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6 Ways to Break the Habit of Lying to Yourself

6 Ways to Break the Habit of Lying to Yourself
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    “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.

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    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.

    Examples:

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    “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!

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    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!

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    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)

    More by this author

    Judy Belmont

    Mental health author, motivational speaker and psychotherapist

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    Last Updated on July 20, 2021

    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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    You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

    Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

    Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

    Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

    1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

    According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

    “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

    Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

    Warming up

    If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

    If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

    Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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    1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
    2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
    3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

    Stay hydrated

    Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

    To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

    Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

    Meditate

    Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

    Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

    Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

    Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

    2. Focus on your goal

    One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

    Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

    Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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    Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

    If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

    3. Convert negativity to positivity

    There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

    ‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

    It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

    Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

    Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

    Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

    4. Understand your content

    Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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    However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

    “No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

    Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

    Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

    One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

    5. Practice makes perfect

    Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

    In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

    Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

    6. Be authentic

    There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

    Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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    Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

    To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

    With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

    Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

    7. Post speech evaluation

    Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

    Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

    We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

    You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

    Improve your next speech

    As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

    Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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    • How did I do?
    • Are there any areas for improvement?
    • Did I sound or look stressed?
    • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
    • Was I saying “um” too often?
    • How was the flow of the speech?

    Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

    If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

    Reference

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