Avoiding Self- Deception: “Being honest with yourself”
Dr Jozelle Miller
February 13, 2024
Avoiding Self- Deception: “Being honest with yourself”

“All the world’s a stage” is the phrase that begins a monologue from William Shakespeare’s ‘As You like It’. The speech compares the world to a stage and life to a play, and catalogues the seven stages of a man’s life, sometimes referred to as the seven ages of man. Metaphorically, he means that all human beings are players, and play their allotted roles in everyday lives. Embedded in this belief is the possibility that in playing these varied roles, an individual can begin lying to his or herself about the reality of their existence as they juggle the expectations between self and society. This toss up results in conformity to the expectations of society at the risk of losing their identity; and placing their innermost desires and urges on the back burner.

I am frequently confronted with the fact that it is possible that we all lie. I am not talking about deliberate, bold-faced lying. No, this type of dishonesty is far harder to detect and admit. It is the kind of lying that comes from not being psychologically strong enough to be honest with ourselves. And I believe that it is our biggest obstacle to living a fulfilling life.

We fool ourselves into believing things that are false and we refuse to believe things that are true. In fact, we lie to ourselves about everything, from seemingly insignificant facts to massive life-altering realities. For example:

– We lie to ourselves about how much we may eat on a daily basis so that we may not be judged as greedy; or we may not list our actual height and weight when asked so that we can hold on to what is judged to be the ideal.

– We lie to reflect our aspirations and goals; although we tell ourselves that we are not going to drink tonight, when we arrive at the party and everyone else is drinking, we have at least 3 glasses of wine.

– We lie to reflect our desire to maintain social appropriateness: So upon running into an acquaintance at the supermarket, we say, “You look great!” even though he or she looked extremely unhealthy. Yet, we tell ourselves that it is okay to lie because we don’t want to seem rude.

– We lie to reflect our social ideals: We say “I am always physically attracted to my spouse and I would never flirt with anyone else”, because the alternative would not be acceptable to admit to ourselves or anyone else.

– We lie about our most important life choices, such as why we married who we did or chose a given career path.

At the core of who we are, we may deceive ourselves because we don’t have enough psychological strength to admit the truth and deal with the consequences that will follow.

But the truth be told, understanding our self-deceptive nature is the most effective way to live a fulfilling life. For when we acknowledge who we really are, we can change.

Why is it important to be honest with ourselves?

Honesty is a fundamental principle that most of us have been taught from a young age.

We are told that honesty is the best policy and that we should always tell the truth.

Being true to yourself is very important. You can be honest with the world, but if you are not honest with yourself, you are not being fair. Give the most importance to what you think of yourself rather than what others think of you. You can justify to the world why you did what you did, but as long you are not honest with yourself, it can be difficult to find peace.

Being honest with yourself can make life easier, less complicated, and a lot more beautiful. You become less dependent on others and more dependent on yourself. You start loving yourself with all your flaws, and that’s the turning point toward contentment and inner peace.

Tips on how to be honest with yourself:

1. Acknowledge that the choices you make are yours and yours alone.

Accept immediate and full responsibility for all your choices without excuses or blame.

As the saying goes, ‘You are where you are because of the choices you have made’.

Only when you own it can you change it.

2. Get into the right mindset.

Be open to doing a fearless self-assessment — again, without excuses, shame, or blame. Honesty need never be accompanied by the word brutal, so be gentle and kind with yourself, just as you would be when assessing a friend.

3. Identify areas for self-evaluation and assess them.

Your goal is to identify things that cause discomfort and can be changed: your goals, career, money, family, spirituality, love life, time management, self-care, etc.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, so be selective. If perfectionism is one of the areas up for evaluation, for example, you will naturally be inclined to take on everything at once. Be kind and realistic…so that you can be productive.

After you’ve identified the area, you will start assessing, gently and honestly, taking stock of what’s working and what’s not.

4. Be transparent.

Commit to being clear about what you want to do and where you want to go. Concern yourself more with why rather than how.

Anytime you fearlessly examine the reasons behind your choices, you plant seeds that will grow into permanent patterns of honesty with yourself.

5. Be courageous.

Start with issues you feel comfortable approaching and work up as you gain confidence in your ability to be honest with yourself. Honesty with oneself is one of the foundational qualities of successful people with integrity.

It requires courage. And that courage is, in turn, life-changing and rewarding.

Remember that most things we want to achieve take consistent effort over a lifetime.

Remember, also, that every journey begins with a single step…a single choice. By choosing to start being honest with yourself, you ensure that the first step of your journey will be in the direction of your dreams.