- Self-deception is an act of lying to oneself to make oneself feel better about themselves or their reality.
- Signs include denying it, minimizing the problem, rationalizing it the wrong way, and many times blaming it on others.
- We lie to ourselves to lie better to others, lower our anxiety, build resilience, as an act of self-defense, or to be better in relationships.
- Self-deception leads to negative self-talk, being in denial of reality, and not being able to grow internally.
- Self-deception can be stopped by accepting that we do it, understanding the reasons behind it, accepting feedback, and facing our fears.
If someone told you that the most lies you’ve ever told anyone is yourself, you probably would find it hard to believe that. But self-deception is a process that we all regularly practice.
But what could we possibly gain from lying and deceiving ourselves?
Self-deception serves a purpose from both a psychological and evolutionary point of view.
As strange as it may sound but positive traits like resilience, optimism, and confidence in oneself also arise due to self-deception at times.
By lying to ourselves that the threat in our surroundings is not that big we handle it better.
If self-deception sounds like a good thing, remember that it also leads to negative self-talk and self-image too. It limits the possibility of one’s growth and stops us from actively finding solutions to our problems.
So let’s dig deeper into this coin called self-deception and try to understand both sides to it.
Self-deception is the act of lying to oneself about one’s abilities or reality. A person is generally unaware of doing it and ends up causing more harm to one’s situation.
Self-deception is an act of lying to ourselves about our reality and surroundings. Lying to ourselves about our capabilities, abilities, and our current ongoing problems.
Self-deception involves denying, ignoring, or dismissing away any relevant or important information about our current reality. Many times an individual is not even aware that they might be practicing this.
There are two parts to this process in which firstly the person denies the reality and secondly is unaware of doing it. In self-deception, one convinces themselves of the lie being the reality and accepts it.
According to psychologists, self-deception can be interpreted as a stance for self-defense and self-preservation.
An act to protect oneself against the stress, anxiety, or depression being caused by the current situation.
At the end of the day, self-deception stops an individual from making the right decisions and reliable assessments of their problems.
Which leads to them being unable to cope or deploy effective strategies to solve them.
Many times we miss out on the everyday self-deception that we use. Let’s understand the topic better with real-life examples of how we lie to ourselves daily.
Examples of self-deception in everyday life
It is still hard to believe that we lie to ourselves rather than face the reality every day at some point or the other. But these lies are told in all spheres of our lives from personal to social to even professional.
Let’s look at these examples and see how we manage to deceive ourselves so easily and believe it to be the reality.
Example 1, when a child cheats on a test and gets good marks. If the child believes that these marks reflect his true understanding of the subject, they are employing self-deception.
Example 2, an alcoholic who believes that their drinking is very much under control. And that they can stop whenever they want to despite never being able to stop.
Example 3, a partner who believes that their spouse is loyal to them even after catching them with someone else. Using self-deception just to keep up the image of a happy married life.
Example 4, a couple who regularly goes out to party and have friends over all the time might feel that they are very social. When in reality they do not enjoy each other’s company and do not wish to address the problems between them.
Example 5, an employee who is unhappy with their current company does not seek a job elsewhere giving the reason that others have it worse and things will get better soon. When actually they are unsure about their ability to land any other job.
Just like these we unknowingly lie to ourselves to protect our feelings and emotions from getting hurt. At times it feels better to be happy living a lie than facing the insecurities we have.
Self-deception according to psychologists
Self-deception is a topic of interest for many psychologists and numerous studies have been conducted to understand it better.
The question of why we lie to ourselves and how we can lie and not know about it at the same time has left many psychologists puzzled and curious at the same time.
Sigmund Freud came up with an explanation as to why and how we lie to ourselves without knowing about it.
Freud explained that every person’s actions, behaviors, and thoughts function on different levels. These levels are called the conscious and unconscious levels.
The conscious level includes all the activities, thoughts, and behaviors that an individual is aware of and is actively engaging in it.
The unconscious level deals with the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that the individual is unaware of.
It is this unconscious level that gives rise to acts like self-deception, where the person engages in it without realizing it. They are unaware of the why and when they are deceiving themselves.
Some psychologists also have given a rationalization for why we engage in self-deception. They have stated the reason why we lie to ourselves is our need for socialization, for hiding personal biases, out of fear, and cognitive repression.
While socializing we are not going to like everyone we meet, but sometimes we can’t avoid meeting them.
So to avoid the feeling of dislike every time we meet them, we start to lie to ourselves that we like them. Just to make the outing more pleasurable in our minds.
Along with this, we hold certain personal biases towards things, people, and places. We might pride ourselves on being fair but we do play favorites. To uphold the idea of us being fair and just we deceive ourselves by hiding our personal biases from ourselves.
Another reason for self-deception is our fears and insecurities. To cover up or hide those fears we deceive ourselves to be better than what we are. Cause at the end of the day confidence does pay off.
Cognitive repression is when we unconsciously block out unpleasant ideas, thoughts, and feelings because they cause anxiety or stress to us. Thinking that everything is alright even in the face of multiple problems is how self-deception stops us from panicking.
Though many psychologists support this explanation of self-deception. Many philosophers like Jean-Paul Sartre criticized Freud for his theory. Since they find it difficult to understand how we can know and not know at the same time.
To this Freud argued that if we were able to truly understand the nature of unconsciousness, we could prove that self-deception occurs.
Theory aside, even in psychological practices many mental health professionals have reported cases where their clients were clearly engaging in self-deception. And that leads to a lot of unhealthy coping mechanisms and consequences for the individual.
Harold Sackeim and Ruben Gur, a pair of psychologists, wanted to understand why people didn’t like the sound of their voices. Many times people aren’t even able to recognize their own voices from a clip.
They experimented to test why this happens and asked participants to say “Me” or “Not me” to different voice recordings. A polygraph was also attached to them during the experiment to measure their emotional response.
The results showed that even though people denied a voice to be theirs there was still a blip in the polygraph test when their voice came. Meaning that even though we might know how we sound since we might not like it, we simply deny it to be ours.
Another research conducted by psychologists George Quattrone and Amos Tversky demonstrates self-deception being used by individuals without them being aware of it.
The experimenter asked the participants to immerse one of their hands in very cold water for as long as they can. After that, they were made to exercise and again perform the cold water test.
But this time half the participants were told that after exercise a healthy heart can keep the hand in the water for longer. And the other half was told that a healthy heart becomes more sensitive and cannot keep the hand in the water for long. These were obviously lies.
The time duration for keeping the hand in the cold water drastically changed in both groups based on this information. The first group kept their hand in the water for a longer period of time than before. And the second group had an opposite record time.
The results clearly showed how self-deception was used by the participants to manipulate the results into showing they had healthy hearts.
Numerous other experiments and real-life observations have convinced psychologists that self-deception is a widely practiced activity. That too with almost no conscious knowledge about it by the individual.
Self-deception explained by other experts
Self-deception doesn’t only have a psychological aspect to it but an evolutionary one too. Robert Trivers and William von Hippel in their paper ‘The evolution and psychology of self-deception’ explain how self-deception benefits one to evolve and survive as an individual.
According to Trivers and von Hippel, we deceive ourselves to believe in something so that we can convince others of that lie better. Meaning that we first lie to ourselves to better lie to others.
The concept of self-deception evolved so that our interpersonal deception can become better.
When an individual lies he drops certain hits of it being a lie. For example, nervousness, sweaty palms, not maintaining eye contact, etc. But this happens only when the person knows they are lying.
What if the person truly believed the false statement to be true? Then they wouldn’t feel that they are lying to others and pass on the lie as the truth.
So self-deception allows individuals to lie to each other without giving away the signs of a lie or even without feeling guilty for lying.
Since the other person sees no signs of lying they also readily believe it.
The clearest advantage of self-deception is not guilt felt by the person. Plus minimum punishment for the person if the lie is caught cause they too believed it.
So clearly self-deception has an evolutionary benefit and reasoning to it. The reason we individuals continue to practice it even without knowing.
Areas of Self-deception
Though self-deception is prevalent and applied in all areas of our life. There are some areas it is used in the most. The deception can either make the person feel better about themselves or worse depending upon how they are lying to themselves.
The reason could be insecurities or wanting to put up a more convincing lie for others. Whatever the reason the most observed self-deception is done in the following areas by individuals:
1. Financial situation
The financial situation of a person is a very private topic for most. How much is a person earning, how much are they spending and how much do they save are questions that one just can’t ask casually.
And the other person may or may not be very comfortable answering them too.
For this exact reason, people engage in self-deception when it comes to the topic of financial situations. Many individuals deceive themselves by saying that the company is giving them many more perks in lieu of salary when they feel that the salary is low.
Sometimes they spend more money than they should by lying to themselves that they have a lot and don’t need to worry about saving.
2. Social Relationships
How one’s social relationships are with others can never be truly quantified leaving a lot of scope for self-deception.
One might deceive oneself into thinking that a relationship is going great when it’s not. Or that a relationship is going horrible when the other person is actually enjoying their company.
Self-deception many times dictates how much the person is involved and invested in the relationship. They can either break away from a healthy one or keep being in an unhealthy one.
3. Work or job related
Nowadays work takes up a lot of space in a person’s life. So it’s obvious that we tell ourselves certain lies when thinking about our work life. Our perception of the work we do dictates our work-life balance too.
Some individuals deceive themselves into believing that the job they are doing is very important and that they are playing a crucial role.
Or they might believe that their role is pointless in the company and the company might actually be better off without them.
This directly affects our self-image and our productivity level at the workplace.
4. One’s body image
How many times have we heard from the other person that we look pretty and in great shape even when we feel that we don’t? Or that a certain color or design looks better on us while we are thinking, really?
We lie to ourselves to hide our insecurities about our bodies. Some lie to themselves to increase their confidence levels.
Sometimes the lie turns into negative self-talk leading to body issue problems.
Self-deception affects all of our life aspects, sometimes in a positive manner and sometimes negatively. It all depends upon the lies we tell ourselves and the lies we believe about ourselves.
Signs of Self-deception
If self-deception is done unconsciously without us being aware of it. Then how can we realize and recognize it? How can we notice it and stop ourselves from engaging in it?
The signs of self-deception aren’t very clear or obvious at times. But there are certain signs that we can notice in ourselves and understand that we are undergoing some type of self-deception:
One of the most obvious signs of self-deception is being in denial. Not accepting the reality or the problem at hand.
Not accepting that what is happening around us is bad and negatively affecting us is just us deceiving ourselves.
If one finds themselves lying or hiding parts of the truth about themselves or others, it’s a sign of self-deception. Not acknowledging the problem or its severity is us lying to ourselves.
Another sign of self-deception is minimizing the effect or severity of the situation or problem.
When we minimize how bad a situation is we are lying to ourselves about the reality. We are trying to deceive ourselves into being less stressed or anxious about the situation.
One situation could be where one faces a loss in investment and tells themselves that it’s not that big of a deal.
Or when their partner says they want to break up and they think that it’s just a temporary feeling that will pass. Reducing the actual impact of the situation in our minds is a sign of self-deception.
Rationalization is an attempt made by us to justify our wrongdoings, deviant or socially unacceptable behavior with an alternative explanation.
As long as the explanation helps reduce the anxiety within us, it will work.
When one fails their exams and says it’s not that bad almost everyone failed that exam. Or when they get rejected from a job and say that the job market is only bad right now.
Sometimes the truth can be very difficult to accept but very obviously is creating problems in our surroundings.
In such cases we sometimes lie to ourselves saying that we are not the problem, it’s the other person.
For example, if a group project goes wrong, we might blame it on the poor leadership qualities of the manager.
Or on the other employees for not being good enough. Rather than reflecting upon where we might have lacked in efforts on the project.
5. Imposter syndrome
Self-deception does not always end up making us feel better about ourselves. Sometimes we can lie to ourselves about our strengths too.
We might feel like we are fake and undeserving of all the good we’ve received.
Deceiving ourselves into believing that we do not deserve the promotion. Or that our partner does not actually love us and is there in our lives for ulterior motives. All of these are kinds of self-deceptive lies.
6. Justify bullying or being bullied
Self-deception works amazingly when creating lies about others’ behavior towards us or ours towards them. Sometimes it even creates justifications for when someone bullies us or when we bully someone.
Convincing ourselves that the other person truly loves us even after they hit us. Or that we were just being truthful about the other person’s weakness so that they can get better and not being mean to them.
These kinds of self-deception help us hold onto a positive image of ourselves and of the people whom we love.
7. Blame others when things go wrong
Self-deception is sometimes used for preserving a positive image we have of ourselves. For that, we have to at times find a scapegoat to blame our problems and difficulties on. It could be a person, situation, or thing.
We could deceive ourselves into believing that we performed well on our job but the boss just doesn’t like us.
We could also blame the car for not working properly when someone points out that we are a bad driver. Any time we avoid confronting our lack of abilities and blame it on others, we are using self-deception.
8. Emotions and words don’t match
Emotions are a perfect giveaway to what’s truly going on inside our minds. So when our emotions and words or actions don’t match up that’s a clear sign that some kind of self-deception is at bay. We might feel something else but convince ourselves to behave differently.
For example, if something is bothering us but we put an act that everything is okay with us. We might not vocalize it but our behavior and tone towards others becomes snappy and rude.
Indicating that we deceived ourselves into believing that everything is okay when something is clearly bothering us.
9. Have deep-rooted anxiety
Anxiety is something that many individuals face and while some use healthy coping mechanisms some don’t. One of the most unhealthy coping mechanisms used to dismiss anxiety is self-deception.
Individuals with deep-roared anxiety are more likely to use self-deception to deal with it. At times this self-deception itself can give rise to more anxiety.
An individual who is feeling extremely nervous may try to deceive themselves into believing that everything is going to be okay.
10. Feel inauthentic
Individuals who regularly practise the art of deception on themselves and others, have a feeling of being inauthentic. Questions like “who am I truly?” or “does anyone really know me?” really bother them.
11. Not open to criticism
An individual who is not open to criticism shows clear signs of self-deception. When one points out their mistakes or wrongdoings they are more likely to defend themselves or get upset at it.
That is because they have a strong image of themselves in their mind. And most likely this image is based on lies they’ve told themselves.
So any individual who tries to provide information that might expose their lies is seen as wrong. A person who on the other hand helps them uphold this deception of themselves is seen as a friend.
12. Feel they are never wrong
Individuals who feel that they are never in the wrong also showcase signs of self-deception. These individuals have told multiple lies to themselves that help them feel better and reduce insecurities within.
It’s a way for them to carry on without letting their anxiety and insecurities create hurdles.
These signs can either be self-identified or by people close to us. But one needs to be open-minded about self-deception to identify them.
Types of Self-deception
Self-deception comes in different forms, some positive and some negative. It depends on us what kind of lies we tell ourselves and how well we do it.
Here are some common types of self-deception that can be observed:
1. Thinking of self as the best
The most common type of self-deception is the one where the individual believes that they are the best.
Individuals are unable to find faults in themselves and are not open to criticism from others. This is commonly done to protect oneself from the anxiety of being inferior and having weaknesses.
Individuals deceive themselves into believing that they can do no wrong and have no faults of their own.
The problems are created because others lack competence or because others wish to do them harm. This leads to unhealthy relationships and conflicts with others.
Procrastination may not seem a very obvious type of self-deception but it is used by most individuals on a daily basis.
The lie that the task isn’t that time-consuming and can be done later is told by us all. Leading us to postpone doing the work for some time later for as long as we can.
Individuals who regularly procrastinate deceive themselves into believing that their skill set will help them complete the task in no time.
So they can relax right now and start doing it later. Rather than assessing their own strengths and the task at hand fully, they cover it with a lie that leads them to relax as much as they can before the deadline.
3. State of avoidance and denial
Being in a state of avoidance or denial is a type of self-deception that helps individuals shield themselves from reality. The problem and the unpleasant situation are dealt with by denying their existence or by reducing their severity.
By doing so the problem doesn’t go away but instead might build up and create bigger problems for the individual.
Turning a blind eye to problems is not a solution, just a way for the individual to delay dealing with them.
4. Solely relying on logical facts
Many individuals might seem that they have a very good grasp of reality and can handle any difficulty with ease because they apply logic to find the solution.
But individuals who only rely on logic to help themselves out of a situation or assess themselves are also using self-deception.
We individuals have a logical as well as an emotional component to ourselves. Individuals who ignore their own emotions and feelings are deceiving themselves into believing that they have none. Or at times that they are fully in control of their emotions.
If we don’t regularly check up on our emotions we’ll not be fully understanding how we feel about a situation, person, or ourselves.
5. Negative thoughts toward self
Self-deception is not only about boosting one’s confidence or perception about self. It can sometimes lead to negative thoughts towards self. We can indulge in negative self-talk and lower our self-esteem and confidence.
Self-deception can make us believe that we are worse off or have many negative qualities when it may actually not be true.
Many individuals who wish to achieve perfectionism in their work and appearance indulge in self-deception.
They misjudge their own level of expertise, the difficulty and intricacy of the task, and what the ‘perfect’ level humanly possible is.
Individuals who wish to practice perfectionism tend to lie to themselves about their own skill set and how much they should improve.
They set unattainably high standards for themselves and then convince themselves to work hard towards them.
Later they do not correctly assess their hard work to the output of it and believe that they failed.
Working hard is a positive trait but realizing one’s abilities and setting realistic goals is also important.
There are different ways for self-deception to manifest under different situations for different reasons.
Cycle of Self-deception
Self-deception is an ongoing process that forms a Self sustaining loop once we start practicing it. As individuals we strive to be and do the right thing. It is this desire to be right that makes us start deceiving ourselves.
To feel that we are right, we seek information that proves that we are right. We may read articles by authors that support our claim or surround ourselves with people who would agree with us.
We then start to dismiss any information that may prove us wrong or create inconsistencies in our truth. Once we use the information in this manner to prove ourselves right, we feel better about ourselves.
Since the feeling of being right makes us happy we continue to change after that feeling. Even if it means that we deceive and lie to ourselves from time to time.
Maintaining self-deception is not as easy as just telling ourselves a lie and believing in it. Many times we have to face the truth or evidence that contradicts our views.
In those moments there are certain self-deception strategies that an individual uses to dismiss the evidence. These strategies make it easier to lie to ourselves and continue believing the lie. Some of these strategies are:
1. Selecting only favorable points from the evidence
When presented with contradicting evidence about the lie we have chosen to believe, we might select only the favorable points from it.
It is not easy for us to let go of our views and thoughts so easily. So we carefully pick up points that support our argument and stress upon them alone.
In face of contradicting evidence it becomes difficult for us to hold onto our deception. But filtering out any part that we don’t agree with helps us believe the lie we have convinced ourselves to be true.
In case we find out that our partner is cheating on us by reading their messages. We may convince ourselves that they are just flirty messages that mean nothing and that our partner is not really cheating on us.
2. Questioning the credibility of the source
In events where we can’t select evidence thatsupports us we deploy another strategy of questioning the credibility of the source.
We start to question the authority that released the evidence and how much do they actually know about it.
Even when presented with string contradictory information dismissing it because of its source helps us stay in the deception longer.
In case a co-worker of ours points out that we did not do a great job on the project. We may reject their feedback by saying that they aren’t our boss and if we had done a bad job the boss would have pointed it out.
3. Reorganization of the belief
Sometimes in the face of strong evidence from experts in their field we may find it tough to find a loophole. That’s when we use the strategy of reorganizing our beliefs and lies.
We change the belief a little to incorporate the evidence while still holding on to the deception we are telling ourselves.
A person who is made to realize that they are addicted to alcohol might reorganize their thoughts to convince themselves that yes they do drink a lot.
But they don’t drink so much that they need help and can stop anytime they want.
4. Avoid contradictory evidence
The strategy used in self-deception that is the easiest to us is avoiding any contradictory evidence against our thoughts. Simply by not reading, hearing or talking to others about the topic protects us from facing the lie.
Ignoring the contradictory facts makes it easy for us to not have to do anything extra to hold onto the lie.
An individual might choose to ignore news about global warming by not reading articles about it or listening to the reports by climate experts. They can simply ignore all the information available and believe that the earth is fine.
These self-deception strategies are really helpful when our lies are threatened by reality or hard evidence.
Self-deception in relationships
When we are engaging in the act of self-deception towards ourselves it causes us both benefits and disadvantages. Similarly self-deception in relationships can lead to strengthening of a relationship or become its reason for breaking up
A research done on couples to figure out how self-deception affects relationships presented quite interesting results. The research concluded that individuals who believe that they as well as their partner do not engage in self-deception had a more positive relation.
An individual who uses self-deception in a relationship tends to have negative outcomes for themselves but that deception generally works in the favor of their partner. But that is so only till the time the partner doesn’t detect the deception.
The study also shed light upon the fact that we as individuals tend to believe that our partner is more honest about their feelings and emotions than us.
Even when individuals are likely to be aware partially of their partner’s deceptive practices.
If we suspect our partner to be engaging in deception it tends to make the relationship turn negative really quick.
So if an individual believes that their partner doesn’t actually like them and is just putting on a show. The relationship is likely to end soon.
A little suspicion on the partner can lead to a downward trajectory for that relationship.
Since if an individual is suspicious of their partner they tend to increase their level of deception. The suspicion and deception keeps on increasing until the relationship reaches a breaking point.
So when we know that self-deception is bad and we should be honest to our loved ones. Why do we still engage in self-deception in relationships?
The study provided us with this answer too. It is simply to help us cope with our relational problems. We use it to convince ourselves that despite the problems we still love our partner and they love us.
To hold on to the relationship for longer we deceive ourselves into believing that we are happier than we are.
The study concluded that though self-deception plays a functional role in relationships, extensive use of it leads to a downfall of the relationship.
Why do people lie to themselves
It is clear to us by now that we indulge in the activity of self-deception more than we thought we did. But why do we do it? Why do people lie to themselves?
Psychologists and evolutionary experts have tried to provide us with a basic reasoning as to why we lie and some of the reasons why we do so are:
1. To lie better to others
According to evolutionary experts we lie to ourselves to better lie to others. When we are able to believe in what we are saying to be the truth we do not give away non-verbal cues for lying.
So an individual who believes in the lie themselves will not be nervous, have a shaky voice, avoid eye contact or have sweaty palms. They will be determined and convinced that the lie they are passing on is the truth.
According to evolution this gives a chance to further our cause and have better social relationships.
2. Lower our anxiety levels
The reality can at times be very stressful and anxiety causing for us. So in order to lower our anxiety levels we lie to ourselves about the situation we are in.
We are likely to either downplay the situation or believe that we have the abilities to comfortably deal with the situation. Even when they both are lies.
Psychologically this gives us a confidence boost and actually makes it easier to face the problem without stressing too much about it.
3. Act of self-defense and preservation
Lying to ourselves can also be an act of self-defense and preservation. In order to defend ourselves in the face of criticism we might use self-deception as a shield.
An individual might engage in self-deception to defend their thoughts, views and beliefs from other people’s opinions.
Lie to themselves and hold onto the belief that they are right and their thinking pattern is the correct one.
4. Build resilience and optimism
In face of difficulties and harsh criticism self-deception helps an individual be more resilient and optimistic about their situation.
It helps them hope for a brighter future and find the confidence within themselves to carry on fighting their problems.
In face of problems it is important to stay hopeful and confident in one’s abilities. But it can become difficult if the problem persists for long.
Self-deception then helps us continue being positive about things getting better and gives us strength to face it.
5. To avoid facing stressful situations
If we convince ourselves that the problematic situation is under control and there is nothing to worry about. We won’t have to face stressful situations. That’s one of the reasons an individual may lie to themselves.
No one likes to face stressful situations and the perfect way to avoid them is to believe that they are not there.
An individual can simply deceive themselves into believing that everything is fine until the very last moment.
6. To be better in relationships
Relationships are not all happy-go-lucky events and can be tough at times for all of us. It is during those tough times that we need to remind ourselves that we love each other and can power through anything.
Self-deception is one technique that can really help us in those times.
An individual who may not feel compatible with their partner anymore may deceive themselves into still loving their partner. Just because they do not want a failed relationship or be single at that point in time.
7. Avoid responsibility for our actions
Every action an individual makes leads to consequences that can be positive or negative. Sometimes taking ownership of the negative consequences can be quite tough and that’s where self-deception comes to play.
Simply avoiding or denying the responsibility for our actions makes us feel confident in our decision making skills.
We do not feel anxious or get depressed about ourselves and can move on from that incident without taking any blame for it.
8. Overconfidence leads to financial benefits
According to research, overconfidence in one’s own abilities and control over the situation leads to more financial benefits for an individual. The research stated that such individuals were more likely to engage in entrepreneurial behavior and therefore make bigger gains.
Starting one’s own business is a risky move with a lot of things that can go wrong. But deceiving ourselves into being overconfident can help us take the risk and work harder towards achieving the goals.
The reason to lie to ourselves can vary under the situation we are facing and how we wish to protect ourselves from mental stress and anxiety.
Why Self-deception is bad
After understating the reasons why we lie to ourselves it makes us feel that maybe self-deception isn’t that bad.
No one wishes to face stressful situations or be anxious all the time. Being optimistic and confident in ourselves sounds good too.
But that’s where the problem of self-deception starts. It is a cover of lies made to hide the reality and stop us from being better. It only provides us with temporary solutions that damage the situation more.
Here are some do the reasons why self-deception is bad:
1. Lead to negative self-talk
Self-deception can lead us feeling good about ourselves but at the same time it can lead to negative self-talk too. We may lead ourselves to believe that we lack more abilities than we possess.
An individual’s self-deception may lead them into believing that they are “not good enough” “not loved by anyone” “a complete failure” etc. The same inner voice that can make us feel good about ourselves can also make us feel bad.
2. Develop a negative self-image
This negative self-talk can have a damaging effect and lead to development of a negative self-image. The individual might not like themselves or have confidence in their own abilities.
They might feel that they are no good and there is no way for them to be better. Deceiving oneself into believing that they have more weaknesses than strength can shatter a person’s self-esteem.
3. In denial of reality
No matter how painful and stressful one’s reality may be, they can not run away from it. Using self-deception to be in denial of one’s reality does not make the problem go away. It just postpones when we deal with it.
Not being aware of reality makes us unable to exert our control over it. It stops us from taking real time action and stopping the problem the moment it arises.
4. May overplay our hand
By not correctly assessing our own abilities and control over reality we might overplay our hand in certain situations. We might make certain investments or commitments that we can’t go through with in reality.
It is healthy to take risks and try to do more in life. But these risks need to be calculated and the goals set need to be achievable by us. Otherwise we are just digging a hole for ourselves that we can’t fill.
5. Limits our possibility of growth
Growth requires correct assessment of one’s strengths and weaknesses. But when one is unaware of their true potential, identifying the areas for growth can be difficult.
Individuals with self-deception have a false sense of their true abilities and therefore find it difficult to identify the true problem areas.
They might work upon a weakness that isn’t that big a deal or completely ignore a weakness that needs attention.
6. Weakens our social relationships
Any long lasting relationship needs to be based on the foundation of truth. But when we use self-deception in the relationship it leads to. problem. Something that the research earlier has proven to be true.
Understanding our true feelings towards the other person helps us develop authentic relationships. We are more open and comfortable with them rather than when hiding behind deception.
Whatever the reason might be for us indulging in self-deception, its effect on our lives in the long run is negative only.
Benefits to stopping self-deception
As there are benefits to engaging in self-deception, there are also benefits in stopping using self-deception.
By not indulging the process of self-deception an individual secures a happier and more positive future for themselves.
Stopping self-deception leads to personal gains as well as better relations with ourselves and others. Some of the benefits to stopping self-deception use are:
1. Be free from lies
Lying is not a one time task, one needs to tell themselves the same lie repeatedly on every occasion to sustain it. Processing contradictory information can also be very stressful for an individual.
But if one stops deceiving themselves they’ll be free from the lies. Along with all the stressful activities that they need to partake in order to keep the lie up. The individual will be able to live a more authentic life.
2. Able to be more active in the present
Hiding from the present can relieve stress for the moment. But it also stops us from being more actively present in our lives. Being able to enjoy each moment even if some are stressful make for a better living.
Being able to live and be more present in one’s reality is very important. As it helps the individual learn from the troubled times and chrish the good times.
3. Better relationship with self and others
An honest relationship with ourselves helps us recognise who we are as a person and how we can grow. It helps with being in touch with our inner self and that helps us be better in relationships with others.
By not deceiving ourselves we are able to be our authentic self with others. We are not fearful of them getting close to us and knowing us. We build towards a relationship that is open and honest.
4. Tackle problems in life better
Only when one knows what the problem really is can they work towards finding the solution for it. Taking into account all the aspects of the problem helps us come up with a well rounded solution to it.
Rather than hiding away from the problem and leaving it for later, we can face it as it appears and solve it quickly. It’s easier to tackle problems as they arise rather than later on.
5. A realistic understanding of self
Many mental health problems can arise when we are unsure of who we are. By knowing about our true selves we can assess situations better, make healthier life choices and be in relationships that work for us.
Understanding ourselves helps us boost our self-esteem and confidence too. Once we know who we are, we can work towards being better versions of ourselves.
Clearly, there are more long-run benefits of not lying to ourselves than there are to indulging in the act of self-deception.
How to stop self-deception
Now that we have realized how bad and damaging self-deception can be for us. Let’s look at how we can stop deceiving ourselves and lead a better life.
Here are some tips and techniques on how to stop deceiving oneself:
1. Accept practicing self-deception
The first step to stopping self-deception is accepting the fact that we lie to ourselves. No matter how honest we wish to be, we do lie to ourselves.
Accepting and noticing the signs of self-deception can help us gain a deeper insight into our insecurities and trigger points. Only when we identify the problem can we work towards a solution for it.
2. Stop accepting lies
After identifying the lies we also need to stop justifying and giving reasoning for these lies. When we stop accepting these lies we force ourselves to face the truth.
Just noticing the lies is not enough, discarding them and saying no to them is equally important. We can change if we keep justifying the lies.
3. Understand why we deceive ourselves
Understanding why we lie helps us stop the cycle of lying. Once we know what our insecurities are that we wish to hide from ourselves can we work on them.
Individuals lie for different reasons in different situations so it’s important to understand all these reasons. So that we can tackle them and rather than hiding from them be able to face them.
4. Weight the long-run consequences
Self-deception seems like an easy solution when a problem arises. But we need to weigh its long-run consequences on our mental health.
Just ignoring the problem or pretending it’s not there doesn’t solve it. The faster we solve the problem the less likely that it will get complicated.
That means that we might need to employ smaller and easier solutions than complicated ones.
5. Undergo the journey of self-discovery
Most of the lies we tell ourselves are to compensate for our shortcomings. But once we undergo the journey of self-discovery and know who we are we will no longer need to hide.
There are different techniques to undergo self-discovery like journal prompts, meditation, and assessment of one’s strengths and weaknesses. Knowing and accepting oneself is very important for stopping self-deception.
6. Accept constructive feedback
In face of constructive feedback, we need to be accepting of it rather than trying to deny it. If we are open to feedback we can grow and be better.
Not being able to take feedback is a sign of self-deception that doesn’t allow us to acknowledge our limitations.
7. Check in one’s thoughts and views
Having a regular check-in about one’s thoughts and views can help identify signs of self-deception. If one feels that their thoughts are not matching their behaviors they should try and identify the reason for it.
8. Try to achieve self-realization
Self-realization is the process of understanding one’s true self and potential. It helps us grow as an individual and partake in events that will enhance our life experiences.
Knowing what we want and how we can achieve them bridges the gap between our current situation and the future we want.
9. Make a note of the fears
Self-deception is driven by fears about oneself or the problematic situation one is in. By noting down our fears and facing them head-on can stop us from lying to ourselves.
Rather than hiding or running away from our fears, if we manage them and confront them we’ll be more in control of our situation.
10. Value other’s point of view
Sometimes we might not be able to see past our lies or realize that we are lying to ourselves. In such moments take in other people’s points of view and analyze our stand in comparison to them.
Seeing where the discrepancies are lying and why they are present can help us comb out the lies and figure out the reasons behind them.
11. Set achievable goals for self
Setting achievable goals for oneself can stop us from fabricating lies about our abilities and what we can achieve. Being true to ourselves can help us let go of perfectionism and procrastination.
Having goals that feel attainable make us feel positive about ourselves and hopeful about our prospects.
12. Accept being wrong
Accept that one might have faulty knowledge about things and be open to correcting them. Accepting that we are wrong gives us a chance to rectify our lies and be able to learn and grow.
13. Seek professional help
Identifying and stopping self-deception alone can be quite tough at times. So in case one feels helpless or doesn’t know how to proceed they can reach out to a mental health professional for it.
Identifying self-deception is a continuous process and can be difficult at times. But as long as we continue to work on it, we’ll be able to live a more authentic life.
Parting Thoughts from ThePleasantMind
Self-deception is a tricky activity to identify and rectify since many times we are unaware of it. But starting to recognize one’s patterns and habits can be tracked and corrected.
Self-devotion can provide positive outcomes in the short run but create more problems than it solves for us in the long run. Since we are in for the long haul let’s adapt and switch to healthier coping habits.
By constantly facing our lies we become able to destroy them but at the same time, it doesn’t make us less susceptible to them in the future.
So we need to be vigilant about our thoughts and fears so that we can be on the path to growth and authenticity.
Let’s recognize our lies to be better towards ourselves and others.
Having completed her Masters in Psychology, Aditi actively works towards helping people deal with their mental health problems. She is ever ready to create awareness regarding the topics of mind and psychology through her sessions and writings. Reaching out to the masses and helping understand themselves better is what she aims to achieve with her writings. Having found a way to learn and share more about her love psychology, writing has become more than just a job for her. Aditi finds her inspiration and break from life in fictional books and music.