You will be surprised to know how self-deception can control your life, and the biggest problem is that it’s not just an enemy; it’s an enemy that acts like a friend.
Self-deception is nothing but an attempt to lie to one’s self or to hide a truth from yourself.
Usually, we deceive ourselves because the truth is too painful to face, we don’t have the guts to admit something, so we lie to ourselves either by denying it or by tweaking facts.
This can cost us a lot because you need to be honest with yourself, not only to succeed but to grow as a person and develop. Self-deception can keep you stuck, can ensure you never learn a new skill or improve.
In fact, the most dangerous thing about self-deception is that it can prevent us from change and improvement, as I explained in my previous article How Does the Process of Change Look like, in order for change to happen, first you need to admit that there’s something wrong that needs to be changed.
In this article we’re going to break down the self-deception, the reasons we lie to ourselves, how we sometimes lie to ourselves without we realize that we do and how that can be devastating. We will create a sense of awareness about self-deception, awareness about any problem is the first key to solving it.
Before we dive deeper, let’s start by seeing real life examples, how we can deceive our own selves? and how does self-deception look like?
Examples of Self-Deception
From my own experience, I can tell you that self-deception is very common, sometimes saying that you don’t lie to yourself can be a self-deception strategy too. So you need to pay attention to the examples below, but also you need to understand that there are countless and unique examples as we’re all different.
Let me share with you a story from my own life about self-deception.
Before I start this site, I was going through an experience that I consider a “self-understanding” journey, through it I’ve discovered many of my values and my goals.
I’ve discovered that I used to lie to myself a lot, about my real goals and motivators.
One of the biggest lies in my life was “I really love that girl and I must get her”, while that girl was nothing but a way to feed my ego, get approval and prove that I was somebody.
To get her, I lied, I used people, I violated my own values and I’ve really gone too far. But was it because I loved her? not at all, it was because I want to feed my big ego and prove to those around me that I can.
It took me years to realize this, my real motivators were anything but love and sincerity, even though I was telling myself that I’m deeply in love with her.
I wanted to get her in order to feel significant, other times I used this as a method to put off important things in my life (like starting this site and working on my dreams).
And once I’ve let go, once I’ve faced the truth, I was set free. Now I can see clearly how my mind played me for years, just to feed my ego and feel significance, how I used to lie to myself and justify my dirty ways.
After that I started to lie to myself again, this time I’ve started to avoid girls altogether, telling myself that I’m not ready for a relationship.
There’s a difference between not being ready for a relationship and between shutting yourself off completely.
So yes, I have an idea how self-deception looks like, and I’m pretty convinced that the worst enemy we can ever face is self-deception.
Now away from my own personal life, let’s take a look at more examples of self-deception in our daily lives.
The most popular example is when someone has a big dream, and he works so hard to get that dream but fails, the self-deception here would be to pretend that he didn’t even want that dream in the first place.
For example, if losing weight is important to you, and you started to workout but without any results, saying that it’s OK to stay overweight is nothing but a self-deception method.
This is an obvious lie, and while many people won’t fall into the trap of using this lie, still that doesn’t mean they don’t fall into the trap of self-deception, let’s see more lies that can go under the radar:
For someone who is trying to lose weight, he can deceive himself by saying he doesn’t eat a lot, it’s just his genes.
Or, a very good one, looks aren’t everything, he doesn’t have to live life according to someone’s else vision, neglecting the fact that, deep down, it’s his own desire to become fit and healthy.
Yes, looks might not be everything, but if he really wants to lose weight and it’s one of his deepest desires, then saying that looks aren’t important just to justify his situation (without feeling guilty) is self-deception.
Self-Deception and The Unconscious Mind
When we lie to ourselves, it usually happens on the unconscious level; the unconscious mind takes over and creates a lie that most of the time we’re not even aware of it consciously.
It’s too shameful for someone to admit that he failed to do something important to him, that painful truth can destroy this person’s self-esteem, and the subconscious mind will act very fast to prevent that.
So self-deception is nothing but a defense mechanism that we use when we the truth is too painful to handle.
When the truth is too shameful to admit, or when the truth challenges one of our core beliefs and values, we will use this defense mechanism, as it’s the easiest option.
And this is the biggest problem, self-deception happens on the unconscious mind, and unless you take the initiative and examine your own thoughts and intentions, you will never figure those lies out.
And let me tell you something, your subconscious mind has many needs, goals and desires that if you didn’t take the time to explore and consciously choose what you want, value and believe, you will live a prisoner to your own thoughts.
So in short, self-deception happens on the unconscious level, and it has to happen unconsciously in order for you to not discover it.
It’s a defense mechanism, and it gets triggered when the truth is too painful that it will hurt so bad.
And if you don’t consciously examine your own thoughts, you’ll be deceived by your own mind, which is doing this for a good intention of course.
Is it Bad to Lie to Ourselves?
After all, we lie to ourselves because we want to avoid a painful truth that may hurt us very bad.
Is it really a bad thing?
Yes, it is because it can do more harm than good.
Self-deception is a way to escape the pain.
When you are faced with a painful situation, if all you do is denying them and pretending that they don’t exist, then it’s a very bad strategy to deal with pain and discomfort.
That’s going to ruin your character, it’s going to make you weak because you don’t embrace pain, you escape it.
Also, you must realize that you can’t lie forever, sooner or later the truth will reveal its self.
Think about it this way: there’s a part of your subconscious mind that wants to avoid the pain, so it creates a lie. And there are many other parts, they work on fulfilling your goals and dreams, sooner or later they will figure out the lie.
I do believe that you can’t hide the truth forever, and that’s true for the lies you tell your own self.
And when the truth is revealed, guess what? the trust is ruined; an inner conflict will happen, you won’t be able to trust your own mind.
And most importantly you will never grow or change as long as you’re lying to yourself, you’ll never be able to change anything in your life unless you face the truth.
Because facing the ugly truth, as painful as it is, can give you enough motivation and drive to change; pain is the ultimate motivator, and as long as you escape this pain by denying its existence, it’ll never work for you.
We sometimes must see the naked, hard, bitter and ugly truth, lying to ourselves pretending that everything is OK is the most devastating thing we can ever do to ourselves.
How to Stop Lying to Ourselves
Awareness here means: being aware of your own thoughts, feelings, and goals. As we’ve said, self-deception happens on the unconscious level, and most of the time we’re unaware of it.
So to bring this matter to your conscious mind you need to examine your own thoughts and feelings.
You need to look at your thoughts like you’re another person, examine these thoughts and become aware of them.
Next, you need to learn to be honest with yourself, you need honesty with your own self in order to get yourself from where you are to where you want to be.
In short, all you need is awareness; being aware of your thoughts, and honesty; being honest with your own self.
If we looked a little bit deeper, we would realize that those two essential traits, awareness and honesty, require some courage and resilience, it takes a strong mind to do that.
So don’t focus directly on building those two traits, instead focus on becoming a brave person, a person who is not afraid to face the ugly truth, because he/she knows that the truth is the only thing that will set him/her free.
The truth will give you some pain, but this pain is required to push you to change things, once you really understand this, self-deception will no longer become an option for you because you know that when you lie to yourself you only make things worse.
To sum it up, have the courage to look at the ugly truth right in the eye and face it, lying to yourself isn’t going to make pain go away, eventually it will make things much worse, the only way to change things is to face the unpleasant truth.
After that you need to start practicing “awareness”, become aware of your own emotions/thoughts at any given time, and become aware of your motivators, goals, and ideas, in other words, get inside your own mind and see how things are working. (See: How to Have A Healthy Relationship With Yourself)
Once you do that, you will start noticing your own pattern, and since you’re not afraid to face the truth, you’ll be honest with yourself and see lies for what they are.
Last but not least, you must realize that lying to yourself is going to cost you a lot on the long-run, maybe it will help you avoid some pain right now, but eventually it’s going to destroy you.
It will make sure you never change or improve, it will make you lose faith/trust in your own self, it will make you paralyzed as you no longer know who you are.
Sometimes just realizing how harmful self-deception is can make you do whatever it takes to stop it.
So, don’t wait until you’ve hit rock bottom, sit down and have a conversation with yourself. Especially if you want to change things but you can’t find enough motivation/drive, you will be surprised to know how your own mind can deceive you, and you’ll be surprised even more once you know what you can do when you’re free from these lies.