Why Lie to Ourselves?

Bill Abbate

If there were anyone you could be honest with, you’d think it would be you. But how open are you with yourself? Do you always tell yourself the truth, or do you sometimes skirt it?

What you say and do in life molds you into who you are, including lying and being honest. Which would you rather have shape your life?

Let’s look at some of our lies and how we can benefit from honesty.

How we lie to ourselves

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes deny the truth and deceive myself. When I was younger, it was even worse. Sometimes, I used self-deception to hide, trying to be something I was not, covering my insecurities and flaws. I also lived in denial, simply another way to say I was lying to myself.

But what about those little lies? Do they count? Absolutely!

Regardless of what you have read, there is no such thing as a little white lie. It is still a lie. And there is no such thing as a fib. It is still a lie!A lie is a lie is a lie, yet it can go by many names.

“Every lie is a poison;there arenoharmless lies.

Only the truth is safe.Only the truth gives me consolation — it is the one unbreakable diamond.”

Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910)

Most of us lie to ourselves far more often than we realize. Rather than call it a lie, we cover it over by using words and phrases such as:

  • Pretending
  • Exaggerating
  • Making excuses
  • Being deceitful
  • Justifying
  • Denial
  • Stretching the truth
  • False humility
  • Fantasizing
  • Addictions
  • Hiding
  • Covering up
  • Pleading ignorance
  • Unnecessary worry and fear
  • Feeling entitled
  • Being an imposter
  • Avoiding pain
  • Not accepting reality
  • Turning away from truth
  • Avoiding
  • Betraying
  • Blaming
  • Gossiping
  • Threatening
  • Rationalizing

This list contains only a few ways people lie to themselves and others. Sadly, lying is part of the human condition. It all started in the garden with Adam and Eve and has not stopped growing since.

To learn more about why we lie to ourselves, check out this article on cognitive dissonance —Why We Lie to Ourselves.

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892)

Can we ever stop lying?

Every schoolchild knows the story of George Washington saying, “I cannot tell a lie,” when his father asked about the cherry tree he had chopped down. The story is well known to be a fable created by Washington’s biographer. Sorry to burst your bubble, but a fable is a fictitious story that conveys a lesson, making this tale about Washington a lie!

Lying continues to grow as our vocabulary increases and words become redefined. Is there any end in sight? I’d be lying if I said there was, so I’d have to answer the question more vaguely — it’s highly doubtful. The problem with being vague is it often contains an element of untruth.

Not only do we lie in words, but we also lie in pictures and videos. All you have to do is look at Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms, and you will find lies everywhere. If you don’t believe it, read a few profiles on some dating sites! For more about social media lying, check out this article — What Does It Say About You by the Way You Adapt to Social Norms?

What can we do to stop lying?

As previously mentioned, we often blame Adam and Eve for planting the first seeds. What a never-ending harvest those seeds have produced!

Sadly, the world is so full of lies we are often blind to them. It does not mean all is hopeless. You and I can stop or at least attempt to lessen our lies as much as possible. Most of us know lying is not good, and it is best to avoid it at all costs. Since we can’t make anyone else stop, working on ourselves is the next best thing.

What we must do is increase our awareness of the lies. The more we notice them, the better we can catch ourselves and stop lying. Why not start paying attention and attempt to catch yourself as often as possible? For most of us, this will become a lifelong venture. At least, there is no end to the amount of practice we can get!

The easiest way to go to work on your lies is to question what you think and say often. Simply ask yourself, “Is this true or false?”

The more we observe and enhance our understanding of what we get from not lying, the more likely we stop many lies before or as they are happening.

A few of the tremendous benefits to stop lying to ourselves and others include helping us:

  • Grow as a person
  • Develop better relationships
  • Become more responsible
  • Think more clearly
  • Mature
  • Lower stress in our life
  • Live a healthier life
  • Live longer
  • Gain greater peace and joy
  • Face and accept reality
  • Get more in touch with our feelings
  • Increase our emotional intelligence
  • Become more productive and successful
  • Be truer to who we are
  • Live more in the land of reality

These are only a few benefits of being honest, and I bet you can come up with more. Any of them provides an excellent reason to work on the lies we tell ourselves and others.

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Mark Twain (1835–1910)

Final thoughts

With lying as pervasive as it is in today’s society, imagine how you will stand out from others by being as truthful as possible.

While it is difficult to see an end to lying in the world, at least we can begin where we are by working on ourselves. With the many benefits we gain, why not? Can you imagine what the world would be like if even 10% of the lying stopped? Wow! What a different place it would be.

Of all of the advantages of being honest with ourselves and others, the greatest is we unleash the ability to grow as an individual. With that growth comes many benefits, including those all-important relationships we need to thrive and a far more rewarding and fuller life!

I leave you with some words of wisdom from a former Postmaster General of the United States:

“The best advice I can give to any young man or young woman upon graduation from school can be summed up in exactly eight words, and they are —be honest with yourself and tell the truth.” James Farley (1888–1976)



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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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