Have you ever looked at a picture of yourself and been surprised? I think we’ve all been stunned by how we’ve aged or gained/lost weight or the color of our hair. We have this tendency to picture ourselves the way we mean to be, not the way we actually are. Self-deception is a process of denying the importance of opposing evidence. We convince ourselves of something that really can’t be supported by the facts.
There are many forms of self-deception, denial is my favorite. It just works for me. I convince myself that it is not happening and then I don’t have to deal with it. Case in point, I was three months pregnant with my oldest son before I knew I was pregnant. Or maybe I should say before I admitted it. The problem with denial is that it doesn’t go away during the time that we are pretending it’s not real. Whatever you are currently pretending isn’t happening will still be there in three months or three years. Then what?
Illusion of Control
The illusion of control is priceless. What parent of teenagers doesn’t want to believe they are in control? If we text them 12 times, we can surely control their behavior. If we hold the elevator button down, it will definitely come faster. If we get to pick the lottery numbers than our chances of winning are huge. Spoiler alert: your chance is still one in 175 million. What changes if you have to admit that you don’t have control over as much as you thought?
A mother tells herself that it’s okay to text while driving. A smoker decides he’s careful enough to smoke and hike through the forest. A boss concludes his outburst was necessary. Rationalization is something we engage in daily. We find a way to explain it away. I explained away my daily Dr Pepper, even though I knew it was a bad health choice. I justified that it was a great “reward” or “treat.” I deserved it. But the truth is: the mother that was texting had a wreck; the smoker hiking through the forest started a fire that burned for days; the boss’s bottom line did not increase and he lost several employees. My bad health habit, the one I called a treat, impacted my liver function. What regrettable decisions are you making that you deliberately make excuses for?
Self Deception is Killing Us
Self-deception is killing us because we live our “pretend” truth. We actually operate from that lie. Anytime our lives are directed by a false truth, it is dangerous for us and everyone around us. It leads us to destructive behavior. The more aware you are the more you are part of a bigger solution. Next time you realize you might be fooling yourself. Ask yourself:
- How honest am I being with myself?
- What are the facts that I’m overlooking?
- What am I really in control of?
- Where am I justifying my behavior?
What will it take for you to stop lying to yourself and live from a place of truth?
“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true;
the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”― Søren Kierkegaard