The power of our minds can be harnessed to empower us. It can also sabotage our best intentions. Here are seven lies we commonly tell ourselves to indulge or to hide the truth from ourselves. To live our best lives, it is essential to recognize these self-sabotage patterns and evict them to make more empowering choices.
I wish I could do _______, but I can’t.
‘I can’t’ almost always means ‘I don’t want to.’ We hide behind ‘I can’t’ to pretend the choice isn’t really ours. In the short run, it may feel beneficial because we can avoid owning our preferences and pretend that we have no choice in the matter. But it comes at a significant cost! By habitually hiding behind ‘I can’t’ we disempower ourselves across all areas of our lives. What we really need to say is ‘I don’t want to’ instead of ‘I can’t.’ It is more honest and restores our sense of personal power and choice.
I deserve this dessert….
Or this dress… or this outcome… or… whatever. This is one I hear often! Lying to ourselves by pretending that we deserve what we lust for, lets us indulge in momentary comforts. The problem is, once the momentary gratification wears off, we’re back to facing the original, unpleasant feelings. I have seen people overeat by saying they deserve to indulge after a long day at a job they hate or working with people they loathe. They use food as a reward even though it wrecks their health; and this is the epitome of self-sabotage cloaked in righteous garb. Nobody deserves to wake up feeling awful about their choices. By addressing core issues, every person has the power to restore a sense of well-being to life.
Another related, insidious phrase that people use is ‘I need,’ as in, ‘I need that new dress’ or ‘I need you to listen to me.’ If you’re alive and surviving without it right now, then you clearly don’t need it. This habit may sound insignificant, but it is dishonest. Changing ‘I need’ to ‘I want’ is incredibly freeing. Whereas ‘I need’ sets you up to believe you’ll be hurt if you don’t get something, ‘I want’ gives you freedom.”
I’m definitely right.
This is one of the most damaging lies we can tell ourselves, according to social psychologist Carol Tavris, Ph.D., coauthor of Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. It’s called the basic bias—the idea that everyone else is biased, but we’re not. The belief that you know best and that you’ve got all the facts prevents you from even listening to evidence that you’re wrong—that your memory may be wrong, your perception inaccurate or your explanation faulty. It’s inherently self-damaging because it keeps you stuck in the limitations of what you think you know. It also makes you a miserable person to be with, so watch for this lie!
I have no willpower.
You do have some willpower. We all do, even though laboratory tests have shown that willpower is finite – after people used self-control for some tasks, they had less of it for subsequent tasks (that’s why it’s not a good idea to quit smoking, start a stressful job, and go on a diet on the same day!) Researchers have found that willpower, like a muscle, can be built up over time through regular training. Moreover, it has spillover benefits: If you decided to straighten your posture every time you thought about it for two weeks, you will not only improve your posture, but you’ll also experience all-around improvement in self-empowerment in completely unrelated areas!
I’ll never get over it.
In The Emotional Life Of Your Brain, author and neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson states that we’re not necessarily conscious of just how rapidly we recover from adversity. You’ve probably heard of psychologist Dan Gilbert’s research showing how people who’ve been paralyzed are about as happy a year after the accident as they were before; likewise, lottery winners were found to be no happier a year after their big win.
By allowing yourself to simply feel the negative emotions of major setbacks and trusting nature’s ability to heal, you’ll discover that negative emotions actually have a finite lifespan and tend to abate over time. While there is substantial variability in how long each person may need to grieve their losses, it is a good rule of thumb to start looking for some sense of forward motion after about six months. If not, you may benefit from professional help.
Researchers have found that people who are slower to recover from stressful events in fact have brains that are wired differently. Fortunately, we can change our brains activity patterns with mindfulness meditation, which boosts activity in the pre-frontal cortex. Studies have shown how this practice over time weakens the negative chain of associations that keep us obsessing about setbacks.
I don’t judge others.
Sure, you do! Research into how humans categorize and perceive others, shows that we all make spontaneous trait inferences about others within less than a second after meeting them! These findings are remarkably consistent across the globe, as people instantly judge each other on two main qualities: warmth and competence. People who are judged as competent but cold (such as a wealthy tycoon) elicit envy or hostility. People who are perceived as warm but incompetent (such as elderly people) bring out feelings of pity. Here’s the kicker: all judgment is ultimately self-judgment. When we size people up, we’re judging them with our conscious mind – and we are ultimately judging ourselves because we’re trying to figure out how we fit in.
If only I had a million dollars, I’d fulfill my dream of _____.
This little self-deluding bomb? It’s disproved every time we see an attorney who aspires to own a restaurant and goes to cooking school at night, or a mom who build an Etsy business while her kids take their afternoon nap. Somehow, we are so certain — so absolutely certain — that we can’t take the leap without a certain financial guarantee or windfall. We totally delude and block ourselves with this lie! Instead, why not take a step closer to your dreams from where you are at right now, and make the commitment to gradually transition to what you really want to do with the rest of your life. It is only too late if you don’t start now!