Honesty may be the best policy, but let’s face it, everyone’s pants are on fire from time to time. And we’re not only fudging the truth with our friends, family, and coworkers—we’re also deceiving ourselves.
“It’s an emotional and physical defense mechanism to distort the way we see things from time to time,” says Simon Rego, Psy.D., director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center. “These automatic thoughts can fill our heads without our even being aware of them or their inaccuracy.”
Not a good thing since Notre Dame researchers found that these fibs may impact your health. In a study of 110 adults, those who were told not to lie not only told the truth more often, they also reported improvements in their relationships, better sleep, less stress and sadness, and fewer headaches and sore throats.
To improve your health and your life, prove yourself wrong about these five common lies with our expert tips.
1. “I Can’t Lose Weight”
If you just can’t seem to tip the scale in your favor, chances are your weight is a sign of a deeper issue. “It is very difficult to be frank about what is really bothering a person, but it is fairly easy to find something to eat,” says Portland-based psychotherapist Didi Zahariades. “You can lie to yourself and say, ‘I’m hungry,’ when in fact you are stuffing your feelings with immediate gratification and a moment of forgetting about your problems.”
Honestly evaluate how well you’ve been following your diet and fitness plans. Have you been a bit generous with portions lately? Skipping your Tuesday morning bootcamp because you “don’t feel like it”? If so, you know what changes you need to make to start seeing your weight go back down. The key here is patience. “No one puts on 40 pounds in 30 days, but when it comes to shedding those pounds, we expect it to happen quickly,” Zahariades says. Accept that it may be a long journey but one well worth the time and effort, and consider seeing a therapist to help you address any underlying problems that you’re trying to solve (or ignore) by eating.
2. “I Will Never Find True Love”
Given that, according to Reuters, there are an estimated 54 million singles in the U.S. and some 40 million of them have tried to find love online, it’s likely there are plenty of people perpetuating this self-lie. The problem here is that “true love” is hard to define. “So many people equate true love with finding a perfect partner, but the world is full of imperfect people,” says Cristalle Sese, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles.
Others may be less picky but are hesitant to completely open themselves up to love and expose themselves and what they think are their flaws. “Some believe, ‘If I show myself and get rejected, then that will mean I’m worthless,’ and they convince themselves that they’re destined for loneliness to avoid that potential hurt,” Sese says. “But walling up like that steals the chance for you to get the real joy of closeness and intimacy.”
So take a chance and put yourself out there, and be sure your dreams aren’t based on one of those never-gonna-happen-in-real-life rom-coms trying to make you think that a modern day knight will come sweep you off his feet. “If you have realistic expectations, you may not find what you envision to be true love, but you can find a very good love,” Sese says. If a guy respects and values you and works hard to communicate with you, is it that hard to accept his skinny jeans and the fact that he gives you carnations instead of roses?
3. “I’m Too Old for That”
Using your age as an excuse often happens when someone is simply tired of working toward goals, says Cathy Holloway Hill, author of Lies, Love & Life. But there are numerous examples that disprove this lie, including Golda Mier, who became the first female Prime Minister of Israel at just 70 years old. Or maybe you’ve heard of Betty White?
When you find yourself letting your birthdate get in the way, challenge yourself by saying, “I am not too old and if I want it, I can have it,” says Lisa Bahar, a marriage and family therapist in Newport Beach and Dana Point, CA. “It sounds simple, but that’s the irony—even something so simple can turn thoughts into actions as long as we repeat it to ourselves over and over. Eventually we start to believe it.”
To further convince yourself age doesn’t matter, surround yourself with people that have what you want and ask them how they got there, Bahar says. And remember the cliché “you never stop learning.” “Personal and professional growth involves life-long education. We continue to grow as we age, and life goals and accomplishments do not have an age limit,” Holloway Hill says.
4. “I Will Never Get Out of Debt”
As bills pile up and collectors come knocking, the day that you no longer live paycheck to paycheck can seem like it will never come. “It’s easy to get burned by your own experiences and then feel as if you’re trapped forever,” Zahariades says. And when you’re already feeling broke, blowing another $20 or $50 here and there may not seem like a big deal.
It sounds like a total bore, but the best way to climb out of the red is to create a budget so you’re living within your means. Attack credit cards and loans first, even if it means paying them off little by little, Sese says. She recommends Mint.com for tracking your spending or seeing a certified public accountant or financial adviser to help you devise a plan.
5. “I Can’t Change Who I Am”
While new encounters can cause some to become more open-minded, they can lead others to be more stubborn and set in their ways. Life obstacles, from job loss to divorce to health issues, can make us resistant to change, Holloway Hill says. “Nobody wants to experience those kinds of pains, so we begin to try and control our circumstances by remaining in a job or relationship that is not fulfilling or ignoring a health issue for fear of receiving bad news.” And then we sometimes convince ourselves that we can’t change our lives, selves, or circumstances, she adds, so we sit back and accept things as is.
While you may not be able to rewrite the past, you can take small steps toward being a different or better person in the future. “Set small, clear goals that are attainable,” says New York City-based therapist Paul Hokemeyer, J.D., Ph.D. Breaking your big ambitions down into step-by-step processes leads to mini-accomplishments that will motivate you to keep trying—and add up to a big win, he says.
Have you told yourself any of these falsehoods? How have you been able to change that way of thinking?
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