There are everyday lies we as a society live with. We are lied to by our friends, family and society at least once a day! A lie is defined as a statement that is false, misleading or inaccurate. Each of us wears many hats. We are parents, friends, business owners, accountants, chefs’ etc. In each of our roles we lie and are lied to. There are some lies that we have collectively agreed that are permissible. There are others that we know it is a lie, but we pretend it is not or choose to ignore it.
As parents, we lie to our children constantly. The obvious lies are the classic Tooth Fairy, Santa Clause, and the Easter Bunny. These are not just whimsical characters in stories. No, they come out and interact with us. The Tooth Fairy leaves money for us in exchange for our baby teeth. Santa gives us presents at Christmas and the Easter bunny hides chocolates for us to find. We lovingly lie to our kids because we think we are feeding their imagination. What we are really doing is feeding them a belief. We are telling them what to believe and they believe us, until they get older and figure things out. At this point we justify it by saying that everyone does it, it’s just a tradition. This type of lying is not condemned by the majority of society because most of us participate in and have collectively agreed that it just a white lie. Let’s not kid ourselves. Black or white, a lie is a lie.
As a business owner or business executive we lie on a continuous basis. When we sell our product or service we omit all the downside and focus on only the positive aspects of what we are selling. The consumer gets a distorted view of the product or service. When you put out an advertisement that highlights only the positive aspects of your product and downplay any negative features it is simply misleading. The classic example in this case is Coke. All sodas are advertised with a bias to their particular appeal, but Coke has taken it to another level. They have now managed to link their product to happiness! Yes, happiness can be had with excess amounts of sugar, which just as addictive as cocaine, and of course if you prefer no sugar, you can have aspartame instead. Never mind the troublesome detail that research has shown that it is carcinogenic and can cause cancer. We as consumers know that it is bad for us, but it seems we choose to be lied to.
It is bad enough that we lie to others. It is even worst when we lie to ourselves and we try to rationalize why we do things we know we shouldn’t be doing. We all can relate to either having that one extra drink, that dessert or that purchase we made that we couldn’t afford but bought it anyway. Then we find reasons to justify our behavior. For instance, I was celebrating, I don’t do it all the time, and it was on sale. This self-justification arises because our behavior is not consistent with our beliefs (cognitive dissonance). So to make ourselves feel better about our choices we downplay the negative and fabricate reasons that support what we did.
On the surface, we may think this is harmless. So what if we try to make ourselves feel better sometimes. Unfortunately, things get dangerous when sometimes turns into most of the time. It is not easy and most of us are not willing to step up and stop lying to ourselves. Nothing can change if we continue on this path even for little things. This behavior can be very damaging over time. Research has shown that this type of self-justification can lead to “degradation of self-image”. If we practice self-justification for too long, that is if on a regular basis, we go against what we know is right for us and we regularly have to justify our behavior to ourselves, it can have undesirable repercussions. We become frustrated and develop self-doubt and self-esteem issues. We feel out of control and debilitated. It may have started out innocently, but like little drops of water that can erode a mountain over time, so too lying to ourselves will destroy us overtime. It shows up in our health, in our relationships and in our financial statements.
There are many untruths out there, before we can expose the untruth that is in the world we first have to start with ourselves. We have to expose the untruth we tell ourselves and eradicate it. If you know that your behavior or actions are not helping you achieve the life you want, stop justifying those behaviors and actions. Get real with yourself. The first step is always the hardest and most painful but in the end, its worth it.