The Danger of the Self Lie

Yesterday, in a business discussion, the subject of self-delusion (and our reluctance to confront it) was raised.  I believe that it’s one thing to knowingly lie to other people – something that is bad enough.  But, it’s a whole other issue when we lie to ourselves. When we start to believe our own press, we’re in big trouble.

liesAnd we all do it, don’t we?

I smoked off and on (mostly on) for the better part of 20 years – sometimes up to two packs a day. “I won’t get emphysema, lung cancer, throat cancer, tongue cancer, etc. That happens to other people.” It happened to my grandfather, two of my uncles and one of my aunts.  Those “other people” sure were close to me!  Still, I kept my butt in the air and my head in the sand.

I’ve been overweight or obese for most of my life. “I won’t have diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, etc.  That happens to other people.” Again, it happened to my grandmother, at least one of my aunts, and an uncle.  Wow.  What a coincidence that those “other people” were so close to me again!

The point is that we don’t want to face our failures or our ignorance.  We might not know how to plan our meals effectively for either nutrition or a budget. We might not know how to invest our money or save for our futures. We might not know how to exercise to receive the most benefit and minimize our risk of injury. We might not know how to best buy a car, buy a house, or effectively insure those belongings or ourselves.  There are lots of things that we don’t know, that we may suspect we are doing ineffectively or outright incorrectly, but we convince ourselves that it’s okay. That as long as we don’t look at the failure, it’s not there. As a result, we don’t seek professional council that could save us.

We tell everyone we’re okay and doing fine when we suspect or when we know that we’re not.  Finally, we believe the lie and all hope of correction is lost.

Well, not lost, exactly.  We might have some kind of Road to Damascus moment. We might have friends stage an intervention. We might have a professional take us by the lapels and get our attention.

As you know, for me, it was my visit to my doctor on July 24, 2011. That nurse practitioner metaphorically took me by the lapels and said that if I didn’t stop living the lie that my extra weight wasn’t hurting me, it was going to kill me.  I’m fortunate. I didn’t have to have a heart attack, a stroke or a diabetes diagnosis to wake up.

I’m not going to lie to either one of us and say that there aren’t places in my life where I still need to wake up and smell the coffee.  But, I can tell you that my obesity is no longer one of them and I couldn’t be more pleased.  Imperfect creature that I am (stop snickering, sister of mine), my work on eradicating self-deception will never end.

And I trust that’s not a lie I tell myself.


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