Often times when we are going through a rough time in life, we choose to see what we want to see without even realizing it. Self-deception is the process of lying to ourselves without realizing that we are doing it. We literally believe our own beliefs, perceptions, and thoughts.
Contrary to what you may believe, we all do it at one point or another. We have fragile egos, and our subconscious mind works hard to protect feelings from confusion and harm. So in turn, it distorts our views where possible to make us feel better than we would otherwise. Lying is never a good thing, and we often think about lying to others, but it can be more detrimental to lie to ourselves.
Self-deception is the fountain of failure, unhappiness and missed opportunities.
Why do we do it?
As previously stated, we often don’t even know that we’re in a state of denial of the truth or reality. We lie to ourselves to makes us feel better about a certain situation.
For example, a woman who is in a physically and mentally abusive relationship believes that what is happening to her is a mistake made by her significant other, or often justifies their behavior based off on something she did that she believes was wrong. What this woman fails to realize is that the same person who is causing her harm is the same person she believes will protect her and keep her safe. From an outside perspective, nothing about that particular behavior can be justified. However, this woman is in a stage of self-deception where her mind is attempting to protect her of the harmful truth.
“We deceive ourselves because we don’t have enough psychological strength to admit the truth and deal with the consequences that will follow.” -Cortney S. Warren Ph.D.
The cost of self-deception
Unfortunately, the people we love and care for the most tend to suffer as well. We tend to hurt ourselves and those we love and care for the most. One major cost of self-deception is that we hurt ourselves and those we love the most when we don’t take full responsibility for who we are. When we use painful life experiences to justify being a non-ideal version of ourselves, we directly and indirectly hurt the ones we love the most.
Another cost of self-deception is that it can leave us with mountains of regret. During this state, we may have made some choices that have caused some harmful consequences to avoid being honest with ourselves. What is unfortunate is that when looking back at life with regrets, it is a tough pill to swallow because you cannot change the choices in your past, only your choices moving forward. If you want to learn how to be true to yourself you must remember this.
Quattrone and Tversky explored the self-deception phenomenon in their classic social psychology experiment in 1984. “The experiment shows the different graduations of self-deception. At the highest level, people tend to imbibe the deception and therefore think and act as though their incorrect belief is completely true, totally ignoring and rejecting any incoming hints from reality.”
How to be true to yourself
- Identify your life purpose, values and goals
Set small goals that move you in the direction of your bigger goals and values.
- Be aware of your self-talk
Evaluate your thoughts when you first wake up in the morning. Are they supportive and positive? Be your own best coach, not your own worst critic.
- Take time to play
Give yourself a break so that you can recharge by allowing yourself to do the things that you love.
- Honor your strengths
Write down the 3 strongest things about you. If you find yourself struggling, ask someone closest to help you and then focus on those strengths.
- Get help if you feel stuck
There is professional, private help out there to overcome self-deception and teach you how to be true to yourself.