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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