed that!

      • Matt Norman
        October 18, 2014 at 8:57 pm

        Todd, thank you for your inspiring declaration! Your example is so compelling of how we marginalize and minimize our own value.

    • Matt Norman
      October 18, 2014 at 8:54 pm

      Dad, thank you for this example of how we tend to make decisions about our value based on limited perspective.

  • Paul Batz
    October 20, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    The best – and hardest – advice I’ve been given since I started my own business is: “You have to learn to be your own best friend.” Every time I say to myself: “You idiot,” I’m lying to myself and it doesn’t help anyone. Least of all myself.

    Matt, your insights are thought-provoking and powerful. You are a good leader!

    • Matt Norman
      October 20, 2014 at 2:35 pm

      Paul, that is excellent advice that I will remember. Thank you for your comment!

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