I’m a liar.
So are you, probably.
I mean, don’t feel too bad about it, or anything. We’re human. It’s kinda what we do. How we’re wired.
I’m not even really talking about lying to other people, though we humans do that a lot, if we’re gonna be completely honest (ha!). But the lies we tell other people usually don’t hold a candle to the consistent, profound, and pernicious lies we tell ourselves.
Why do we lie to ourselves? Why would we lie to ourselves?
Usually, for the same reasons we lie to other people: because the truth is often difficult.
Truth can hurt.
Truth can have jagged edges that resist our attempts to smooth them over. We get afraid of those jagged edges. Afraid they’ll cut us. Afraid they’ll cut people we care about.
Maybe we get afraid that the jagged edges truth sometimes has will slice open our career. Or gouge a potential romantic interest. Or rip open garbage bag full of denial that we’ve been careful not to puncture, because if we smelled the pungent truth within, we’d have no choice but to take out the trash.
I mean, what can I say? Sometimes we’re not ready to take out the trash.
Or we don’t feel ready, anyway. Sometimes that garbage bag of denial feels too heavy, too squishy, too gross to mess with. We’d prefer to just keep the jagged edges of truth away from it, so we can let it go on fermenting and not have to worry about how overfull it’s getting.
I’m a psychologist. And I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that almost everybody I’ve ever worked with is in therapy because, on some level, they are either unwilling or unable to accept something that is either true, or something that they’re deathly afraid is true. They know or suspect that the truth might very well have jagged edges, and they can’t wrap their brains around what to do when those edges threaten to wound them.
At the same time, though, they’ve realized that their only other option is to continue lying to themselves– and if they’re in my office, they’ve usually also realized that the price of lying has simply become too damn high.
I’ll let you in on a secret we psychologists, going waaaaaaay back to Sigmund Freud, have always known: the cost of lying is always too damn high.
And when it comes to lying to ourselves, especially to protect ourselves from the imagined consequences of truth? No one ever stops at little lies.
No self-deception goes unnoticed by our self-esteem. You just can’t respect someone who you know bullshits you on the regular.
How, then, do we stop lying to ourselves? How do we even come to grips with everything we might be lying to ourselves about– out of fear, out of habit, out of idealism, out of ego?
Ironically, it usually takes the help of another person to quit lying to ourselves. A therapist, an AA sponsor, a doctor, a lover, a friend.
(A real friend, not the fake kind. But that’s a subject for another blog.)
If you read the first two sentences of this blog and indignantly declared, “HE DOESN’T KNOW ME! I’M NO LIAR!”, I invite you to wait until you’re by yourself, find a mirror, and look at yourself for a loooooong few minutes. Then say that– “I’m not a liar”– to your reflection, out loud.
Do it five times.
Do it slowly.
Make real eye contact with yourself. If you really believe you don’t lie to yourself, come face to fucking face with yourself and affirm that.
If you could do it, God bless ya. You’re someone who doesn’t have a whole lot in common with me or, really, anybody else reading this blog. Feel free to be on your way, I’ve got nuthin’ for ya.
If you couldn’t do it– good job. You’ve taken a step toward being fucking honest with yourself.
And as the saying goes, journeys begin with first steps.