How To Stop Lying To Yourself

Matt Lillywhite

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“You’ve been to 23 countries. What advice would you give to someone who’s afraid of leaving their hometown?”

A few days ago, I was asked that question during a Zoom call with a friend who has never been to a different state — yet alone another country. I took a few moments to think of a response. Then, I quoted a famous line from Seneca that previously helped me to stop overthinking:

“We suffer more in imagination than in reality.”

It’s incredibly easy to be scared of flying whenever a crash occurs. Yet, the odds of dying in a plane crash are approximately 1 in 11 million. For context, the odds of dying in a motor vehicle crash are about 1 in 5,000.

Why am I giving you these statistics? It’s easy to let a fear of the worst-case scenario create a false narrative in your head about the danger of something happening. But once you stop lying to yourself, it’s much easier to overcome fear and live the life you desire.

Over the past few years, I’ve visited dozens of countries and learned a lot of things about human nature. Here are several lies that I’ve stopped telling myself since I began traveling the world. Hopefully, you’ll find them useful, as well.

It’s Incredibly Difficult To Make Friends As An Adult.

Having grown up with social anxiety, this is a lie that I believed for many years. I used to think that everyone would judge me for the insecurities I saw in myself. And consequently, I rarely had the confidence to meet new people.

The reality is that 7.8 billion people live on this earth. More often than not, you just need to put yourself in situations where you can meet people that share similar interests.

For example, I went to the Victoria State Library every day while I was in Melbourne during March 2020. I love reading and learning about new things. Going to the library frequently made it pretty easy to meet new people who enjoy doing the same thing.

If you want to meet people and love learning languages, consider attending a meetup hosted by Duolingo. Similarly, there are loads of book clubs, walking groups, and other ways to make new friends with similar interests.

The World Is A Dangerous Place And You Can’t Trust Anyone.

I come from a small town in the United Kingdom. So when I told my mom that I was going to travel around the US by myself (aged 19), she was understandably a little nervous.

She frequently said, “Someone is probably going to try and take all of your stuff” The reason? She recently saw a news article about someone getting robbed on the south side of Chicago. She was terrified of me going to such a “dangerous” place.

I visited 13 states using Greyhound and Amtrak to get around the country (plus a few domestic flights). And contrary to what she told me to expect, everyone I met was incredibly friendly.

It’s easy to create a false perception of a location since the news often reports negative events. After all, you rarely hear about a plane landing without incident or an act of kindness that someone does to help another person in need.

Obviously, it’s important to practice common sense while visiting a new destination. Try not to carry expensive items while walking at night. And if a situation doesn’t feel right, trust your gut. But once you start traveling the world, you’ll quickly realize that most people are inherently kind.

Materialism Is The Only Path To Happiness.

“If I can buy that new car, house, phone… then finally I’ll be happy.” That’s something I used to tell myself all the time. But guess what? My level of happiness never improved. I was lying to myself just to feel a tiny bit better about my misery at the time.

But when I visited Thailand for several weeks, my entire mindset changed. The people I met there didn’t have a million dollars in their bank account or the latest iPhone. Honestly, they didn’t have much compared to the vast majority of people who live in the western world.

I had several conversations with locals on the streets of Bangkok. They told me that they didn’t care much about materialistic objects. Instead, they found meaning and fulfillment from human connection and memorable experiences. As Carolyn Gregoire writes in The Huffington Post:

“Those who pursue wealth and material possessions tend to be less satisfied and experience fewer positive emotions each day. On the other hand, research has found that life satisfaction — surprise, surprise — is correlated with having less materialistic values.”

When you learn to stop wishing for things you don’t have, it’s much easier to be grateful for what you do. And if that’s not a beautiful way to experience life, I don’t know what is.

I’m going to leave you with a beautiful quote from the Greek philosopher, Epictetus, who perfectly sums up what I’m saying:

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”

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