self improvement truth

5 “Truths” You Might Tell Yourself That Are Actually Lies

You’re pretty happy these days. You’ve got interesting projects, people you love, your health. You know what you’re doing because you’ve studied the pros and learned from your mistakes. You’ve built a good life for yourself.

Congratulations! All that work is paying off.

But lately you don’t seem to be getting as far, or getting there as fast as you’d like. Some days it feels like you’re wading through mud, and you’re not sure why. You’re taking all the right steps, and working hard and smart, so why the slowdown?

Even if life is good there are challenges, from the annoying to the earth shattering. You’re cruising along, doing your best, when you hit a rough patch. It happens to all of us.

So you give yourself a pep talk. You think of all you’ve learned through the years, and you remind yourself of what’s true about life and the world. You’re trying to make yourself feel better, so you can get back on your feet, ready to rock.

This is a good thing! Friends or family aren’t always right there, ready to get you through difficult times. Sometimes you need to fend for yourself, which is a critical life skill. Bravo.

But I’m about to get a little tough love on you, only because I’ve been guilty of exactly what we’re talking about.

Here’s the deal: this pep talk becomes a problem when what you’re telling yourself – those “truths” about the world – aren’t true at all. They’re lies. White ones, yes, but they’re holding you back from going farther and faster.

See if any of these sound familiar:

1. “It’ll all work out for the best.”

Why it’s a lie: It might not work out for the best at all. That’s a fact – you have no way of knowing. This is one of those “oh well” statements that make you feel better because it takes the issue out of your hands. But if you’ve done all that work to become a better person and create a good life, why let fate dictate the outcome of the situation you’re facing?

The real truth: Take charge. If you want something, don’t just let whatever happens happen as if you’re a drifting leaf in a stream – go after it. There are many aspects of a situation you can’t control, but you should take charge of the ones you can, as in your actions and attitude. Acknowledge uncertainty, but tilt the odds in your favor by getting more information, working harder, or reaching out to someone who could help.

2. “It’s okay that I don’t make much money – at least I’m paying my bills.”

Why it’s a lie: This isn’t good economic sense, this is settling for less than you deserve. It’s wonderful that you’re not going into debt every month. That’s a huge first step. But what this statement implies is that your current situation is good enough, that you shouldn’t strive for more, when all it really means is you’re thinking small.

The real truth: Think big. Money means freedom and opportunity, so banish “scraping by” and “starving artist” from your vocabulary. First off, you need an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses or job loss. Then realize that more money = freedom. Freedom for the big leaps like starting a business, traveling for six months, or taking a work sabbatical and writing that novel. More money than that means you can help others in need or fund a worthy project. Thinking big means not only taking care of yourself and paying your way, but also giving back in a big way – making the world a better place.

3. “I have to (something you don’t need to do) because if I don’t it’ll hurt so-and-so’s feelings.”

Why it’s a lie: No, you don’t. The key word is “need.” It’s one thing to follow through on a commitment or something that truly needs doing, whether you like it or not. That’s non-negotiable. But if you’re saying yes out of social obligation, you’re wasting your time and theirs. You’ll feel resentful for having to do the thing, and might give them less than what they need because you don’t have the enthusiasm for it.

The real truth: You have to learn to say no with kindness and respect. A polite, “I’m sorry, but I can’t” works wonders, no explanation needed. Shoot for doing what you want – what you’re interested in or passionate about – 80% of the time. (The other 20% should be obligations that have to be met.) This might sound selfish, but it’s not. If you’re only pursuing those tasks and projects that you truly care about, you’re giving the world your best. And the world needs your best.

4. “As long as I’m not hurting anyone else, who cares if I (mindless or self-destructive behavior)?”

Why it’s a lie: Even the private stuff matters. I’m a fan of the occasional all-night wallow, mindless summer blockbuster, and potato chips for dinner, but if you’re consistently not taking care of yourself emotionally, mentally, or physically, there’s a problem. You’re responsible enough to not hurt others, but by letting your bad behavior slide, you’re devaluing yourself. That serves no one.

The real truth: Bad behavior on a small scale can blossom into big problems. Don’t let it get a foothold. If you’re not disciplined (most of the time – you’re not a robot) behind closed doors, that lowered standard will creep into the open. It’s the oxygen mask on the plane analogy: you have to put yours on first before you can help others. You want to help others – it’s human nature – and discipline with the little stuff boosts self-esteem and keeps you healthy and useful.

5. “I’ll get around to (awesome idea) when I have more time.”

Why it’s a lie: That time won’t come unless you schedule it. You never know what the future holds; something could happen to derail your plan. Illness, accident, or job loss can and do happen. And when you might have the time (in retirement, for example) you may not have the interest or energy for that awesome idea you had way back when.

The real truth: Life is short. Don’t wait. There’s no reason to put off awesome ideas. I know how busy you are, but it doesn’t mean you can’t schedule in pockets of time every week to make that idea happen. The bonus of regular action toward a goal is not only that the goal gets met, but that you get practice making your dreams come true, and you deserve to have your dreams come true. Start now.

Next steps: First off, pat yourself on the back for all the good you do. What we’re talking about here is tweaking to make your life even better.

Pick one white lie you’ve told yourself lately, and be on alert for it to come up again. When it does, reframe it to the real truth and feel yourself getting out of the mud and back on solid ground.

Hit the share button if you found something useful!

Special Opportunity for Pick the Brain Readers

I’m offering Pick the Brain readers a free online training event that teaches you how to add more focus, fun, and satisfaction to your life in just 10 minutes a day.

This easy four-step process works, and after the training you’ll:

–       Add spice to your daily life, right away

–       Feel more excited and energized than you have in ages

–       Start getting the creative, independent, hugely satisfying life you deserve

Drop off your email address at Life on the High Wire to sign up for free access. See you soon!

One more thing – is there something you’ve quit telling yourself because you realized it wasn’t true? Let us know in the comments!

DEONNE KAHLER writes at Life on the High Wire. She’s mom to Sam the Wonder Pup and is obsessed with road tripping, national parks, and quirk.

Photo credit: ‘Truth‘ by Big Stock


42 Responses to 5 “Truths” You Might Tell Yourself That Are Actually Lies

  1. Anthony says:

    Great article! But I have a question on #5. I realize the point that many aren’t going for any goals, and need to get going. But what if you have more than 1 goal? Is it best to put others on hold in order to all your energy into one and knock one out at a time? 

  2. Anthony,

    Glad you liked the article! I think you should have one major goal going at a time. (For example, starting a business or running a marathon.) That way, like you said, you can put all your energy into knocking it out.

    I’m a big fan of serial goal-setting – one major accomplishment/goal after another, because then you get to do everything you want to do, and you get to do those things well because you’re focusing solely on them.

    Smaller projects might need tending along the way, too, though. I just scanned all my photos into the laptop (which was tedious, but satisfying), so at the end of the day or on the weekend, if I’d already put a chunk of time into my big goal (a novel), I’d spend a couple hours scanning and over a few week’s time, knocked it out.

    Hope that helps! Thanks for commenting.


  3. William_Drop_Dead_Money says:

    Welcome to Monday morning – here’s your kick in the keester to wake you up! LOL This is a good post to repeat on New Year’s Day – all true, and all things we need to hear.

    If I may, I might want to modify #3. Nothing wrong with what you said, but it doesn’t include the value of the option: oftentimes, it is good to do something for someone else at our expense. Within limits, and heeding what you said. When we had a truck, we were everyone’s friend came time to move. So we had to learn to do the polite “no” thing. If they weren’t real strong friends before, what do we lose anyway?

    But there are times – probably more than we indulge in – to help others at our expense and say yes when asked. The key, as you said, is to not just say yes in fear of the hurt feelings. Interestingly enough, this morning’s post on Get Rich Slowly deals with exactly the same thing. Great minds and all that… :)

  4. William,

    Ha! I was kicking my own keester when I wrote this, so I guess that came through.

    I totally agree with your point, and did mean to imply that. Saying yes even when we don’t need to is sometimes the best thing. It’s when that saying yes becomes a habit and overruns our own needs is when the trouble begins.

    Thanks for commenting!


  5. Anthony says:

    Right now I am in Germany for study abroad pursing my goal to learn German. I have also a bigger goal to read lots of books and articles about entrepreneurship in order to found a company in the future. It feels so hard to let my business aspirations to fade. That’s my dilemma. 

  6. I know it’s tough to have to put something on hold, but that’s all it is. You’ll come home a German-speaker (cool!), and then you can devote all your energy to starting a business. Hang in there!

  7. Kim Hall says:

    Super points, Deonne. So many folks think that if they follow their passion and do very well financially, they are selling out their principles. Instead, they just keep their head down and stay in low gear. When they leap to their passions, and manage their money wisely, they can give and live in ways that bring them and others great joy. It just doesn’t get any better than that!

  8. After I hit a “certain age” I had more trouble staying in shape, and told myself it didn’t matter – that I deserved some slack. However, I realize being less fit doesn’t serve me. I now ride my bike for at least 30 minutes per day. And I’m loving it! I might never be the same weight I was in college but I’m reversing the trend of turning into a couch potato.

  9. Kim,

    Agreed! Joy and abundance for all.


  10. Exactly. Sure, none of us will have the same bodies we did in college, but we can definitely stay fit, limber, and strong. Good job on the daily bike rides!


  11. “When I do/achieve “x”, then my life will improve.”  I’ve found thinking like this keeps me living in the future, in a day that will never come.  If I want changes in my life, I have to change right here, right now.  It’s a hard lesson for me to learn, but the closer I get to living this way – being in the here and now – the better and more fulfilling life becomes. 

  12. Michael,

    I agree. We’ve got to improve ourselves and our lives now, not someday. It is a hard lesson, but maybe one of the most important. Best of luck!


  13. Seth D Cohen says:

    Great article.  I think that Fear causes us to hold back and accept these lies. I just wrote a post titled Fear Less
    Seth D. Cohen

  14. Seth,

    Thanks! Fear is definitely a factor. That’s why I advocate worst-case-scenario thinking, as in, if I do (or don’t do) this thing, what’s the worst that’ll happen? Will it kill me? No? Then go for it. (That’s an extreme example, but not far off.)


  15. P.S. For anyone who’s having trouble signing up for the email list, the problem is my site chose today to go down (That’s some timing! ha), but if you’d like I can add you on my end. Just email me at deonne [at] deonnekahler [dot] com and I’ll put you on the list. Sorry for the inconvenience!

  16. miriamkubicek says:

    Great list, Deonne.  #5 is hard-hitting.  I’d been pondering stopping making lists of new projects instead of working on the things I am already (not) doing.

  17. Miriam,

    Yes! Those lists of somedays can cause more stress than they’re worth. The truth is, you won’t forget them – they’ll still be in your head when you get done with the current project. Memory is funny like that (ha).


  18. Amol says:

    Nice Article Deonne..I found many things which we keep telling ourselves for satisfaction in bad/tough times..It helped. But its wrong if you become dependent on them for solace. Especially I used to keep telling myself the fourth point…Hope to learn more from ur training classes..

  19. Amol,

    I’m glad the post was useful! I agree, sometimes that internal pep talk is helpful and comforting, but you’re right, it can become a crutch. (#4 is the one I have the most trouble with, too.) Thanks for commenting!


  20. JD Meier says:

    I like the way you debunked the beliefs that bind or blind us.

    It’s always amazing how a little perspective changes everything, and sometimes it just needs a twist or a reframe to see things in a new light.

  21. JD,

    It’s never a bad idea to twist something we’ve gotten a little too comfortable with. Might be fine the way it is – might not.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!


  22. Chris says:

         Another great post Deonne- so on target. I guess the one lie I keep telling myself is that I will accomplish the 10 billion things on my to do list on my day off. I always have just such great hopes but then end up disappointed when half of the stuff gets pushed to another day. If I made a smaller list I would save myself some grief.
       Also I tell myself I will look at e-mails later, only of course to never get around to it causing them to just pile up in my in box. So I just started to unsubscribe myself from things that were not critical to success in my business or that just did not matter. I was getting Groupon alerts everyday, but never bought anything. So what’s the point?


  23. Chris,

    Thanks for the kind words! I’ve been guilty of that 10 billion item To Do List, too. It’s as if we see the day off as some sort of magical, never-ending timeframe where we have endless energy to do all those things. It’s sort of funny, actually, and such a common human trait.

    Good for you on the unsubscribing. If I’m not reading or acting on something more than maybe half the time, it goes. Beat back the inbox!


  24. Charlotte says:

    Love this post, Deonne.  I’m always struggling to find “balance” in my life–do I push and push and push myself or cut myself some slack once in awhile.  Seeing as how I’m doing blog comments during a family dinner, you can guess which side I usually fall down on.  :-)

  25. Charlotte,

    I seem to go through periods of pushpushpush then sloooow down. Even sometimes in one week. I’ve gotten better of paying attention to my energy rhythms and acting accordingly.

    Your last line made me laugh out loud! Thanks for reading and commenting.


  26. Zivana says:

    Hi Deonne I enjoyed 2. I think we live in a society that promotes more materialism than what we truely need. Nothing wrong with some killer high heels – but in 5 shades?! Since i’ve become more aware of what i spend on – I’ve freed up cash to invest in teaching myself about the areas that interest me, take advantage of discounted weekends away to see different spaces etc.
    It’s been an interesting time letting my lizard brain know it is ok to enjoy finaces more than what I did previously

  27. Zivana,

    I agree. I think you can only take frugality so far, and then you’ve got to live a little. One hot pair of heels is plenty! Ha.

    I was able to make the shift to the second point when I realized I’d cut expenses as low as I could – the only thing I spend money on are road trips, and that’s not a huge expense since I sleep in my Scamp.

    But then I realized I want more money to do something bigger – something philanthropic. I’m taken care of, but what about others? How could I help? That’ll be a focus next year.

    Good for you on spending on your education! Totally worth it.


  28. Jessica Pope says:

    Learning to say no with respect and kindness – that’s a big one. What helps me is to realize that I’m not responsible for any one else’s happiness. No matter what I do or dont’ do, each person is responsible for how they feel.

    Even if my actions do “hurt someone’s feelings” – that person is still responsible for regulating their own state of emotion.

    Of course we shouldn’t be purposely cruel, but neither should we deny our own happiness for the sake of someone else’s!

  29. Jessica,

    I totally agree! I’ve even learned to turn that around when I notice my feelings are hurt. I ask myself, was the person being purposefully mean? No? Then let it go. You’re a big girl, and misunderstandings happen all the time.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!


  30. I love the idea of doing what you are passionate about 80 percent of the time and leaving 20 percent for obligations. I have my hands in a lot of pots, some that aren’t of my own making, and I think the fear is (for me and others) that if I focus on one thing I love, I’ll get bored, miss out on other things or fail. But that’s so not true, if you focus on what you love and you truly enjoy it, I think a lot of the “have to do’s” will sorta melt away. Also, if you try something and you don’t like, so what? At least you have that knowledge. Great article!

  31. Johnny,

    I agree, if whatever it is you’re doing is done out of love, or even just curiosity, there’s no way you can lose. If it goes nowhere, chalk it up to an interesting experience and move on.

    And the 80/20 rule works in so many areas of life, doesn’t it? We need that steam-vent, a day off, a cushion. No need to make life one unrelenting slog. That’s what school was for (ha).


  32. Javatunes says:

    I’ll comment later, when I have more tme

  33.  Looking forward to it!

  34. Good article. I do agree on all of these things. We should never be contented and think about the results of our action in the long run. Is this based on experience?

  35. Del Mar,

    It’s absolutely based on experience! Like I said, I’ve been guilty of all these statements, and have worked hard to change my thinking.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!


  36. You…are…awesome! This blog is so great. I
    really hope more people read this and get what you’re saying, because let me
    tell you, its important stuff.


  37. Pingback: Weekly Social Media Wrap Up - Helpful Articles and Tips - 0-17-2012

  38. Haro says:


    (I love how you do that) I have quit telling myself that “it” is hard. “It” is hard but I use that as an excuse to rot away. I realized in reading everyone’s comments that I am guilty of a lot and was about to continue to lay in this hole that is not as deep as I am tall. Thank you for trying and succeeding at helping our fellow man..

  39. Haro,

    I’m glad you found the post helpful! Don’t be too hard on yourself, but notice where you need improvement and start taking baby steps to make things better for yourself. You’ll get there.


  40. NexFioVos says:

    I have to live or it will hurt my parents feelings. Meh. Seriously though fuck life. I have yet to understand why I should want to live.

  41. NexFioVos,

    I’m really sorry to hear you feel this way, and hope you’ll talk to someone who can help – trusted friend, teacher, advisor? The truth is, your feelings will change. I’ve been through this, and I know they do. Please hang in there.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *