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6 Ways to Break the Habit of Lying to Yourself
“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
- “I can’t stand it!”
- “I should be further along in my life by now”
- “I don’t know how to talk to people.”
- “They screwed my life up.”
- “I’ll never find anyone like her again.”
- “Things never work out!”
Do any of these types of statements sound familiar? Do you tell yourself things that you would never say to anyone else? If so, read this post if you want to help yourself separate fact from fiction and stop telling yourselves stories that just aren’t true!
As a psychotherapist, it has often struck me how my clients who are completely honest to everyone else and would never even tell a white lie end lying to themselves all the time. Whether they think they are too fat, not smart or attractive enough, or think they are plain “losers,” they often have no qualms calling themselves names that they would never think of calling anyone else. I will never forget when one young, thin, attractive professional woman confided in me that she secretly thought of herself as “fatty,fatso” which had been the nickname given to her by her grade school classmates.Despite how successful and attractive she had become, her self-image was still stuck back in the distorted body image from grade school.
Especially those who early on that were either told by family or peers that they were not good enough carry the torch for this type of destructive fictitious thinking. They find themselves not even questioning those unhealthy automatic labels they put on themselves, labels they would often never even dream of calling anyone else, and do not realize that are really just “story telling.” Despite the fact they think deep down they are fatally flawed and they are just “telling it like it is” to themselves, they have no clue how fabricated and far-fetched their tall tales are! To add insult to injury, when things go wrong, such as if a marriage falls apart or if they don’t get the job they wanted or even lose the one they had, they end up blaming themselves and seeing their failures as further proof that they are inadequate and somehow not good enough. These are the poor souls who would never even think of hurting anyone’s feelings although they freely hurt their own.
The good news is: These habits can be broken, no matter how entrenched they are!
Here are five tips to stop the lying once and for all…
1. Use the W.A.I.T. Acronym (What Am I Thinking?)
Imagine a stop sign and ask yourself – “What am I Thinking?” Since irrational and distorted thoughts lead to anxiety and negative feelings, chances are you are telling yourself lies by exaggerating with “black and white” thinking. Furthermore you can ask yourself a second W.A.I.T. to dig deeper –“What Are Irrational Thoughts? Replace the fictitious thinking with fact.
“I can’t stand it!” could be replaced by “I have a hard time putting up with it, but I really can stand it since I am not melting into the ground!”
“I should be further along in my life by now,” can be replaced with “I am disappointed that I am not further along in my life, and I will use the lessons learned as stepping stones to move forward now.”
2. Ask Yourself: Who are my Board of Directors?
Who is putting those thoughts into your head? Are you renting space to people in your past or present who taught you these lies? At this point it is your choice to listen! For example, did you have a relationship that went sour and you were blamed for it? Did you grow up with parents who imposed a lot of “shoulds” on you with the well-meaning intention of raising you the best they knew how? Were you sensitive to peer rejection, criticism, or even disinterest, and do the words you heard still sting?
This is time to stop renting space in your head to anyone who is telling you lies and honoring those “invisible loyalties” from the past that make no sense! Stop keeping the lies on life support.The truth is, even though they might be figures form the past, they never really left.No matter if you are 28 or 82, these messages can be persistent! It’s time for eviction!
3. Write Down Your Big Whoppers
Take a piece of paper and write out the fictitious whoppers you tell yourself that pull you down. Differentiate between fiction and fact. Choose now what to believe. Then, on another paper, write out the more rational messages that are more factual. Remember, stick to the facts, not interpretations!
4. Throw the Lies Away
Once you identified the fictitious messages and write down the more factual alternatives out on another piece of paper, crumble the paper of the lies and throw them in the trash where they belong. Or how about taking a match and burning them? They have no use in a world of truth and reality – and isn’t that the world you want to live in?
5. File Your Facts
For each of the rational messages you write to counteract each lie, copy each one to a separate file card. I encourage you to refer to them often, laminate the cards with clear contact paper, and carry it with you in your wallet or purse. Refer to them often to keep yourself on track so you are moving ahead rather than staying stuck in the Land Of Oz!
6. Forgive Yourself for Past Mistakes and Regrets
When you live with one foot in the past, you will likely tell yourself all sorts of things that are not really true, and might call yourself names like “stupid” or “loser”. No one gets out of the land of “woulda coulda shouldas” with self- esteem intact. Try to use the past as a hitching post rather than a guidepost, reminding yourself that nothing ever changes in the past. Reworking the past never really works, because the past stands still. Forgive yourself for not having the foresight to know what you know now in hindsight!
If you choose to stop telling yourselves lies and stick the facts (and not interpretations) you will truly think straight and feel great!
(Photo credit: Businessman with Growing Nose via Shutterstock)
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