It’s amazing, the extent to which, you will go well out of your way to find refuge in your own bullshit.
I’m in the same boat as you. I treat it like a 24/7 job to unravel my own B.S., but I’m human. And human beings have this way of being able to fully logically understand concepts but feel powerless to apply them. It’s a losing battle, but one worth fighting.
If you can get maybe three to five percent better at telling yourself the truth, you’re doing an amazing job. Sometimes you lie to yourself, your deep subconscious lies to yourself, but you actually think you’re right, even though you kinda sorta know you’re not. Does that make sense?
Usually, people battling to defend their positions so hard know they’re full of it because you don’t have to argue truly self-evident things like “the sky is blue.” I’m not saying I’m right. It’s up to you to decide whether or not I am. And ultimately, you’re life is going to be the product of whether or not you’re able to see through your own rationalizations. Fingers crossed for you, my friend.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common lies you tell yourself.
You don’t want to change. Why, because you don’t want to change. You don’t want to become something else because even if you don’t like who you are or the results you’re getting, you’ve at least become accustomed to being you.
When you make a real decision to change, you have to come to grips with a bunch of painful truths:
Bottle full of hard pills to swallow. I don’t have the perfect remedy for changing other than to recognize the fact that you actually don’t want to change. Once you realize how bad you want to stay the same, you’ve pinpointed the cause instead of focusing on the symptoms.
I’ve changed my mind on visualization. Sure, picturing a better version of yourself can help you become a better version of yourself. But you do the real work of becoming a better version of yourself in the real world. It’s important to gauge your life based on who you really are vs who you imagine yourself to be.
Random example from my own life. I imagined myself to be a rational financially literate person simply because I read finance books and watched Charlie Munger’s speeches. My behavior showed a different picture when I started trading options based on recommendations from Twitter. For all the Nassim Taleb I read, I behaved as if I knew when to get out before the black swan came waltzing in.
You have many versions of yourself. Stop focusing on what you think, monitor what you do. Your intentions don’t make you who you are, your behavior does. There’s the classic example of the person who always seems to fall into a certain trap — bad relationships, bad luck, money problems, whatever — and they fail to realize they’re the common denominator in all of it.
If you keep getting results in your life that you don’t want, you have to ask yourself why you’re getting those results. Adjusted for luck and circumstance, your results are reflective of your behavior. You’re giving the world a certain signal with the way you behave and it’s beaming that signal right back at you. Think about that.
Short guys often have trouble getting a date. They think it’s because they’re short. It’s not. Yes, being under a certain height is definitely a dealbreaker for some women. But for the rest, they don’t avoid short men because they’re short. They avoid them because they’re not confident.
Short guy tells himself a story about how women don’t like him because he’s short. Women don’t like him because he’s insecure. He can’t accept his perceived flaw, so his insecurity leaks out into his interactions with women or he just avoids the interactions altogether because, of course, he has no shot.
When I was in middle school I had a neighborhood friend named Martell. He was in high school. He stood about five foot five inches and he never grew taller even to this day. Every girl in the neighborhood was in love with him. He was just one of those people that people wanted to be like or be around, you know?
It never occurred to Martell that he was short, or it never occurred to him that it was an issue. One of the other most well-renown playboys I’ve ever met only had one eye. I can’t read their minds, but maybe they thought that since they were clearly flawed it made no sense to dwell on it. Nowhere to go but up. Either that or they just didn’t care. Both reasons work.
This point isn’t about dating. Dating is just a great microcosm for damn near everything. The lie you tell yourself is that your outcomes are because of [x]. The problem is your interpretation of [x]. Always remember that everything is a self-fulfilling prophecy. A feedback loop that trends up or down. You’re always the main variable.
They say money doesn’t change you, it just makes you more of what you already are. All of these points are really about the avoidance of change. We prefer pretty much any substitute to change because of what change means.
Anyway, this lie is the ‘if I do this, I’ll be happy’ lie. Or if I do this, then I’ll finally give myself permission to feel a certain way. We want a shortcut to self-confidence by achieving some sort of externally validating feat, but it’ll never change the way we feel inside. There is a way to go about accomplishing goals in a way that builds self-confidence, but it’s not often the way we do it.
Let’s start with the wrong way to do it. The wrong way to do it is to toil away at the goal and giving yourself no permission to feel confident until you’re all the way done with the journey. You build a million-dollar business but still don’t feel the need to give yourself credit when you’ve made $999,999 dollars. You expect there to be gold at the end of the rainbow, but the only thing at the end of the rainbow is you with more money, but it’s still you.
If you want to do it right, move toward your goals even though you’re not ready. Go for the things you don’t yet feel worthy of like you’re already worthy of them. It’s behaving like you’ve made a million dollars before you’ve done it. It’s throwing yourself into the dating market before you lose weight. A lot of people think ‘acting as if’ is the easy way out. It’s the hard way.
It’s the only way to build real confidence. Why does acting as if work so well? You have to behave differently, which is the thing you don’t want to do. Because when you act as if, you have to expose yourself. You’re legitimately vulnerable because there’s a possibility of getting called out. Rejection doesn’t hurt as bad when you pre-reject yourself by giving a half-assed effort. It hurts a ton when you stick your chest out and still get struck down. When you try really hard and you still fail. Come out the other end of that though and you have real confidence.
This lie is when you tell yourself you’re doing something for a certain reason when you’re just doing it for the sake of signaling. It’s hard to overstate how much signaling dictates your behavior. You’re a social animal and you have to send those signals to your tribe of choice for validation. You can’t get rid of it. You can only seek to reduce it.
Most people don’t actually care about climate change. They like sharing Facebook posts about climate change yet they don’t even pick up litter when they see it on the stress. Christian finger-wagging conservatives watch boatloads of porn. Somewhere out there in the ether, there’s a MacBook pro with a hammer and sickle sticker on it. I’m sure of it. What do I signal about? I’m reflexively anti-woke. I’m a self-improvement writer for God’s sake, it’s almost impossible not to signal virtue doing this job and I kind of hate that about the job, but I try to be as real as I can. It’s hard.
It’s hard for all of us. The desire for external validation and acceptance permeates all of our behavior. So my best remedy for it is to try your best to be the person you say you are without telling anybody about it. Donate money to charity without saying a word or give a homeless person money without recording it for social media. If you’re really a Buddhist and not a hipster Buddhist, be austere. Don’t pretend to believe something because you think it’ll help you fit in. Note to self “Don’t talk about what it is to be a good man. Be one.” I’m still going to talk, but know that I’m doing my best to practice what I preach, I promise.
Look, you know you’re full of it. So do I. We all know it. The question is, what are you, what am I, what are we going to do about it? If anything I wrote hit a nerve, even if you disagreed with it, think about why it hit a nerve.
A great heuristic — nothing offends you or gets to you that isn’t at least partially true, you know the sky isn’t green. I’m just trying to cut through the BS for both of us. Because the more you clear it away, the more you’re left with what will actually make your life better.
So, don’t beat yourself up for your rationalizations, but fight the uphill battle of trying to simply notice when you’re rationalizing. It helps, a lot.