The worst lies are the ones you tell yourself over and over again – the ones you live by. Perhaps someone close to you ingrained these lies in your mind, perhaps you were influenced by the negativity of popular media channels, or perhaps they grew from simple, innocent misunderstandings.
Either way, next time you decide to learn something new for the sake of self-improvement, start by unlearning a lie that has been deceiving you. Here are nine lies I have unlearned in my own life:
1. Happiness is about getting what you want.
There are two ways people try to find happiness. One is to continue to accumulate more and more of what they think they want. The other is to appreciate what they already have. The latter is the right path. Happiness isn’t about getting what you want; it’s about wanting what you’ve got. Happiness is not a goal, it’s a by-product of living well in each moment.
To be happy doesn’t mean you don’t desire more, it simply means you’re thankful for what you have and patient for what’s yet to come. Sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in trying to accomplish something big, that you fail to notice the little things that give life its magic. So appreciate today for all it’s worth. Today is one of the good old days you’re going to miss in the years ahead.
2. Success looks a certain way.
You are not in this world to live up to everyone else’s expectations, nor should you feel that everyone else is here to live up to yours. You’ve got to pave your own distinct path. What success means to each of us is different. It’s about spending your life happily in your own way.
You have your own personal calling that’s as unique as your fingerprints. The best way to succeed is to discover this calling within you and then find a way to offer it to the world in the form of a beneficial service. Ultimately, if you can wake up every morning and do something that makes a positive difference, makes you proud, and makes you smile, before you get back to bed, you are a true success. (Angel and I discuss this process in the Success and Passion chapters of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
3. A busy day is a productive day.
“Work smarter, not harder” is one of the most common clichés in the personal development space. But like most clichés, few people actually do it. Go ahead and take a look around; the busy people outnumber the productive people by a wide margin. Perhaps you’re one of them.
Busyness seems impressive. It puts you in the heat of the action. It gives you an elevated sense of accomplishment. You’re always late for social engagements, barely have enough time for family get-togethers, and hardly get a moment to yourself. Emails and texts are shooting out of your smartphone like machinegun bullets, commitments and meetings fill up your entire calendar, and sleep is an afterthought. You’re like a rock star without a record.
Of course, it’s all just an illusion. A commitment to anything more than the essential is to work harder, not smarter. So flip it around and work smarter by putting first things first.
4. To be brave is to not be afraid.
Truth be told, the only time you can be brave is when you are afraid.
Being brave is when you do something, regardless of your fears, because you know it’s the right thing to do. In other words, you are afraid to do it because there are unknowns, but then you go ahead and do it anyway.
Whatever course you decide upon in life, there is always the possibility that something will go wrong. There will always be difficulties arising that tempt you to fear that you don’t have what it takes. To map out any course of action and follow it to an end requires bravery. (Read Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.)
5. To be strong is to not feel pain.
Life is often painful. It requires a worthy struggle for growth and experience. Anyone who says differently is selling a lie.
The strongest people are the ones who feel pain, accept it, learn from it, and fight through it. They turn their wounds into wisdom. It’s all about having the courage to take a break, to shed a tear, to dust yourself off, and then to get back in the ring to fight like you’ve never fought before.
6. Everyone around you is holding you back.
Many of us don’t genuinely want to be responsible for our own fate. Perhaps we daydream about “fulfilling our dreams,” but we leave those dreams firmly in the realm of fantasy. We don’t research them, talk to people about them, read related books, etc. Somehow we prefer the fantasy to the reality. And there’s nothing wrong with that, until we say that someone else is “holding us back”. That turns an idle fantasy into a barricade of lies.
The truth is, if you’re not working on something meaningful today, the only person holding you back is YOU. If you aren’t doing anything about your goals and dreams, you have no one to blame except yourself. Either you take responsibility for your life or someone else will. Blame is a scapegoat – it’s an easy way out of taking accountability for your own outcome. It’s a lot easier to point the finger at someone or something else instead of looking within.
When it comes to working hard to achieve a goal or dream – earning a degree, building a business, or any other personal achievement that takes time and commitment – one thing you have to ask yourself is: “Am I willing to live a few years of my life like many people won’t, so I can spend the rest of my life like many people can’t?”
7. You are automatically entitled to certain things from others.
People are sometimes led to have a sense of entitlement because they falsely believe they are owed something based on the social role they have chosen. For example, if someone has accepted the role of being someone’s friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife, they feel entitled to get certain favors from the other person. If someone has accepted the role of being a parent, they feel entitled to being respected by their children. If someone has accepted the role of being a consumer, they feel entitled to be served to their specific wishes.
Of course, these expectations of entitlement often go unfulfilled. Why? Because nothing in this world is promised. Regardless of your chosen role in all your relationships and walks of life, you don’t automatically get any more than you openly communicate, negotiate, and work for. (Read The Road Less Traveled.)
8. You will feel comfortable when the time is right.
So many of us complain about the boring repetition present in our daily routines, yet we choose no clear course for correction. We want to change something, but we never think the time is right. Why? Because the very source of our boredom also provides a solid foundation of comfort. We are comfortable with our current surroundings. Steering off the known track is risky, and we are subconsciously scared of what might happen if we do.
So, what happens when we stick to the current track? Nothing. We jog along the same circular track at a steady pace daily. We pass by the same mile marker at the exact moment we did yesterday, and the day before, and the week before that. There is not a worry on our minds because we already know the terrain that lies ahead.
If something makes you a bit nervous and uncomfortable, it means you’re doing it right and growing. All great opportunities in life will force you to grow emotionally and intellectually. They force you to stretch yourself and your comfort zone, which means you won’t feel totally comfortable at first. And when you don’t feel comfortable, you will likely assume the timing isn’t right, even though it is.
9. It’s already too late.
Nothing is too late until your tired heart stops beating.
If you’re reading this right now, congratulations, you are alive, which means it’s not too late for you.
Things can change if you want them to, at any age. Right now you can choose differently and make something new happen. Your future is immediate. Grab on to it with both hands and keep on moving on. When you come up on a roadblock and are faced with the choice of sitting down and doing nothing or doing something to make further progress, choose the latter. Think, work, and climb if you have to.
Move your life forward.
The floor is yours…
What self-defeating lies do people often tell themselves? What’s one self-defeating lie you once believed was true? Share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment below.
Photo by: Colton Witt
Great post! These are indeed self-defeating lies we need to stop telling ourselves.
I would add to the list:
Everyone else knows what they are doing (or at the very least, knows more than you).
So many people believe this. It’s not true. Everyone is exploring and/or struggling in their own way. Nobody was handed a manual or an instruction guide – everyone is just figuring it out using their gut instinct, some brain power and a little bravery. Do not let yourself think otherwise…
J. Jansen says
One lie (or inaccuracy) I used to believe was true is that pain is visible. The truth is, pain cannot always be seen by others. No one knows just how much you can carry before it shows. And sometimes, no one knows because you don’t have the luxury of falling apart – others are relying on you.
Christy King says
Wonderful post. My husband and I were just talking about appreciating what we have a few minutes ago. We’ve both been working hard to do that the last few months and it’s really made a difference. I’ve never even read “Be Here Now” (by Ram Dass) but I say it to myself several times throughout the day – just a reminder to enjoy the warmth of the sun or (more likely here in the Pacific NW) the smell of the rain.
Braja Patnaik says
Success is looks a certain way – Unfortunately, we have hammered this little lie into our minds and then we have started the mad rush for material acquisition. Unless we define success for ourselves, we will never be able to succeed by trying to copy what others are doing.
Thanks for the inspiring post.
@Dev, true, true. I also unlearned: Poverty is holy. Suffering is sacred.
Christine wells says
Wedding vows are sacred and forever! That’s the lie I was taught to believe. & here I sit @ 47, seperated, & wondering WTF just happened.
Success looks a certain way is so true! Our own success doesn’t look like what others plan for us, and also another big one is that success isn’t always what we think we want for ourselves. Phew! Glad certain prayers weren’t answered 🙂
I’m not sure this directly pertains to the subject of lies, but one thing I frequently observe is people imitating other people’s lives. They will buy the same things, travel to the same places, even talk like the other one. Many times we think the other person is so happy, and we want that happiness for us, right away.
I’m caught up in taking responsibility for my own life and following a gracious path. I’m experiencing obstacles when I am taking action in certain areas. I’m starting to believe that right now, I do not know the direction I am to take so I take two steps down a path and apparently it is the wrong one, so I am sent back to my true path. I can only believe that my true path is one that is designed out of prayer and meditation. Because this is new to me, I still feel validated by way of my old world which is pushing to have everything done and feeling successful only when I am really busy. Trusting that I am on the right path even when my outside world is not currently giving me outward results is my greatest challenge. And yet, I am starting to feel different on the inside and isn’t that what I have been yearning for all my life? Perhaps I can give up the outer signs and be guided by the inner signs?
Here’s another common one: “I know I’m on the right track if I get other people’s approval.”
Another self-defeating lie people often tell themselves is, “I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.” Wrong! If your gut instinct/intuition gives you a warning signal about a person, listen to it. Otherwise, you’ll be sorry you didn’t.
After watching Dr. Phil on Oprah’s Life Class last weekend, I tossed out the phrase, “Give people the benefit of the doubt” from my life. If you’ve been burned over and over again, you’ve probably given people the benefit of the doubt. I’m not saying you have to be paranoid about people. I’m saying that it’s important to the vibes you get about the people you meet.
I recommend watching the back to back Life Class episodes with Dr. Phil because he gave some good advice. Do you know what a BAITER is? Let me tell you, it goes along with giving people the benefit of the doubt.
Have a good one!
Thanks for another great post. I learned along time ago that you should do what you feel is right for you… Even if everyone is telling you that you are making a wrong choice. I trust my own instincts. My path may be rocky right now, but I believe it can only get better from here.
Perhaps straying a bit from the theme… I’ve been working on some significant weight loss and am down some 40 pounds. Weight loss is not a race as there is no finish line. Weight loss is a journey that never ends. This is something I had to learn.
Sandra Hamlett says
Growing up I heard “What can you do?” repeated. It was the throw your hands up in the air and walk away response. People complained. They were angry and resentful but no one was willing to say, ‘Wait what can I do?” I ended up in a relationship that has brought me terrible pain. At first I resisted seeing why this relationship was so very wrong for me. I threw my hands up in the air and said “What can you do?” and surrendered my power. The best thing to happen to me was the pain inflicted. It was a kick in the pants and slap to the face- a reminder that I am a “What can I do?” kind of person.
On a site which is always characterized by wisdom, this post is a heavy-hitter. If only we could learn these truths before experience teaches them.
I love this: “Am I willing to live a few years of my life like many people won’t, so I can spend the rest of my life like many people can’t?”
I used to lie myself that I do “enough” in order to achieve my dreams, when in fact I didn’t.
We need to realize that to really make it you need to take really massive, focused and consistent action. This may mean working ten times harder than anyone else….
“Sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in trying to accomplish something big, that you fail to notice the little things that give life its magic.”
Right before I opened this blog, I was talking to my neighbor who volunteers with her church disaster relief team and also cares for several of our neighbors’ lawns for free. Her most recent trip was to Illinois to clean up and gut homes that had been flooded from a dam break, and she was telling me that the people who were helped in the disaster were very grateful while those whose lawns she cares for don’t even bother to thank her. My comment to her was that they take too much for granted; that they don’t realize and appreciate what they DO have. See Marc and Angel? You have helped me put those kinds of thoughts in the front of my mind for daily use. 🙂
I often think of those who have lost everything to remind myself to be grateful for even the most mundane things in life–the very things that DO make life magical (and incredibly happy)!!
I need to work on #8, Big Time, despite the fact that I could tell you a number of instances where I did get outside my comfort zone, and had amazing results. Thank you for the kick in the pants!
So much wisdom and mental medicine here… I thank each of you here who have left comments. ALL of your comments are as important to me as the article itself.
#5 reminded me of this line:
Buttercup: You mock my pain.
Man in Black: Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.
[email protected] says
Love your insight, especially on the first point. Happiness seems to come from an acceptance of what comes (not in a fatalistic sense, though).
David Rapp says
Great post. A couple more…
You’ll be happy when…..
I have yet to find a calendar that has “The time is now”, “The Right Time” and “Happy Day” labeled for me. They do not exist, you create them.
There is nothing you can do about it.
If so, you have still have to let go and move on. Most people do only one or the other, but not both. My self included.
I expected more.
I can barley handle my own expectations, much less someone else’s, especially when you probably never told me what you wanted in the first place.
This is not what I had in mind.
Very few things are. You have to be willing to improvise, adjust, restart, move over, stay idle, etc. to get to where you finally need to go. There is no such thing as a straight line in life.
I tend to agree that you find happiness in the little things of each day, and to be thankful for what you do have. However, that is a simplistic view of how that and success are applied in our society.
Unfortunately, we live in a capitalistic society where money rules everything. Happiness really can be “bought” with money, it’s just in what you do with that money that determines what makes you truly happy.
V Dub says
I am struggling now with trust. I have literally no one I can confide in that I trust…I always choose the wrong person and get let down. So I am wallowing in self-pity today. Just looking for some strength in this post to help me through the day…
I’m literally tired of trying….I’m tired of restarting. I’m tired of being strong and putting on the smile. I just want to crawl into a hole and say (*& everyone…
Thanks for posting this.
Julia S.B. says
Marc & Angel, this is profound. I spent many years thinking wrong. The primary change is when you know John 15:5 is true – Jesus said that without Him, we can do NOTHING. That will eliminate the rest of our hangups, by realizing we have no power of our own. Not by might, nor by strength, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord. Thanks once again for your inspiration.
Lorrie Jones says
Thank you for this great article and post!! I related to each point – either having ‘done it’ or am, in a dysfunctional way, doing it now. What a great reminder to get back on course! A story I tell myself that gets in my way is: “I will be able to do what I love when I do everything that’s on my list”. When I actually believe this (which is more often than I would like it to be), I am always at task, tired and feeling kind of empty deep inside.
After reading this post, though, I feel inspired to look at my life with new eyes this morning and to make some healthy adjustments. Thank you, Marc and Angel!!
You two always leave a lesson in my heart on how to face the facts of life.
I find Marc & Angel writings quite sensational. It’s like we have been endowed to receive solid, factual truths, helping us to erase out-dated belief systems of what ever culture you are from.
I am a cancer and an automobile accident survivor. I have taken these experiences of loss and turned them into my own personal empowerment. Turning inward to look for answers, I found them. I am more fully aware about my own life, because of these so called tragedies, but they were more like wake up calls, to a new me. Imagine yourself with nothing, and starting over, I did that twice.
The body, mind and spirit, are much stronger than we think they are, just have a few life altering almost death experiences and you will find that out.
We can overcome, and I am living proof, that even in the greatest sadness, that we face, that we can make tomorrow better for ourselves and someone that we might bring a smile to. We are stronger than we think we are, and that is my message, today.
Mike Martel says
Loved the post, especially – wanting what you’ve got. Being happy and grateful with your present circumstances will be one of the biggest determiners of your success (and sanity).
I would add as a lie – It’s their fault – The only person responsible for where you are in life is yourself. Taking responsibility and taking action is critical to moving forward without resentment and finally breaking the cycle of dependance.
One thing I believed growing up is ‘what’s meant to be will happen.’
In essence, that’s true.
But I’d get caught up in ‘I KNOW’ this is what’s meant to be!
And it was me living in fairy tale land.
I thought that if it was a strong feeling it was true.
I know much more about false emotions now.
And that not everything is a ‘sign’ about something.
Just because I was dating someone didn’t mean it would last forever like in the stories.
Just because I get along with a guy so well doesn’t mean we’ll be more than friends.
It takes two to make a relationship. And they need to want the same thing or accept what is.
I’ve learned to be happy with what I have. I’ve learned it’s okay to be me. I’ve learned to love myself.
Until or if something more comes along, I am happy being with me.
I now have new definition for happiness-
“Be thankful for what you have and patient for what’s yet to come” 🙂
I understand that no one but me is holding me back from my goals and dreams. I do understand that I can read to my hearts content, talk to people about my goals/direction, but what do you do when a spouse does not support your educational goals that will help you attain that goal/dream? And outright opposes a direction and refuses to come to an agreeable compromise?
“the truth always hurts” Yes the truth can hurt, but just because it hurts doesn’t means its true, or just because it doesn’t hurt doesn’t mean it isn’t true. So many people will justify telling you painful things by telling you “the truth hurts”. Lies can hurt too.
This is a great article, and I agree with most of 8. You will feel comfortable when the time is right, however I would also like to add the fact that people should trust their intuition– sometimes, timing really isn’t right, and you should only “stretch” yourself to try new things, not “force” yourself. Always be willing to stretch that comfort zone, but also be aware when you are just not ready for something. In conclusion- trust your gut.
This is an amazing site.
Another lie is: just because they are older/my superiors and experienced more they know more or are correct. Many times they just did not think of it. And many times that’s the way they see it but it’s not the whole picture. You must do what works for you.
“Happiness isn’t about getting what you want; it’s about wanting what you’ve got.”
One thing I’d like to add to #7 with particular emphasis:
7b. Having been hurt entitles you to special treatment.
Some things about the world suck, sometimes. Everybody feels it in one way or another. (As a for instance, I don’t think I know more than a handful of people who haven’t been sexually exploited by someone they should have been able to trust.) But choosing to halt everything and demand extended special treatment because of an event in your life, however shocking, is a choice to stagnate. I’m not saying don’t mourn your losses or feel your pain. I’m saying that once you’ve done that, count your blessings, reach out to others in crisis or at risk, and then get back on the horse.
Treasured wounds can be used for a long time, as attention-getters. But rising above them can earn respect and give you back your own life.
Thanks for this outstanding post. I honestly found it at just the right time.
And thanks to all those who left comments, because all are valuable for Soul.
I have to admit when reading this, I started to smile. Why? I recognized myself in telling some of these lies to myself, like “Be Brave!”. I consider it a good thing, because if I am in the stage of realization that means that I am moving forward, right?!
Joel Zaslofsky says
Hey Marc and Angel,
I’ve seen your names, Twitter handles, and faces a number of times, but I’ve never clicked over to this site until Joshua Becker linked to you in his post today. Man, I wish I would have swung by sooner.
Although all the lies you just covered resonate with me, it’s the one about busyness that hits home the most. Despite being a minimalist and practicing a (mostly) intentional life for the past four years, this one still gets me sometimes. At least now I can remember that “[I’m] like a rock star without a record” when I catch myself in this trap though. I love that phrase!
If you two or anyone else are interested in reading a similarly themed article I wrote on my website, check out “49 Powerful Lies We Tell Ourselves and How to Speak the Truth.” You can find it here.
Thanks for rockin’ this post and consider me your newest engaged community member.
“There’s someone out there for everyone.”
The sooner you realize that it’s a lie, the sooner you will stop forcing other people to be that someone, and open ourselves to create genuine relationships that are not based on certain standards/cliches.
It’s okay to hope, but to expect will almost always lead to a lot of disappointment.
I sadly must admit that I unfortunately began to believe the negative remarks about me that I heard from others. It wasn’t until I was out of that toxic environment and in a far more tolerant and supporting one that I began to realize and believe and once again have faith that I hadn’t lost it at all, and was in fact not even close to being a disaster.
Deone Higgs says
“(Fill in the blank here) are against me.”
It’s probably true, but more than likely, it’s not. In fact, I have come to realize that “they” are not really against anyone, as much as they are more concerned about themselves.
Haters are an imaginary “villain squad” that only get created to drown out one’s own insecurities.
People who discuss a person outside of their presence, only need to be given more to talk about. One should get busy giving them more awesome ammunition. 😀
One more lie: “My feelings/gut instincts are invalid.”
We often invalidate to ourselves and to others things that we know are wrong for ourselves, and we do this out of fear that people won’t listen. If you listen for that voice of truth and follow it, this will ALWAYS be confirmed afterwards that you did the right thing…whether the next day of 7 days down the road.
The truth will indeed set you free.
Peter GM says
@Dev. You’re the man.
Hi Marc & Angel,
Thank you for always inspiring me to live and blog as my best self. God Bless you both! 🙂
Once Again 😀 you inspire me!
You know what Marc, in next hour I have a Histology exam in my medic university.
All I needed was a Full of Life reminder + and Motivator.
So where do I come? Marc & Angel’s site.
One more Lie:
– I can’t do it!
Anders Hasselstrøm says
Thanks for an inspiring post. I agree with your points and would like to add another lie to the list:
– One optimal approach in life
I read a blog post recently about motivational reading and achieving goals. The blogger had a goal of making 213 billion dollars in 30 years. My reaction to his post was: Why? Why do you want to make 213 billion dollars?
I’m not here to belittle your ambitions but I want to know the reason why people pursue to goals they do. I want to make sure that there are healthy motives behind these goals.
When I do motivational speaking for students there is a consensus among them that the main goal in life is being rich. I think this is wrong!
Follow the goals you desire to achieve. Don’t aim to become a millionaire because everyone else does!
Thanks for the post! I found this a really refreshing. It has opened my eyes to a different perspective. Your points are very valid ones, and more often than not these are opposed to the *lies* that I grew up believing in.
Just found your site by accident. Or was it an accident? Very thoughtful views. I’m 60 and still trying to figure my life out. That never ends, I hope.
Marc Chernoff says
Wow! Honestly, I love all the additions you guys made to the list. Thank you so much for keeping the conversation alive.
I just printed out your comments so I can re-read them in the morning (I have an early flight to catch), and then I’ll jump back in here and respond to those that need a response.
I hope everyone has a productive start to the week! 🙂