That small order of french fries won’t hurt. Having a second glass of red wine means twice the antioxidants. I’ll apologize next time I see him. These are some of the many lies I tell myself. Harmless? What do you think?
In my mediation practice, I help people talk to each other. I also teach certain techniques to help people listen to each other, all in an effort to bring peace to their lives and to help them move past their conflicts. It’s a lofty goal and I am proud when my clients succeed. Lately though, I’ve been thinking about another aspect in communication: the things we tell ourselves. And how to separate the lies from the truth.
Self-talk, especially the lies, can stem from the belief system put in place in our childhood. You’ll never be as smart as your older sister. You’ll never be as good an athlete as your brother. You always lose at Monopoly. In short, you tell yourself you’re not enough. Those lies have a way of compounding themselves in your brain and forming a seemingly unbreakable habit.
Get ready, people: I’m going to call BULLS*&%T!
We can break the habit of lying to ourselves by replacing the lies with the truth. It’s a process, but it’s also completely possible. A good place to start is with the words “always” and “never.” Ditch them. It’s time to consciously bring the truth into your self-talk. You can change the way you perceive yourself simply by changing the words in your brain. In other words, say it another way.
Staying tuned into your feelings is an important step in this process, and you can teach yourself how to do this by asking yourself questions. For example, if you’re feeling angry because your cousin forgot your birthday, ask yourself if it’s possible that your cousin is dealing with something bigger than your birthday. Maybe it’s not about you at all, but rather about her dog being diagnosed with bone cancer. In other words, look for the truth.
Career lies are dangerous in a different way because they can sneak up on us. Try asking yourself if you’re happy with your job. If your immediate response is that it’s okay for now, or that you’re too old to look for something else, or that you’ll have to take a huge pay cut if you go elsewhere, are you telling yourself the absolute truth? Maybe, just maybe, the lies you tell yourself about your job are masking your fears. Fear of the unknown is very real, mainly because we worry that it might be worse. But what if it’s better? What if you’re not too old? What if your happiness is worth a cut in pay? In other words, ask yourself the follow-up questions.
I’m going to challenge you to consciously change the lies you tell yourself by:
- Eliminating the words “never” and “always;”
- Looking for other words that more accurately describe your feelings; and
- Asking yourself questions to arrive at the truth.