The Lies We Tell Ourselves: Limiting Beliefs vs. Liberating Truths

Never lie to yourself

Recently I saw the above Paulo Coelho quote: “If you want to be successful, you must respect one rule: NEVER LIE TO YOURSELF.”

Initially, I thought of the simple lies we tell ourselves:

  • Binge-watching nine seasons of The X-Files isn’t affecting my productivity.
  • I don’t use social media / online games / other internet distractions too much.
  • I’ll just have one drink tonight.
  • I’ll do it tomorrow, definitely, for sure, no excuses.
  • Two large slices of pizza is probably somewhere around 200 calories.

Those sorts of lies. The simple, obvious lies: the ones we know are lies, and that we know we know, and which we really plan to do something about, one day. Really.

I briefly pondered the quote, and then moved on.

But after initially seeing the quote, clearly my brain kept working on the idea, because two or three days later, out of nowhere, I had this thought:

What if those aren’t the kinds of lies that really matter?

What if the lies we have to stop telling ourselves are the more insidious ones, the more soul-crushing ones, the more life-suffocating ones?

The lies we tell ourselves because they let us stay small and safe. The lies that act as cushiony couches, keeping us deep inside our comfort zones. The lies that allow us to stay within snug, danger-free boundaries, and not try for more.

Things like:

  • I am not good enough, I’m not [pretty, important, smart, talented, young, old, etc. etc. etc.] enough. I am not enough.
  • I’m not worth the effort.
  • My dreams don’t really matter. Everyone else’s dreams are more important.
  • I don’t have what it takes.
  • I’m too [old, young, dumb, unimportant, lazy, etc.] to change.
  • If I try and fail, I’ll be devastated and humiliated.
  • Nothing I do makes a difference.

These are the lies that limit our lives. They are our limiting beliefs.

They are the lies that underlie the simpler lies. These lies are the why that underlie the what:

  • Because I’m not worth the effort and my dreams don’t matter, I’m going to numb myself with a non-stop Friends marathon.
  • Because nothing I do makes a difference, it really doesn’t matter if I make an effort today or put it off until tomorrow. Bring on Candy Crush!
  • Because I don’t have what it takes, I may as well keep drinking.

These lies crush us, they crush our spirits, and they crush our lives.

We need, instead, to start telling ourselves our liberating truths:

  • I am enough.
  • It’s worth a try.
  • I deserve better.
  • I want more.
  • If I try and fail, I can just try again.
  • I am strong enough to survive a fall.
  • I matter.

We hold ourselves back far more than anyone outside us does. It all comes back, again and again, to fear of failure, fear of rejection. We need instead to start believing in our resilience and our worthiness.

There’s that saying: “What would you try if you knew you could not fail?”

I like to put a different twist on it: “What is worth trying, even if you fail?”

Any lies we tell ourselves—whether small or large—are not useful. They don’t help us move forward or reach our goals. But it’s the deeper, underlying beliefs that really hold us back. They keep us safe from scary, painful, difficult things like change, growth, and failure. But in the end, more than that, they keep us from really living.

After all, the juiciness of life is not in the final destination, or on the sidelines, watching from afar. It’s in the journey we take along the way. It’s in embracing all of life’s messiness, the struggles, the failures, the trials and errors, the joy of being in the game. It’s in redefining “success” to include the triumph of effort.

It’s time to start telling ourselves the truth.

Dear reader: You are worth the effort. You are enough.


Also published at my Huffington Post blog.

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