As I sit in the dark of my cabin deep in the woods of southern Sweden at 5:00 in the morning, it’s not an unusual scenario for me to be writing. However, this morning, I can’t seem to shake off the conversation from yesterday that lingers in my mind.
Last night, my children and I had an honest and vulnerable conversation about how important it is to stop lying to ourselves.
The conversation left a deep impression.
It made me think about my life and my choices and changes.
As I type these words, I sense that I’m still grappling with the emotions that yesterday’s conversation with my children stirred up in me.
I don’t view myself as their parent but as an equal, entrusted with a part of myself. My responsibility isn’t to raise them in the traditional sense of the word.
Instead, I operate more as a coach, mentor, or guide — approaching this role with humility and deep respect.
My goal is to model the kind of person I want them to become, living an authentic life as an example to follow.
But it hasn’t always been that way.
I was stuck in a daily pattern of lying to myself for many years.
I felt insecure, scared, and incompetent. I lied to protect my ego and move forward, avoiding internal and external confrontation. I lived a life of denial, projection, and self-delusion for a long time.
Lying became a way of shielding myself. It functioned as protection to defend my bad choices, my shortcomings, and my reactions to the outside world.
I avoid taking responsibility by making myself a victim.
Humans exist only in the world through the stories we tell ourselves.
The story I told myself was that I was the victim, and everything happening to me was everyone else’s fault and responsibility.
The nervous system actively filters incoming data based on past experiences, shaping what we see and hear to fit our expectations and needs.
For years I kept blocking out information that did not align with my preconceptions and biases, selecting only what I wanted to see.
Language and cultural concepts also influenced what I saw and was able to register and classify.
I often refused to see specific information that applied to me or projected my feelings onto others. My brain’s preference for storing perceptions often led to a distorted worldview.
When I was growing up, I never had any structured guidance on how to evaluate myself objectively.
My home and educational environment had little room for challenging the established and limiting ideas.
The narratives I constructed about myself were often such a source of discomfort that I was reluctant to explore them.
As with any behavior, lying is functional and has benefits, even if the long-term costs exceed the short-term relief we experience when we lie.
Lies act as a safeguard/strategy for temporarily dealing with situations.
I felt uneasy about the outcomes of speaking the truth, and thus, I devised methods to construct my interpretation of the world.
Reflecting on my past, it is evident that I resorted to lying as a coping mechanism to avoid confronting the truth and concealing my genuine emotions.
Lying often stems from a fear of the unknown or a fear of judgment from others.
In my case, it started with my father. Subsequently, I continued to lie as a defense mechanism, dreading the potential consequences of revealing the truth.
Ironically, each lie I told only intensified what I tried to avoid and became the beginning of several destructive habits.
Today I remind myself that my perceptual system is prone to distortion, and defense mechanisms such as denial and projection can further cloud my perception.
To live a fulfilling life, I must improve my perception and understanding to reduce these initial distortions.
This is self-assessment at its core.
Recognizing Negative Patterns and Behaviors
Deceiving or lying to myself is simply holding a motivated false belief. False beliefs can help to satisfy critical psychological needs (e.g., believing in my abilities).
There is a disconnect between myself and others at the root of lying to myself. It requires me to maintain multiple personalities and add shame, guilt, and other negative feelings.
It is an incredibly isolating experience, and while it may seem convenient to avoid confrontations, lying ultimately leads to low self-esteem, self-confidence, and resentment.
When I am dishonest with myself and others, a persistent feeling emerges in the form of a soft voice that whispers:
“You are not standing up for nor supporting the best version of yourself.”
This disconnection and lack of support will always make me lie even more.
The function of lies is to create distance between ourselves and what we find unpleasant.
In my case, I was using lies to distance myself from my choices and behaviors that did not align with my values and goals.
However, in doing so, I was only creating more harm and avoiding taking responsibility for my actions. It was a short-term solution that created long-term problems.
I lost trust in myself. I couldn’t rely on my thoughts and actions, which led to a lack of self-confidence and insecurity.
By avoiding the truth, I missed significant growth and personal development opportunities.
I could not recognize my strengths and weaknesses or take steps to improve myself, thus never facing my true self, including my flaws and limitations.
That prevented me from addressing the issues I needed to work on, which led to stagnation in my personal growth and development.
Forming authentic and honest relationships with others was problematic when I lied to myself.
I struggled to be vulnerable and connect on a deeper level.
Lying to myself created internal conflict and turmoil.
I constantly battled my true feelings and the false narrative I had created.
I was trapped in negative patterns and behaviors without recognizing and addressing reality.
Some examples of how I lied to myself and thus deceived myself:
— I stopped taking responsibility for my mental and physical health
— I postponed things that favored my goals
— I told myself and others that it couldn’t be done
— I did not deal with habits that were harmful to me
— I blamed my behavior and reactions on other people
— I didn’t question my opinions, way of life, and harmful relationships
— I didn’t take responsibility for my communication or boundaries
— I was complaining instead of expressing needs and feelings
— I made myself the victim and others the perpetrators
— I traded valuable time for entertainment instead of pursuing things I was passionate about
— I didn’t do what I said I should do and had to consistently run through all the lies in my head and keep track of all the people I lied to.
Today I don’t have to worry when being honest because honesty builds trust and integrity.
When I embrace the truth, I can face my challenges head-on, learn from my mistakes and experiences, and ultimately grow and become a better version of myself.
How To Make An Emotional Inventory
While it’s normal to tell occasional lies, the habit of lying to oneself can impede personal growth and development.
I flourish and overcome this destructive habit by asking incisive questions to recognize the signs of self-deception. I practice mindfulness, seek feedback from others, keep a journal, and practice a lot of self-compassion.
Fill in the blanks in the following statements:
— I lie when I feel…
— I’m ruining it for myself when I…
— I feel insecure when…
— When I feel…I eat
— I let myself down when I…
— When I feel mentally unwell, I find it hard to stop lying because then I have to…
— If I’d stopped lying to myself, I would feel…
— If I’d stopped lying to other people, I would feel…
If we don’t make an emotional inventory to stop lying, we will be stuck in self-defeating behaviors.
For me, when I filled in the blanks, the answers were:
— I lie when afraid of the consequences of telling the truth.
— I’m ruining it for myself when I prioritize short-term comfort over long-term growth and success.
— I feel insecure when I compare myself to others and believe I fall short.
— I eat unhealthy foods as a coping mechanism when I feel stressed or anxious.
— I let myself down when I break promises to myself or act in ways that contradict my values.
— When I feel mentally unwell, I find it hard to stop lying because I face uncomfortable truths and emotions.
— If I’d stopped lying to myself, I would feel more authentic, confident, and fulfilled.
— If I’d stopped lying to others, I would feel more trustworthy, respected, and connected.
Every good habit I have created results from practicing telling the truth, therefore, I constantly reminded myself how lies almost wrecked my life.
- Lying is a destructive habit that produces painful consequences, suffering, and bad habits.
- Lies are often linked to specific behaviors and environments and can be passed down through generations.
- Ignoring the ease of lying can lead to a slippery slope toward an emotional breakdown, often leading to bad habits.
- Asking ourselves if we lie to ourselves is an essential and empowering question.
- Practicing telling the truth daily lead to positive changes in our lives, such as improved mental health, self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-respect.
- Telling the truth gives us the courage to stand up and defend the best version of ourselves and make better choices.
In the past, I used to lie habitually to protect myself and avoid confrontation.
I realized that I often lied out of fear, shame, or a desire to control a situation.
I can’t say I never lie anymore, but I do it less frequently. I’ve learned that being honest is the right thing to do, and it feels better in the long run.
Practicing honesty has improved my relationships, boosted my self-esteem, and helped me create a life where I don’t have to numb myself to make it through the day.
What would be possible if you stopped lying to yourself?