10 Dangerous Lies We Tell Ourselves
Today at a Glance
- In my discussions for the Life Lessons from 1,000 Years, one of my 90-year-old participants shared a piece of poignent wisdom on lies: "The most damning lie is the lie you tell to yourself."
- I began reflecting on what lies I've been telling myself, as well as ways to reframe them to fight back.
- Here are the 10 most dangerous lies we tell ourselves (and reframes that will help change the internal narrative).
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In Life Lessons from 1,000 Years, one of my 90-year-old participants shared a piece of poignent wisdom on lies:
"The most damning lie you can tell is the lie you tell to yourself."
The sharpness of the point hit me hard at the time, and it continues to do so today.
I began reflecting on what lies I've been telling myself—from the subtle half-truths and sleight of hands, to the obvious contortionist mental gymnastics used to escape painful realities.
I'm guilty of all of these lies, though with this newfound awareness, I suspect I'll be fighting back more effectively going forward. My hope is that this piece instills that new awareness in you and allows you to fight this critical fight on solid ground.
Here are the 10 most dangerous lies we tell ourselves (and reframes to help you fight back)...
Lie: "When I get [X], then I'll be happy"
It's easy to convince yourself that your happiness is contingent upon external milestones.
Common milestones include:
- Money (a specific dollar figure)
- Promotion (a specific title)
- Fancy stuff (new house, car, jewelry, etc.)
My friend Khe Hy calls these "When, Then" Traps—the idea being that you end up creating a sentence that says "When X, Then Happy".
It's a vicious cycle—a dangerous game to play. In all likelihood, you'll get X and immediately feel unfulfilled. You get the fancy car, see someone driving a fancier one, and wonder why you don't have that.
These things won't make you happy. Real happiness always comes from within.
Reframe: I will find joy in the process of getting [X], and take pride in the fact that my consistency of effort earned me [X].
Lie: "This is just who I am"
Treating your identity, competencies, and personality as a constant is just a cop out. You're selling yourself short.
The Paradox of Change says that the only constant in life is change.
You are no exception—you are in a constant state of change.
Adapt or die.
Reframe: This is who I am TODAY, but I am capable of incredible change.
Lie: "I don't have time for [X]"
Stop blaming time and giving your focus a free pass.
Time is almost never the real issue—we somehow make time for the things we really care about.
Most issues of time are really just issues of prioritization.
Reframe: I don't have time for [X] in my current schedule, so if [X] is important to me, I need to re-look at my current prioritization.
Lie: "Someone will be there to save me"
This is meant to be comforting, but it hides us from a harsh reality:
There are going to be times in life when no one is there to save you. Times when the only person you'll be able to truly rely on is yourself.
The friends and family you thought would show up for you don't...you're alone.
When you find yourself at the bottom of a hole, stop digging and pull yourself out of it.
Reframe: I hope they will be there to support me, but I have everything I need within me to handle this situation.
Lie: "I'm not capable of [X]"
Self-defeating language is always a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If you tell yourself that you're not capable of something, you won't be.
Reframe: I'm not capable of [X] today, but I will be after 30 days of dedicated, focused effort.
Lie: "I know exactly what I'm doing"
No you don't. And that's ok!
No one knows what they're doing—some are just better at faking it than others.
Learn to tolerate uncertainty and develop a talent for figuring shit out on the fly.
Reframe: I don't know what I'm doing, but that's ok, because I'll figure it out soon enough.
Lie: "They just got lucky"
This is an attempt to justify an unfavorable comparison.
It's easier to attribute their success (and your failure) to luck than it is to wrestle with the other possibilities.
Luck played a role, but that person probably worked for years in the dark to put themselves in a position to win.
Reframe: They achieved something that I want to achieve, which proves to me that it's possible if I keep working at it.
Lie: "I'm just waiting for the perfect moment to do [X]"
There's no such thing as the perfect moment. If you wait for it to come, you're doomed.
Deep down, we know that, but we hide behind it.
If it's something you are excited and (reasonably) prepared for, sometimes you just need to take the leap and trust in your ability to adapt.
Reframe: There will never be a perfect moment to do [X], but if I'm prepared, now is the right moment.
Lie: "I'm too late to do [X]"
This is usually just a cheap excuse for laziness or fear of embarrassment. You're almost never too late to start on a journey.
"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today."
Reframe: Today's "too late" can become tomorrow's "early" if I start moving now.
Lie: "I'll do [X] later"
No you won't—you're just giving yourself a pass to continue procrastinating.
The things we continuously push out are the things that never get done.
Four options (based on the Eisenhower Matrix):
- Do it now
- Schedule a specific time to do it
- Delegate it to someone
- Delete it from your list entirely
Reframe: I'll do [X] right now if it's urgent and important, or at [specific time] in future if it's not as urgent as other important tasks. I'll delegate or delete [X] if it's not important.
Those are the 10 most dangerous lies we tell ourselves, and the reframes that can help you fight back.
Action Item: For the next week, pay attention to your internal dialogue and catch yourself when you say any of these. Use the reframes to change the narrative.
I'd love to hear from you:
- Which of these lies do you catch yourself saying most often?
- What lies are missing from the list?
- How have you reframed them to fight back?
Tweet at me @SahilBloom and I'll do my best to get back to everyone!