“No man was ever so much deceived by another as by himself.” — Fulke Greville
This past week I have done my best not to tell a single lie, in hopes of both rooting out the tiny white lies that slip into everyday conversation, and being fully honest with myself about…myself.
I covered my experience with white lies in my recent midweek update, and today I’m going to focus on my adventures in uncovering the lies I tell myself subconsciously.
On Tuesday I took a day off of both jobs (my first since January). I packed up a bag with some water, fruit, energy bars, and a few books and headed out into the woods without a cell phone or watch. I thought that the silence and solitude would be a good setting for getting “real” with myself, and it worked wonders.
All told, the experience was exhilarating, a bit scary, and beneficial beyond words. I boiled it down to these 5 lies that I tell myself in one way or another each day, did my best to seek out the real truth behind each one, and pledged to do my best to cut them out.
1. “I’m just paying my dues.”
Whenever I’m feeling particularly swamped with work, or feel like my life isn’t all I had hoped it would be, I tell myself that if I only keep pushing through those 70 hour weeks for 5, 10, or 20 more years, it will all get better. There seems to be a pervasive idea that selling off your 20s and 30s in exchange for being comfortable in middle age is the good and safe thing to do. But I’m not so sure I agree.
There’s nothing wrong with being respectful of your future self and planning ahead, but all we’re ultimately guaranteed is the present moment. If you’re not happy doing what you’re doing, it’s insanity to assume that you’ll be happy after ten more years doing the same thing.
2. “It’s all about me.”
Okay, okay, I don’t actually say this to myself, but I certainly imply it. I realized how often I take trivial matters personally, when the reality is that no one has me on their mind all the time except, well, me. I have to remind myself from time to time that the world doesn’t owe me anything and doesn’t consider me in every decision it makes.
Shit happens, for better or worse, and getting worked up or offended by it is just a waste of the energy I should be spending on rolling with the punches and doing what I need to do.
3. “I’m just too busy.”
“Sir, may I have five minutes of your time?”
“Scott, could you pick up this table at the other end of the restaurant?”
“Let’s hang out sometime!”
“Sure… if I’m not busy. I’ll call you.”
It’s not that I’m lying, I am pretty busy, but I’m only busy because I choose to be.
I discovered when I went one week without television that I wasn’t nearly as busy as I thought I was, my life was just cluttered with a lot of small or trivial things that don’t serve any purpose beyond entertainment.
Too often, instead of trying something new or bettering myself in some way, I’ll tell myself that I’ll do it when I’m not so busy. Astonishingly, that moment never comes. These past few weeks, I’ve learned that I can do anything I want to, so long as I actually do it and stop talking about it or putting it off.
4. “Normal is good.”
Normal. Average. Regular. These are the baselines by which we judge ourselves and one another. Little divergences from the median we call character or personality, but anything outside of that comfort zone is frowned upon. If you’re not doing what everyone else is doing, chances are you’re doing something wrong.
Of course, normalcy is an illusion and most everyone who has done any good in the world has made a concerted effort to be anything but normal. I realized that if I don’t want to be normal then I shouldn’t try to act normally or judge myself in comparison to what I think is normal. I’m the only me I’ve got, and I’ve got to act like it, eccentricities be damned.
5. “As long as I keep doing what I’m doing, good things will happen to me.”
We create our own luck. Simply maintaining the status quo, expecting some life changing opportunity to come your way is a recipe for disappointment. The only doors that open are the ones you knock on, and if you really want something you have to pursue it unyieldingly.
This was perhaps the most powerful realization of all. I tend to keep my plate filled to the brim, assuming that if I keep working hard I will eventually stumble upon the life I want to live by happenstance. The reality is, I’ve got to go find and earn it for myself.