The Concerning Habit of Lying to Yourself: Simple Ways to Be More Genuine with Yourself

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Self-deception is a much more deep and complicated habit than simply faking or lying to yourself. There are psychological forces involved that hold us from acknowledging some threatening truth about ourselves.

For instance, you may believe that you are more intelligent and talented than you actually are and this serves to conceal the real you and project a superficial image.

According to social psychologists, the main reason why people deceive themselves is so that they can boost their self-esteem or feel better in difficult situations. Evolutionary psychologists on the other hand argue that the human brain can accommodate conflicting beliefs concurrently and use that to fool others on their true identity.

The development of self-deception tendencies is thought of to be an inborn personality trait. Other schools of thought have it that this habit develops over time as a mechanism for coping with challenges and problems.

What is Self-Deception

Though it may look like a paradox, self-deception is not a contradiction in terms. It is real, it happens, and we cannot wish it away. Self-deception occurs whenever the conscious mind is kept in the dark concerning a particular issue. For instance, truth may be stored in the subconscious mind while falsehood kept in the conscious.

The cornerstone of self-deception is such that truth is preferentially excluded from the active and conscious mind and held in varying degrees in the unconscious mind. The point of stuffing the conscious mind with false information is so that we can hide reality from others and in so doing manipulate them.

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

Categories of Self-Deception

There are various categories of self-deception that can help us understand this entire domain and possibly use it as a mirror to reflect back into our own lives.

Self-Inflation

Self-inflation is where people put themselves in the top half of positive distributions while in negative distributions they put themselves in the lower half. Though this may vary from culture to culture, the tendency is always to perceive yourself as better than others.

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Overrating yourself on positive dimensions can play to your disadvantage because it places you on a path or level that you cannot sustain.

Moral Superiority

Our perceived moral status is one of the most important valuables in human existence. It helps in determining our value to other people and for this reason, it is an easy victim to self-deception. Because of moral hypocrisy, we judge others more harshly than we do ourselves for the same moral infraction.

Illusion of Control

Human beings need control and predictability. Experiments done show that administering random punishment creates more anxiety than having predictable and regular punishment. In the illusion of control which is part of self-deception, makes us believe that we have a greater ability to affect outcomes than is really the case.

For instance, we have no ability to affect the outcome of the stock market and in case we think that we do, it must be an illusion. The illusion of control makes people less productive in their lives.

False Personal Narratives

When we enhance ourselves and debase others, we are in fact creating biased personal histories. It is easy to push memories of negative experiences deeper into our past while pulling desirable memories into the present. This conceals true experiences that you could have used to reconstruct your life thus leaving you at the mercy of self-deception.

Why Do We Practice Self-Deception?

There are many reasons why people develop self-deception tendencies. As a matter of fact, self-deception is more powerful than coercion because we are the originators of the stories we tell ourselves.

To Escape from Difficult Situations

It is never desirable to any one to confront difficult situations. However, dodging chronic problems is never the answer. The widely prevalent disease of procrastination is in pushing things that should have been done today into the future with an aim of avoiding them.

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When self-deception becomes a habit, it provides a basis for many more lies. It can be so misleading to others because when you wear a mask for too long, people can mistake it for your face.

Default Psychological Response

Self-deception often comes from the fact that we are not strong enough to admit our vulnerabilities and insecurities. Inasmuch as we try to confront the uncomfortable realities surrounding us, at times, we are simply not prepared to face them.

There are default psychological responses that tend to protect our sense of self from potentially hurting and challenging information. Some of these responses include:

  • Denial – This is a desperate attempt to distance yourself from reality.
  • ·Rationalization – This is the creation of excuses for lack of activity and can lead to destructive behaviors.
  • ·Projections – This makes your brain believe the alternative reality. You always look for an opportunity to blame other people instead of admitting the problem.

Overcoming Self-Deception Tendencies

Self-deception can develop into staggering levels where we lie to ourselves incessantly on both big and small things. The effect of this is to conceal our true motivations and justify ourselves. What most people may not be aware of is the fact that every lie we tell ourselves pushes us a step further from our authentic life.

Stop Ignoring Your Problems

Turning a blind eye on personal problems doesn’t help in any way to fix them. Instead, it creates room for them to grow. It takes courage on your part to admit that things are not working, but this is the first step towards getting your freedom.

The tradeoff you will face is between the cushioned comfort we often get by continuing to live by self-deception versus the temporary discomfort that is followed by increased self-esteem when you decide to face off your challenges.

Through mindful techniques, you can better manage your fears and gain commitment towards streamlining your life.

Exercise Humility

You could be wondering what humility has to do with self-deception. On the contrary, there is a lot you can achieve by following the way of humility. One of the aspects of humility is that it makes you willingly admit your failures and inadequacies.

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Many times, we assume that we are know-it-alls and stubbornly follow our own way of doing things. In these situations, we tend to ignore and write off any evidence that contradicts our current set of beliefs. Psychologists call this confirmation bias.

By understanding our limitations, we open the doorway to let knowledge and new information flow in. In turn, this creates flexibility with our beliefs and whenever we are presented with new information, it becomes much easier to modify our existing perspectives. As a matter of fact, it is difficult if not impossible to be honest without humility.

Examine Your Intentions

It is far much easier to justify yourself when you lack the habit of practicing self-acceptance. Assume you want to do something because of pure selfishness, chances are high that you may justify your behavior because the current image of yourself doesn’t fit with your intentions.

At times, we make excuses that the things we want to do are much higher in purpose so that we can get our way through while in real sense it is our desires that are driving us.

The moment you decide to stop self-deception and embrace honesty, you will begin to create a foundation that empowers yourself to behave differently for your own good.

Catch Yourself in the Tracks

Self-deception is not without clues. It leaves footprints wherever it passes through and it announces its coming. Catching yourself just before you justify anything can be an effective strategy to truly accepting who you are.

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Do not attach yourself so much to an outcome that you overlook all the warning flags along the way. When you do this, you will find yourself hiding and lying unnecessary. There could be things about your past that are not so honorable if brought to light. Instead of leaving these shadow aspects in the background, make an effort to push them into the light of conscious awareness.

Therefore, self-deception has a cost and this can lead you down an inefficient, unproductive, and fragmented path. The good news is, you have the power to change the narrative from self-deception to self-acceptance. It starts gradually and if you faithfully follow through, you will ultimately dislodge yourself from this position into a life of freedom.

Go ahead and join the conversation.

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