The person about to take center stage needs no introduction.
Everyone reading this is thoroughly acquainted with him. His qualifications hail from years of hard-earned experience. When he speaks, we lend fealty on bended knee. Below are some of his favorite lines --
-I will never get better. I’ll live with this condition my whole life.
-If I start this (blog) (podcast) (youtube channel), no one will tune in.
-I will never find love again.
-This new venture will fail. I’m destined to struggle and be poor.
-I can’t play full out at work and be present for the kids and be in a committed relationship. It’s too much.
-I’m not qualified enough for that position.
-That person is too attractive to want to be with me. I’m not _______ enough.
Do you recognize this voice? It’s our inner critic.
I’m talking about the judgmental conga line going on in our head. The things we tell ourselves day in and day out. I often wonder what it would be like if for one day a year, everyone’s inner monologue was audible for all to hear. The self-judge exposed. I imagine the sky would grow dark under the weight of self-oppression.
If someone talked to a friend of ours the way we regularly talk to ourselves, we would slap them across the face. Well, maybe not, but we would for sure get angry and stick up for them. Why don’t we stick up for ourselves against this dictatorial, out-of-control, inner tyrant?
And it’s worse than negative self-talk: it’s lies. We tell ourselves lies over and over again. Lies about our value, or worth, our destiny. Thoughts are things. Thoughts lead to feelings, which lead to action, which lead to results. Any result in our life can be traced back to a thought. If the life we are living right now is grim, it is because it started with a thought that this is what we deserved. Our future is as bright as the truths we tell ourselves. Or as dark as the lies we believe. It’s that simple. Our thoughts create our reality.
The Bible says that Satan is the author of lies. Just think about what’s implied in that claim: lies come from the pit of hell. By accepting a lie, we bring hell into our own mind. A welcome guest. Pull up a seat, we say. Agreeing to a lie literally ushers in hell on earth. And yes, I used ‘agree’ intentionally. Lying is a cooperative act. We choose to believe a lie. It has no power to devour if we shrug our shoulders and walk away from it. It’s when we accept the lie, internalize it, and give it roots that it goes full scorched earth on us.
Aside from religious implications, agreeing to a lie sure feels like hell. When we believe statements like the ones that opened this article, we feel small, defeated, lonely, and listless. Directionless is our path and futility is our song.
If it feels so terrible, why do we do it? Why do we agree to lies?
Because we are thirsty for something.
I once had a friend who would talk bad about pretty much everyone who wasn’t in the room. I was young and naive and thirsty for validation from such a critical source. But why, you ask. Because in my mind, if a critical person approved of me and confided in me, then I was something special (twisted, I know). The super selective, critical judge gave me her stamp of approval. I believed the lie that she wasn’t talking about me with others. I believed it because I wanted to be special. It all came crashing down when I overheard a conversation in which she was trash-talking me to someone else. The sting of betrayal hurt less than the sting of shame. I now saw what was probably so obvious to any outsider looking in: if she talks about other people, she’s probably talking about me too. How could I be so blind? Because I wanted something from her. I wanted validation. Blindness is a consequence of thirst.
If we don’t want to be deceived, we need to identify the object of our thirst. Is it status? Intimacy? Belonging? Significance?
If you can pin-point what it is you crave, and find a way to fulfill it yourself, you’ll be impervious to the lies of others. If you are not thirsty it will be hard to agree to a lie. You will have nothing to gain by doing so. This is critical to freeing ourselves from lies — lies from others and the lies we tell ourselves.
Speaking of, what about the lies we tell ourselves. How on earth do we become impervious to those?
We need to acknowledge what our mammalian, thousand year-old brain, inherited from generations past, longs for. It craves self-preservation, comfort, and protection. It enshrines the status quo because, well, it’s kept us alive thus far, why change. We don’t want liberty, we want to be looked after. We should want freedom, but instead we want ease.
Our brain will always try to self-sabotage when we are starting something new, taking a risk, or entering a new phase. Even if it is the best thing for us.Let me repeat: our brain will self-sabotage, even if what we are trying to do is what’s best for us. It’s why a man freaks out and contemplates leaving a woman the moment he can actually see a future with her. It’s why we quit right before we’re about to get started. Our brain will tell us lies not because it thinks it’s the truth. Or brain doesn’t care if it is the truth or not. It just cares about our self-preservation. Our brain will tell us what we need to hear to maintain business as usual, even if that means our misery. The misery you know is better than the misery you don’t know, it says.
We need to understand that our brain works this way. We don’t need to excoriate it for doing so. Instead, we need to accept this as part of our hard-wiring, and get creative and intentional in circumventing it.
When a thought surfaces that pertains to ourselves, we need to sift it through the sieve of these questions:
If it’s the latter, dwell on it, let it fill you up. Wind in your sails.
If it’s the former, say: ‘Thank you for sharing. That is not true, and I’m not picking it up. Actually, this is the truth about me: ____________.”
Remove the lie, insert the truth, and carry on with your day.
If it helps, keep a small journal with you and write the thoughts down as they surface throughout the day. Then, correct the self-limiting lies by stating the truth. Let’s return to our opening lines to see how this would play out.
-Actually, this is a temporary season where I’m experiencing physical challenges, and I am confident I will be well soon.
-Actually, my thoughts are worthwhile and people will line up to read/hear them.
-Actually, I have so much to offer a partner and I am worthy of love. Anyone would be lucky to be with me.
-Actually, I create wealth and success by the value I add to others’ lives.
-Actually, my capacity to handle & receive good things is limitless.
-Actually, I am over-qualified for the position and the company would be lucky to have a gifted, driven, effective person like me.
-Actually, I am enough.
We need to start getting sassy with the lies we tell ourselves. We need to start talking back.
If we make this a habit, over time, our mind will change. Over time, we will believe more truths than lies. Our world will get lighter; our prospects brighter. Good opportunities will seemingly come from nowhere, surprisingly pliant to our wishes.
We will have freed ourselves from the dank, dark prison of self-criticism & self-deception. Once outside, the sunlight brings healing to our body and exuberance to our face. The air is crisp and our future is bright.
See, we get the behavior we accept. Our mind is no different.
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