Self-deception is a simple enough concept. It means lying to yourself. It’s easy to get mixed up, though, as you may think it means intentional deception acts such as exaggeration, generic lying, and faking emotions. But self-deception directly implies that you are unaware that you are telling a lie at all!
It’s a bit of an odd phenomenon, but it’s a surprisingly common one. And, of course, it seems paradoxical. How can you determine if you’re lying to yourself if you can’t even trust yourself? Well, here are three stubble signs of self-deception and how to stop it.
Three Subtle Signs Of Self-Deception
Do any of these red flags sound familiar to you?
1. Things Aren’t Matching Up
Noticing that things aren’t quite matching up is one of the first signs that self-deception is at play, just as contradictions would serve as clues that someone else is lying. Put on your positive thinking and keep an eye out for simple hints that things aren’t adding up. Here are some to be aware of:
You make optimistic proclamations, set goals with confidence, and make promises to yourself. But then your actions don’t seem to follow through on those ideas. Your goals go unchased, you never act on your proclamations, you allow hope to die, and you break your promises. That’s pretty clear evidence of self-deception!
· Words and Emotions Clashing
You say you’re okay, but you feel rage bubbling inside you, or tears are prickling at your eyes. You believe everything is okay. But you think you weren’t even aware of spillover without your control. The contradiction between how you think and your claim that you feel is a significant and common sign of self-deception.
· Heart and Mind Clashing
It’s a bit cliche, but sometimes your heart and brain want different things. You may “know” what the right thing is, but your heart vehemently opposes it. When you experience this kind of clash, you’re not only deceiving yourself, but you’re also in need of a good heart-to-heart talk and re-examination of your beliefs.
· You’re Often In Over Your Head
You’re confident that you can handle something only to get knocked squarely down when you try. You think your skill level is high but end up making a bit of a fool of yourself when it comes to putting it to the test. You keep needing to eat humble pie, and people may have even told you you’re arrogant. This is a sign that you’re deceiving yourself about your abilities!
2. There Are Too Many Absolutes
The human experience does not include many absolutes. All sorts of things can happen, and the chance of something being constant is almost nonexistent. Life is full of change. And on top of that, few things are ever 0 or 100 or cut and dried. Everything happens in balance.
Basically, absolutes don’t typically occur outside of pre-established facts. If you notice that you keep thinking in absolutes and genuinely believe in those absolutes, it’s a sign that something is off about your perception of your experience. Here are some signs of self-deception in absolutes:
· Your Statements Are Extreme
There’s little to no balance with you. You’re either the world’s best person or the absolute worst. You’re either the hottest person to walk the planet or completely hideous. All people are either completely untrustworthy or utterly kind. If the way you look at the world is full of these irrational extremes, then you’re lying to yourself about them because that’s not possible.
· You’re Never Wrong
If you’re wise and are in a position of experience, you may indeed be right most of the time. But everyone makes mistakes, and people can’t be right all the time, no matter how positive you are about your correctness. You’re going to have moments where you’ve done something negative or have been entirely incorrect. If you notice that you’re never in the wrong, you keep thinking it’s never your fault, and you wind up in the same problems without ever taking responsibility, you’re lying to yourself somewhere.
· You’re By-The-Book Only
You’re strict and rigid, and you pride yourself on following the rules. You consider yourself someone who has never strayed from the path, and you think that this is the world’s best way to keep a moral code. But that’s not true, no matter how you look at things! Being by-the-books in any way doesn’t always guarantee the correct answers, and if you think that being that strict to the point of near obsession is benefiting you, you may want to look again.
· You Think Everything’s Great All The Time
Do you think that everything is perfect constantly? Do you project your fantasies onto partners, your career, and the world around you? There’s nothing wrong with positive thinking, but wearing rose-colored glasses is just another way that you may be deceiving yourself. The world’s not always sunshine and rainbows, and it can be hard to come to terms with that, but refusing that truth is simply lying to yourself.
3. You Don’t Know Yourself
Lying to yourself all the time means you have to stay disconnected from the truth of yourself and the world around you. This can cause you to feel confused and conflicted about yourself, so this may be a sign of self-deception if that’s been a concern for you. Here are some more specific signs of this:
· You Feel Like You’re Inauthentic
Your instincts can tell when something is off between the things you tell yourself and reality. Often, your gut will seem to alert you that something is amiss. As simple as it sounds, this is one of the most apparent signs of self-deception. If you feel like you’re inauthentic, it’s time to examine yourself.
· You Justify Yourself And Your Behavior
Every time you do something questionable, you keep working overtime to come up with justifications – even if your actions aren’t really justifiable and even if they’re inconsequential anyway. You trick yourself into believing that you had a good reason for even the most mundane or most harmful things. So genuinely you think those things you tell yourself about who you are.
· You Feel Like You’re Running
There’s a feeling that something is after you – whether that is a complicated truth or your realization of reality. You don’t know precisely what is trying to catch you, but you feel like you’re always running from it. This is a gut instinct that is telling you you’re lying to yourself.
· You Have Imposter Syndrome
This is the direct opposite to being in over your head. Instead of overestimating yourself, you feel as if you’re never good enough for anything. You understate your skills and get overlooked, only to surprise everyone and yourself at your actual skill level. Studies say that imposter syndrome is a common sign of self-deception.
Three Ways To Stop Self-Deception
Now that you identified your tendency, here are three ways to break the cycle.
Self-deception is often the result of a strong desire not to be held responsible for situations in your life, especially those that may reflect very poorly on you. You can stop self-deception by learning to step up to the plate and hold yourself accountable in the right ways. Some tips include:
- Use positive thinking to refer to your behavior so that taking responsibility for it seems less daunting; reframe your issues into ones that involve taking ownership so you can learn and grow.
- Don’t shift blame, deflect, or justify when someone tries to hold you accountable; don’t blame the people around you for the way you react to things, and don’t shift responsibility onto people when you’ve played a role in a situation.
- When criticizing yourself, stick to the facts and be kind. Your aim should be to blame yourself in a way that is constructive and can genuinely help you.
2. Develop Awareness
Awareness is the key to stopping any unwanted behavior. The problem with self-deception is that it involves a lack of that awareness. Training and honing your ability to be more aware of yourself is the enemy of any self-deception. You’ll be able to spot and stop your lies quickly. Here are some things you should be aware of to stop self-deception:
Thoughts can be inaccurate and lend themselves to self-deception, which is why you need to pay attention to them. Learn to get good at fact-checking yourself, questioning your thoughts, and never assuming that your thoughts are entirely correct. If your thoughts are incorrect, they could be deceiving you, so awareness of the truth is necessary.
Your feelings are often the leading cause for the subconscious decision to lie to yourself. When emotions are too painful or complicated, self-deception may activate as a defensive mechanism. Being aware of your feelings by asking yourself what you feel, what purpose they serve, and if those feelings are rational can help counteract self-deception.
The way you behave is the clearest sign of self-deception because if it’s contrary to what you think or say, you know something’s not adding up. Please pay attention to how you act and then trace that behavior backward to find its roots!
3. Keep An Eye Out For Defense Mechanisms
Psychological defense mechanisms are often performed automatically as a means of self-protection. They’re also a common precursor to self-deception. Learning to be prepared for these mechanisms to recognize when you’re performing them can help you stop self-deception before you fall into your lies.
Displacement means the act of shifting blame and responsibility onto other people for things that someone else did. For example, if your boss yelled at you at work, you may displace your emotions by lashing out at your friends, even though they did nothing wrong.
As its name suggests, avoidance means avoiding the concept of confronting difficult or uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, and situations. For example, you may avoid thinking about something painful that happened or ignore texts from a family member if you know they’re angry at you.
Projection refers to the act of seeing your unwanted personal qualities in other people. For example, you may accuse someone of not trusting you if you tend to be distrustful of others because you’re subconsciously hyper-alert to your flaws and see them where they aren’t
Once again, this name speaks for itself. Denial means refusing to admit the existence of a problem, so you don’t have to address it. It’s common, for example, in addicts who deny that they have an addiction.
Self-deception is a harmful trait, but it’s a defensive one, and that’s important to understand as you unpack the lies you tell yourself. You deceive yourself to keep yourself safe, so addressing the roots of your lies and being aware of them and their triggers is most helpful in positively overcoming self-deception.