How To Fix The Biggest Lie You Tell Every Day

Photo: Abdrakhmanov Lenar / Shutterstock
girl sitting thinking

Standing behind her in the check-out lane, I hear a familiar complaint.

"He’s so aggravating. He says he’ll change but he doesn’t."

The woman, well dressed in her 30s with her smartphone caught between her ear and shoulder while shuffling kale, spinach, and Lean Cuisine onto the belt. No one is listening to her but everyone hears.

"It’s been three years now. Well, I gotta pay, get the kids, and make dinner."

Her phone goes into her pocketbook as her credit card comes out and she disappears into the parking lot.

She’s lying to herself and she doesn’t even know it. Her words are true but her actions are saying something else. What has the appearance of being responsible is actually enabling her husband and trapping herself. What sounds like the truth is a projection of herself.

Here's the truth that she didn't see: She is aggravated because after three years she hasn’t changed.

She is still putting up with his nonsense and taking care of his needs. She’s angry at him, but she’s also angry at herself.

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There's a fine line between self-deception and martyrdom

Walking past the gleaming Cadillac years ago, I entered a store to answer their Help Wanted ad. I was young, just starting out after college with two children and another on the way. Our 19-inch TV and Lazy Boy chair in need of repair just weren’t cutting it. And our car was just big enough for our kids and little else.

Inside, a rather large man in a colored shirt, wide tie, and slicked back receding hairline read my form and then talked to me for the next hour and 45 minutes.

"I should have been home hours ago, but I want to talk to you," he told me. His two gold rings and watch knocked against the counter as he recalled working his way up the Color Tile chain by working 12 hours on a light day, six days a week.

"Sure I’m tired, I sleep on the couch on Sunday. But I do it all for them."

The actual truth he misses is that he does it all for himself. His family is an excuse, something to make him feel good when his kid got an A or got on base. He got his rewards from his "success" as a Color Tile district manager and was a stranger to his family. Color Tile was long out of business but his family lived on.

I never went back, thinking my family needed me more than a 36-inch TV. I never wanted to be him.

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Taming your inner Walter White

Getting caught up on Netflix and watching "Breaking Bad," I found myself identifying with the evil characters because people like anti-hero chemist and drug dealer Walter White seem trapped in their lives. But they are trapped in their own lies, victims of themselves.

They justify their evil and rationalize it with pragmatism, "if not them, then me," and a misguided sense of loyalty to their family, to each other, and primarily to their own pride. They all have something in common with each other.

As I binge-watch episode after episode, neglecting my writing and my wife in the other room, I realize I may not be cooking Methamphetamine but I am "Breaking Bad" in my own way. We all have something in common with "Breaking Bad."

Truth: They all have something in common with us. The biggest lie is the one we tell ourselves and we do it every day. We do it without thinking. We have done it since Adam and Eve.

"It wasn’t my fault, it was his fault." "Well, it wasn’t my fault, it was her fault."

I always wondered ... what if they had told the truth? So ironic that after eating from the Tree of Knowledge, they became blind to themselves.

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The path to success is paved with authenticity

We lie to ourselves sometimes to succeed but always to survive. Don’t you want more than survival? Real success is being authentic.

Authenticity means listening with the third ear. When you hear yourself making "You" or "He" or "She" or "They" statements, it should give you pause. Think about how that statement may be a projection of you. Think about your lack of responsibility or action has led to your circumstance.

I am not denying they may have a real problem. My point is that only they can fix that, so what are you doing? We waste so much time focused on them, and at the end of the day, we forget to deal with ourselves.

As you go through the week, listen with the third ear. Listen to your words, feel how they affect you, and watch your actions. If the three don’t line up you will feel aggravated and unfulfilled.

Change your "you" statement, "You always …" into an "I" statement: "I feel …" or "I am changing."

Change "I can’t" to "I will." Change "I should" to "I am."

Final truth: Do this every day and you will begin to stop making excuses and chip away at the biggest lie of all — the one you tell yourself.

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Dr. Andrew Davidson is a Board Certified Clinical Psychologist with more than 20 years of dealing with military members and their families, relationship issues, grief, and bereavement. He's the author of When Sunday Smiled: Walking Through Life and Loss.