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Why are You Always Lying?

People lie to protect themselves. It's why you do it too

By Jamie JacksonPublished 2 years ago 5 min read
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Why are You Always Lying?
Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

“Anyone who isn't embarrassed of who they were last year probably isn't learning enough.”  – Alain de Botton

Everyone lies, but mostly, they lie to themselves. Even those couragous characters who go to therapy and undergo rigourous personal examination will be lying to themselves soon enough if they don't pay attention.

We are all fluid and ever changing. Daniel Gilbert, Harvard university psychologist, noted:

"Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they're finished."  – Daniel Gilbert

This idea is a deep well. Gilbert wrote a book on the topic called 'Stumbling on Happiness' where he suggests we all lie to ourselves about what makes us happy and what we want in life.

Gilbert says through skewed personal perception and cognitive biases, people guess what makes them happy very poorly. They don't mean to lie to themselves but they do, for three reasons:

  1. Our imagination adds and remove details about fantasied scenarios without us realising
  2. Our past and fantasy future was/will be more like the present than we often admit
  3. We fail to realise we will feel differently about things once they actually happen

At the core of every human is chaos. Our personalities move and shift like tectonic plates, pushed around by circumstance, new data and biological markers.

Here's an example: Right now, it will seem unfathomable you may one day vote for a political party you loathe, you might enjoy a food you currently hate or you may forgive someone who has betrayed you.

But it will happen. And it will happen after that too. Over and over again. And when those moments come, you will believe that is your finished form, the complete and finished article, without understanding you may change completely again.

Everyone thinks they have the right opinions otherwise they wouldn’t have them.

The Challenge of Changing Your Mind

I have a reputation with my friends as someone who changes his mind.

"Here's another handbrake turn," they say when I express a view in contrast to one I held previously.

Your past is always close behind, and people are there to remind you of it, every day.

This is partly why we lie. To fit in.

"The strongest force in the whole human personality is this need to stay consistent with how we define ourselves" – Tony Robbins

We cling to old beliefs to save face. We don't want to acknowledge we were wrong because what if we are wrong again? We would suddenly have nothing left to cling to, no mast on which to nail our colours.

Questioning one thing means questioning everything.

But what is wrong with being wrong?

Life is a search for the truth. We can't know everything. We have to learn and the only sensible way to live is to allow your views to change as more information becomes available.

This is called wisdom.

"A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life." – Muhammad Ali

If your friends and family notice you’re changing, you're on the right path.

People will lampoon you for changing your mind because it rocks their boat. You are introducing uncertainty into their life and they will kick back at this existential threat.

"Taking a new step, uttering a new word is what people fear most." – Fyodor Dostoevsky

Changing your mind isn't just normal, it is absolutely necessary to ensure you make the right choices in life. Working on the premise you're probably wrong is a sensible approach to making progress.

Neuroscientist Dr Tara Swart in the book 'The Source' writes:

"Progress comes about more easily if we're willing to let go of past beliefs and embrace change. Striving for transformation in a personal sense requires unflinching honesty about our own thinking and a willingness to change our mind." – Tara Swart

James Clear, author of ‘Atomic Habits’ writes some good advice on this topic also. He says a strategy for thinking clearly is as follows:

“Rather than trying to be right, assume you are wrong and try to be less wrong. Trying to be right has a tendency to devolve into protecting your beliefs. Trying to be less wrong has a tendency to prompt more questions and intellectual humility.” – James Clear

Yet society still gnashes its teeth at change. We collectively scorn nuance, demand simple answers to complex questions.

We want certainty from our leaders, we want them to come to us with answers and solutions. When a government changes a policy it is branded a "u-turn" and a failure of leadership. The press have a field day.

Society will not change. At least, not in your lifetime, therefore the only option is to make sure your own house is in order.

To put it another way: be the change we want to see in the world.

Stop resisting change because of judgemental friends and what you used to think; you're not betraying your 17-year-old self, that poor guy didn't know shit. He was a bundle of insecurity. You have experience, wisdom. And you're wise enough to know you may change your mind again.

Rapper, DJ, musician and Beastie Boy Adam Yauch is quoted in the new Beastie Boys documentary saying, "I'd rather be a hypocrite than be the same person forever."

Equally, Ice Cube's mantra is “Embrace your evolution."

If these two cool-as-a-cucumber individuals can embrace change under the glare of fandom, fame and paparazzi, with the intense expectation for them to always be a certain type of person, then there's hope for all of us.

Changing your mind and letting go of your old ways is the only way to live. You don’t have to change the mind, just be open to new information. The more you let go of who you think you should be, the freer you become.

Start with a blank slate. Start, as Tim Ferriss suggests, with asking:

“What if everything I thought was wrong?” – Tim Ferriss

Then go from there. Ahead of you is only growth.

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About the Creator

Jamie Jackson

Between two skies and towards the night.

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