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Week of 7 Jul 14: Lying to yourself

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We all do it.  However, I think you have to have a number of years of maturity to catch yourself at it.

You don’t think you lie to yourself?  Match up your actions and your thoughts.  When they are out of sync, your actions are the truth, not your thoughts.

Most people confine their lying to themselves to issues concerning their careers and lovers.  Those really good at it expand this to other areas of life.

Why do we lie to ourselves?  It makes difficult situations more comfortable for a while.  Eventually, however, lying to ourselves tends to turn out badly.  Eventually, the truth has to come out and when it does it is often ugly.

This starts as a child with fantasy friends.  Most generally grow out of it, but many don’t.


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Signs you are lying to yourself.  You change jobs often because you think the problem is the work environment.  Couldn’t possibly be you, could it?  You are perpetually late to work while telling yourself you love your job (you may love your paycheck and your benefits, but you don’t love your job).  If you love your job, you will be there early and eagerly.  You’ll stay late.

I have watched a number of young people join a volunteer organization to which I belong.  Folks in their 30s with small kids.  This organization is demanding—it will take at least one weekend day a month from you as well as a three to four day annual exercise.  These 30-somethings are predictable.  They come in full of enthusiasm, declaring this is the greatest thing they have ever done.  In 12 to 18 months they quietly slip away, never to be heard from again.  They discovered they love their families more (a good thing).

This happens to people going to college, too.  Compare how many start, again declaring what a great thing this is in their lives, to those that finish.

Lying to yourself is part of the folly of a balanced lifestyle.  There is no such thing as a balanced lifestyle.  We have discussed this here before.  Something is always priority one.

Lying to yourself starts with mild fantasy.  It progresses to active fantasy and some specific actions.  It completes with a full blown move to whatever it is you really want to do.  I have seen people complete all these steps while fooling themselves into thinking they were not moving in whatever new direction their actions took them.


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Lying to oneself, I think, has three possible sources.  The first and most dominant is unhappiness.  One is unhappy with a set of conditions in their life or believes they can be happier in some other set of conditions.  The second is boredom.  Many will take action because of boredom—they want to do something exciting.  The final is curiosity—the more one’s nature has a curious bent, the more one is likely to lie to themselves about an action they are taking.

Many a marriage, career and life have been destroyed by self-delusion.  Yes, in nearly 13 years of writing this column about the pulp and paper industry, I don’t think I have ever given marriage advice before, but you have seen it now.

And the final area of caution is health when it comes to lying to one’s self.  Obesity is one form of this (don’t write to me about your glandular problem, I won’t believe it).  The big one, however, is cancer.  Surviving twice myself (in 2000 and 2006), I have seen many people lie to themselves about cancer.  Sadly, in most cases it has killed them when they lied to themselves about it.  My thoughts on cancer are simple—you don’t have a cold, you must treat it as aggressively as it is treating you.  Get yourself to the best cancer center on earth for the kind of cancer you have.

Yes, I think more people are harmed by lying to themselves than are harmed by lies told by others.

What do you think?  After reading this, how much do you think you have been lying to yourself?  Take our quiz here.

For safety this week, if you are injured, do not lie to yourself and say it is only a minor issue.  Follow your company’s reporting procedures no matter the consequences.

Be safe and we will talk next week.

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