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Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Two lies we tell ourselves and the rewards of speaking the truth.

We have all told lies, big and small, to others in order to avoid conflict. Consider these two lies we tell ourselves and what might happen if we were honest with ourselves.

The truth hurts. We’ve all told lies, big and small, to others in an effort to spare their feelings. We also tell ourselves lies. One aspect of coaching is listening to clients and in a direct way, "bottom-lining" what is being heard and giving feedback about themes and patterns. These hard truths can be difficult to hear, but can lead to new areas of awareness. Here are two common lies that we tell ourselves and implications of telling the truth.

1. I’m.......(label)

We use labels to self-identify and describe ourselves. These are part of our personal script and shape our beliefs about what we can and can’t do. Labels can be positive or negative and we rarely challenge these assumptions. When positive, they serve to give us confidence (I’m athletic, I’m creative, I’m a leader), but when negative, they can also limit what we are willing to do (I’m not a good cook, I’m a procrastinator, I’m not disciplined). 

Who says that you must be a bad cook or a procrastinator? There is obviously some truth to these statements as previous behavior has led you to identify as such, but where is the truth that these descriptors must always be true? Because you have a tendency to procrastinate does not mean you are destined to always put things off and are powerless to change.  

At times, our self-descriptors can keep us from trying new things. They provide us with an excuse from moving out of our comfort zone and improving overall happiness and wellbeing. In short, it is easier and far less intimidating to say that we don’t or can’t than to put in the effort needed to describe self-describe as someone that does or can. 

2. I don’t have time

We’re all busy. There are times in life when we have so much on our plate that we simply cannot take on one more thing. The lie is that you have no time. If you are using every minute of your day efficiently, my hat is off to you. You have more discipline than I do. But chances are, you have some time to devote to things that are fundamentally important to you if you closely examine your schedule. We make time for things that we value and when we say we don’t have time, what we often mean is that I have time, but I’d rather not spend it on X. 

When we choose the desirable activity over the less desirable one and tell ourselves we just don’t have time, we are giving ourselves an excuse. For instance, many people choose the social or rewarding activity over the solitary or less exciting one, i.e. I don’t have time to study Mandarin, but I do have time to stop and get a coffee in the morning. 10 minutes is 10 minutes, if you can wait in line for your latte, you can pull up your Memrise app. Looking for more time? If it really is a matter of minutes in a day, consider how you are using your time. We waste an inordinate amount of time on our phones and other devices (and I’m not even talking about the time we spend waiting for a page to load).

If you have been telling yourself these half truths, consider what may be different for you if you are honest with yourself.