Kristen Yates – Lying to ourselves has become the most normal thing in the world.
And it’s the thing that keeps us in a perpetual state of mediocrity.
We tell ourselves that the reason we’re not living the life we desire is because of something outside of our control. That our job takes up too much time, that life is too stressful, that it isn’t practical to pursue what we actually want to explore because we need to make a living.
Or we’re stuck in unsupportive habits perpetuated by a lifestyle we feel powerless to change. Those two beers after work every night are necessary to take the edge off a long work day. The once weekly Netflix binge becomes a nightly routine of zoning out. Life feels overwhelming and instead of directing it fruitfully, we let it wash over us like a tidal wave.
Hardly anyone would actively choose a life of mediocrity, but fewer take the time to actually investigate why their life is the way it is. Instead, they fall into the beaten tread of mindless routines based on old belief patterns, telling themselves their big dreams aren’t practical, and pushing away the shame of knowing they were meant for so much more.
The Little Lies We Tell Ourselves
The most virtuous and well-meaning people lie to themselves all the time. Often silly and harmless, the little white lies are like playfully sneaking around behind your parents’ back – promising yourself just one piece of chocolate, swearing you won’t obsess if your crush tests back. It doesn’t really matter in the short-term when you break such a promise.
The problem arises over time when we either don’t realize we’re lying to ourselves, or convince ourselves that we aren’t lying at all.
We lie to ourselves that we’re going to sign up for that art class, right after we get the bills paid. We lie that we’ll go home and write our book, rather than plop in bed with a movie. We lie to ourselves that the distractive habits and limiting beliefs we indulge aren’t a real problem that’s holding us back in our life.
For me, the little lies kept me trapped in a perpetual state of mediocrity when I was striving for the extraordinary, and couldn’t understand why it felt so far away. I knew what I was capable of and who I wanted to become, but I couldn’t shake off the mildly toxic yet seemingly harmless habits that I knew dulled my edge, despite telling myself that they weren’t a big issue.
In isolated instances, they were nothing – but over time, the little lies began stealing my energy away. Telling myself that I’d just go out for one drink with friends, then come home and write. That the hours spent going down Internet rabbit holes around life coaching were actually productive for my business (spoiler alert: they weren’t.) That the time I spent scrolling on social media at night (or far worse! in the morning) was bad, for sure, but it was just a bad day – I would be better tomorrow.
Only tomorrow never came. It was always today, with me lying to myself and engaging in the same bad habits that kept me distracted, escaping from my actual life happening now while time passed me by. I knew I was better than this – so much better – but I felt powerless to change.
It’s not to say I wasn’t productive – I was always very busy starting new projects that somehow never got finished. But I deluded myself that being “busy” was the same thing as being effective. And deep down, I knew I was far from living my full potential.
When someone lies to you, you naturally begin to lose trust in them. Over time, the small lies I told myself chipped away at my self-trust until I didn’t ever know if I would do what I said I was going to do. Living unconsciously, I became flaky and unreliable, and saw that reflected in my work and relationships.
The Problem with Shame
You may wonder why good and honest people lie to themselves in the first place when they truly want the best for their lives. The answer can be found in the shame we carry and are unwilling to look at. Shame keeps us trapped in a cycle of low self-worth that over time eats away at our confidence and ability to take positive action in our lives.
We must bring light to anything we have even a little bit of shame around, because these areas can easily grow into a great dark pit of self-deception when left in the shadows. These can be either big secrets we hold within, or little things that don’t seem like a huge problem, but we still wouldn’t love to admit to anyone.
The nightly glass of wine. The flirtatious texts with a married colleague. The hour wasted on Snapchat.
Something doesn’t have to be a massive problem in our lives, in order for it to be a massive problem. In fact, it’s the “not-a-problem”-ness of it that makes it a massive problem, because it means we’ll never look at it as something serious that needs to be fixed.
My inner shame manifested as three things: casual use of alcohol, Tinder dating, and mindless Internet usage. These were each a regular and socially acceptable part of my life, but I felt a relative degree of shame around them and felt pretty powerless to change because of how ingrained these habits had become.
None of these were a huge problem – and that was the problem. It would have been easier if I were an obvious addict – drinking a bottle of wine every night, sleeping with men all over the place, or wasting five hours on social media every day. At least these would be things I could identify as a problem with some necessity to do something about.
But it was the casual, not-a-problem-ness of it – the single glass (and a half) of wine I’d pour on a weeknight, the hour I’d intend to work on my book but instead spend scrolling Instagram, the times I’d be traveling and start swiping for men to avoid feeling alone with myself.
These seemingly innocuous habits didn’t make a difference on any given day, but over time they siphoned my energy, incrementally numbing away my drive for the extraordinary and reducing me to a disappointingly mediocre version of the true self I knew I could be.
As Brene Brown, writer on shame and vulnerability says, “Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” Hiding our shameful behaviors from ourselves ensures we’ll stay stuck in the same cycles, until we’re willing to face the truth with our own eyes.
Liberation Through Radical Self-Honesty
It came to a head when I realized I was fighting an uphill battle writing my book amidst the cascading avalanche of little lies pouring in daily. It dawned on me that I was delusional to believe I’d complete this great work of my life with the same mindset and behavior patterns I’d always had.
Something snapped inside, and I could see it all clearly. The restless feelings that had perpetuated my escapist habits for years. My fear of loneliness. The sneaky ways I’d numbed myself to avoid the terrifying thought that I’d been squandering my potential and would always be stuck playing small in life.
The light of this new awareness shone on my unconscious behaviors, starkly illuminating who I had been and why. I’d stayed perpetually distracted, constantly moving around the world, switching projects and seeking external validation to avoid being fully and completely with myself. This had led to emotional instability, a million unfinished creative endeavors, and a toxic relationship that had entangled me for years, wasting more time that I could have been growing into my purpose.
It suddenly became obvious that I couldn’t hide from myself anymore. All the shame and avoidance I had trapped within came flying to the surface, finally revealing the source of my behaviors – a harsh awakening that ultimately liberated me from my own prison of self-deception.
Our shame and lies can only exist in the shadows – they cannot survive in the light. We become free when we face ourselves with full honesty, committed to reveal and face all we’re avoiding within ourselves.
Awareness is the key that will free you from the prison of mediocrity you’ve locked yourself within. It’s the commitment to look directly at your truth, and trade the shadow of self-deception for the confronting yet massively empowering path of radical self-honesty.
From this place of truth and awareness, you gain the power to change your behaviors. This subtle and embodied shift transcends any sort of habit-changing structures we try to force on ourselves.
Until the root cause of your behaviors is identified, nothing will change in the long term. You must truly understand why you have been locked in your patterns, and address with love and compassion the source of the issues that have held you there.
Walking Your Path To Freedom
So how can we use radical self-honesty to liberate ourselves and live our potential?
Real change can begin when you become sick and tired of your current ways that keep you stuck. Fully feeling the frustration and righteous anger towards your self-imposed limitations is uncomfortable but necessary fuel to overcome them with self-awareness. You’ve been suppressing these feelings to avoid the pain – channel them now into fire to see yourself clearly.
It is only when you see the truth about your situation that you can actively take the steps to shift your patterns.
Once you have greater awareness around what you’ve been hiding from yourself, focus on the “why” behind your desire for change. Connect with your true self who’s been hidden underneath shame, avoidance, and old belief patterns. How will your life change when you tap into your full power?
Speak to yourself, either out loud or through writing. What needs to be said from your heart to your subconscious? Use the prompts below to illuminate any areas of shame or self-deception. Begin building an open and honest relationship with yourself where nothing is kept in the dark.
Radical Self-Honesty Prompts
What do I not want to look at in my life?
Where have I been holding myself back?
What do I need to honestly hear right now?
What needs to change in order for me to gain my full power back?
Living Your Full Potential
Coming to face myself that day was a painful yet valuable awakening to inner freedom and empowerment – but it was only the beginning of a new path of commitment to self-honesty. We must constantly put in the work to make conscious choices that support our highest good and prevent us from slipping back into old ways.
Freedom from your own lies creates so much space in your life to be filled with your potential. When you aren’t distracting yourself from feeling discomfort, you simply have more time and energy to walk your true path in life.
It’s also to remember you aren’t alone in this – most people live with their own version of shadows and little lies, and when you start facing yourself fully, you may inspire others to do the same.
This is the path to fulfilling your true potential, for the light of truth and awareness is the only way to blast through the inevitable obstacles you’ll meet along the way.
While facing myself with radical honesty that day wasn’t comfortable by any means, it was a life-changing wakeup call to live more consciously and show up fully on fire to my life.
Your own commitment to reveal your shadows and walk your path will be unique to you. The more vulnerable and authentic you become with yourself, the more your blockages will clear and your life will flow with new energy fueled by your true potential.
SF Source Wake Up World Apr 2021