The Top 10 Big Fat Lies That Might Be Crippling You

Assume for a moment you have a situation that is uncomfortable or possibly painful for you.

If you had the choice of knowing or not knowing the painful truth about it, which would you choose?

Now think about this. If shining the spotlight on an area of your life might open a can of worms, would you rather take a good hard look or keep that area in darkness?

In all honesty, my first reaction is to not know, to stay in the dark. Facing the truth about certain things in life is not fun. Most of us prefer to pull the covers over our heads, and put our fingers in our ears. La la la la la. (Remember Sargent Shultz from Hogan’s Heros? “I see nothing. I know nothing.”)

Denial Land can be a beautiful place — so peaceful, so conflict-free. It is far easier than facing the difficult or painful truth.

Or is it?

Unless you had an extraordinarily emotionally-healthy upbringing, you likely experienced family lies and pretense that were perpetuated by mutual consent. Grandpa’s drinking problem was never discussed. Parental arguments were inflicted on you but never explained or addressed. Mom said she was happy but always looked sad.

You can probably fill in your own version of this failure to face reality or to gloss over the unpleasant things in life.

We learn from these early family experiences that painful or difficult things should be left alone — that the appropriate response for something uncomfortable is to pretend it doesn’t exist or to quickly sweep it under the rug.

Basically, we learn to lie — to ourselves and to others.

On the surface, avoidance and denial don’t seem as overtly deceitful as lying. Lying is intentional and done with full awareness. Avoidance and denial are more acts of omission.

But if we are being completely real, most of the time we know we are lying to ourselves. We know we have our head in the sand.

I’ve had my own head in the sand so deep at times that you could build an ant colony in my cranium. Often I had an inkling that I was lying to myself, but other times I had no awareness around my self-deceit until something or someone smacked me over the head with it.

The thing about lying to yourself is that it is only a temporary fix.

Self-deception is the finger in the dam that keeps you firmly positioned in one spot so everything around you doesn’t come crashing down.

Eventually those deceptions spill over into all areas of our lives — our thoughts about ourselves, our relationships, our beliefs, and our general perceptions of the world around us. The line between what is real and true becomes blurred with what we want to be real and true. So we pretend.

The problem with these self-deceptions is that they may feel easy and safe at first, but eventually they cripple you. They prevent you from seeing things clearly, living life fully, and evolving into the person you want to be.

And even though you do your best to maintain these deceptions, they have a way of springing leaks and causing unpleasant symptoms.

Self-deception can cause . . .

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • low self-esteem
  • low motivation
  • lack of focus
  • poor relationships
  • job difficulties
  • over-spending
  • physical ailments

I’ve found in my personal journey that there are some core lies we tell ourselves that have the biggest negative impact on our lives. These are the lies that touch virtually every aspect of our being and create a cascade of smaller self-deceptions that serve the larger master.

Here are the top ten big fat lies that can be crippling:

1. I’m Not Good Enough

This is a story that every one of us has told ourselves and others at some point (or maybe all the time). And it all boils down to feeling unlovable. We may have valid reasons for feeling this from time to time. Some people have had tragic life events that reinforce this feeling. But the problem arises when you really start to believe it and perpetuate the belief with your words and actions.

The Truth: No matter what you’ve done, what you’ve experienced, or how you might feel, you are good enough. You are lovable. There is no universal measuring stick for “good enough.” The only requirement for lovability is to be yourself and accept yourself. The right people will be attracted to that.

Action: Stop using negative words or thoughts about yourself. Replace those with all of the reasons you are lovable and worthy. Write them down, speak them, and continue to define who you are in your best vision of yourself.

2. I Can’t Do That

The sub-themes of this deception includes I’m Too Old, It’s Too Late, I’m Not Smart Enough, and It Won’t Work. Our fallback story when presented with an opportunity or challenge is, “I can’t do that.” Maybe you can’t. But you probably can, and you won’t know unless you try.

The Truth: It may take some creative thinking, some hard work, some sacrifice, but you can (almost always) do it if you choose too.

Action: Rather than beginning with a negative assumption (the lie), assume that you can do it until proven otherwise. Break it down into small steps and take one at a time.

3. My Beliefs Are Right

Really? Says who? There is another side to every belief you have — positive or negative beliefs. You may believe yourself to be incapable, but there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. Find it. You may believe you hold the correct point of view — but so does that other guy. Listen to him.

The Truth: Your beliefs are not 100% true. In fact some of them may not be true at all.

Action: Write down some of the beliefs you have about yourself and about the world around you. Open your mind to contradictions of your belief. Allow yourself to shift your thinking when you are exposed to truth.

4. He Should/She Should

This ties in with our beliefs. We think we know best about how others should think, behave, and respond to us. We want people to change to accommodate our vision of who they should be. We believe that would be best for everyone.

The Truth: Expecting others to change is a huge self-deception. They may try, but it will never really happen, and then they will resent you. You will never have an authentic relationship with them.

Action: Acknowledge that those you love are fine just as they are. They are flawed, and that’s okay. They are different than you, but that makes them real and interesting. Open your eyes to the truth about who they really are, and let them be that person.

5. Mediocre is Fine with Me

If you just keep telling yourself this, maybe you will believe it. Why step up to your potential when it takes so much time and energy. It’s too hard, too much work. It’s fine to stay comfortable just where you are.

The Truth: Mediocre isn’t fine. Your higher self will keep nagging at you, making life miserable until you step up to the plate and do something. You know you don’t want to settle.

Action: What part of your life are you allowing to remain mediocre? What does your higher self want you to do instead? What are you willing to do today to get the ball rolling on this?

6. I Don’t Have Time

I would do that thing if I only had time. I would try that new habit, follow my passion, work on my relationship, spend time with my children — if I only had time.

The Truth: Time is yours to manipulate as you wish. There isn’t an endless supply of it, but there is plenty to create a life around what is most important to you. You have time if you choose to have it.

Action: What are your top five priorities in life? Where are you wasting time on meaningless things? Remove the waste, and manipulate time around the priorities.

7. I Can Live with That

A cluttered house. A rude friend. A spouse who belittles you. Children who talk back. People who interrupt your time. Tedious tasks that find their way to the forefront. You can live with these, right? They aren’t such a big deal.

The Truth: People and things that you are merely tolerating are slowly sucking your energy and joy. When you roll over and allow people and situations to walk all over you, you lose self-respect. You lose dignity.

Action: What are you putting up with that is draining you? What people are crossing your boundaries? What are you willing to do about it?

8. Once This Happens, Then I’ll Be Happy

How has that deception worked for you? I’ll be happy when I find the right spouse. I’ll be happy when I get a promotion. I’ll be happy when we have more money. It will just take a little more time, a little more effort — then I’ll be happy.

The Truth: Pinning happiness on a future event is like trying to capture a runaway kitten. Just when you think you have it in your hands, it slips away from your grasp, beckoning you forward forever.

Action: The best isn’t yet to come, it’s right now. Happiness is always at hand and can be found in this moment alone. Look for happiness in who you are and what you are doing right now.

9. Failure Isn’t an Option

I can’t fail because I have a standard to live up to. I can’t fail because people will think I’m a loser. I can’t fail because it will announce to the world that I’m not who I say I am. Failure isn’t an option. I must do everything in my power not to fail, including not trying.

The Truth: If you want to grow and succeed and achieve things, then failure must be an option. Failure is evidence of effort. Failure is evidence of action. Failure is a necessary teacher who is there to serve you, not harm you.

Action: Look at past failures that have caused you pain. What have you learned from them that has moved you forward? How can you begin to embrace failure and view it as less of a threat?

10. It Isn’t My Fault

It isn’t my fault I’m not successful. I had a difficult childhood. It isn’t my fault that I’m unhappy. I hate my job. It isn’t my fault that people don’t like me. They just don’t understand my personality.

The Truth: As adults, we are fully responsible for our actions, circumstances, and relationships. If we had past hurts or tragedy, it is our responsibility to ourselves and others to seek help. If we are unhappy, it is our responsibility to find the cause of our unhappiness and do something about it.

Action: Where do you have a belief that it is not your fault. How can you take full ownership and responsibility for this situation and what can you do about it?

Facing the truth about these personal lies can be painful. But it’s like pulling off a band-aid. The sting will subside, the wound will heal, and you will have the freedom to experience a fuller life empowered by reality. Acknowledging the truth will lift a weight off of you, releasing you from the crippling restraints of self-deception.

29 thoughts on “The Top 10 Big Fat Lies That Might Be Crippling You”

  1. Hi Barrie,

    I struggle with knowing the painful truth all the time with my divinations. The more emotionally invested I am, the more I am afraid to know the outcome of something be it career, relationships and so on. But in the end, I always choose to know and to know early so that I have the luxury of time to plan my response way in advance. This makes it likelier for me to achieve the outcome that I want or at the very least to avoid a disaster.

    I see this all the time. Many people would rather not know the painful truth until it is too late to remedy the situation. When they face the disaster they could have avoided earlier, they wonder why this had to happen to them. It is sad, but knowing early is always better than knowing too late.

    I enjoyed reading the 10 fat lies you have compiled. Here are the ones that stood out most for me.

    2. I can’t do that

    Self-doubt is hard to overcome, but the plus side is that it makes me more cautious. Still, I have to work to ensure that it does not paralyze me in the process. My approach tends to be pragmatic. Instead of accepting that I can’t do something, I try to find ways to work around the obstacles. As you rightly point out, it helps to break it down into small steps.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article!

    Irving the Vizier

    • Hi Irving,
      Facing something head-on, especially if you have an inkling of a possible negative outcome, is daunting. I know I’ve been the queen of avoidance in the past when I just didn’t want to deal with the possible fallout. But the stress of avoidance isn’t worth it. It is so much better to face it and deal with it — and most of the time, it isn’t nearly as bad as we fear. Regarding the self-doubt about achieving something, I think you are smart not to accept that you can’t do it. Going around obstacles is good, and there are some obstacles we have to go directly through to clear them away. Thank you for your insightful comments.

  2. Wow, Barrie, you just stuck a pin in about 5 of my denial bubbles. Interestingly, just last night as I lay in bed, I started thinking about my main lie, “I’m not good enough” when I realized that, for me, it’s really been “I’m not enough.” It probably is a subtle distinction to others, but it’s a big one for me as I realized some essential thinking about myself that isn’t true, based in childhood events.

    Still working on it and the others, but I so appreciate you shining the light on all of these lies.

    My real question is, though: How did they get that picture of the guy with his head in the sand? Photoshop? Did he hold his breath?


    • I see the distinction Bobbi, and I’m glad you are working it out. In your mind, I’m sure you know you are enough. But those lingering feelings still jab at us, don’t they? I wondered the same thing about that poor model with his head in the sand. Maybe they put a bucket in the ground and made it look like he was sucking sand!

  3. Amazing post. I really liked the way you put it – fat lies that cripple you!

    I think I am a confident person and the only time I feel crippled is when I can’t please or improve my loved ones’ lives. Yeah, this may sound a little different or weird but I come from a very closely knit family where we share each others’ happiness and sorrows. This automatically doubles our joys and divides our griefs but there are times when they are in trouble and I cant help them.

    This sometimes leads me to think I can’t or that I am incapable.

    A very nice post..

    • What a lovely family you must have Surabhi. I understand your frustration and concern when family members are in pain or trouble. I feel that way about my children. But I believe that being self-confident and supportive of them is the best thing you can offer. Feeling incapable will only make you less available to them. And you know it is a lie to believe that you are ultimately responsible for the happiness of others, no matter how much you love them or how close you are.

  4. I want to outfit everyone with a pair of steel-toed boots to kick these ten lies right to the curb! I totally agree with this entire post, especially the “don’t have time” excuse and the “I cannot fail” lie. My failures have been my most valued teachers. And all of time is God’s time!

    • Beautifully stated Rose! We are life creators and fully responsible how we design our lives. Pretending we have no control, that we are victims of circumstances is a waste of time. I’m with you — kick them to the street!

  5. Failure is a great teacher Barrie. Accepting failure is difficult for all those reasons you mention but it does end up being a great teacher and helps us improve, make better decisions and succeed in the future. All my success comes from previous failures – I should be embracing failure more:)

    • Hi Vishnu,
      One of my favorite teachers and coaches, Steve Chandler, tells us to bless every No that we receive (when we try to sell or find clients or make something happen) because it brings us one step closer to the Yes! I love that. Give your failures a big hug!

  6. Great article Barrie – thank you.

    At times we all find ourselves ‘stuck’ in the habitual thought patterns and somehow unable to navigate our way out. It’s as though our mind’s gearing becomes wired or orientated toward these habitual thought patterns, that we accept them as truth.

    A pertinent reminder that we are so much more than the labels and the lies we feed ourselves.

    Many thanks!

    • I’m so glad you liked it Tony. We do become stuck in thought habits and attached ourselves to being what we are thinking. We all need a reminder to push past those internal lies. You are right — we can be so much more.

  7. #1 and #2 hit hard in the gut! I’ve found that the key for me is to start small. Little successes can spiral upward so that the two actually promote each other in a positive way.

    Great article, thank you.

    • That is so true Carin. Sometimes just pulling one small behavior string can unravel an entire quilt of issues. Starting small is always the way to go!

  8. Hi Barrie, I don’t think any of us can say we haven’t used at least half of these at some stage in our lives. The important lesson to learn from these is that we are the ones who will determine what we do with our lives and how well we want to do. Aside from having negative people around you telling you, you can’t do X, you won’t succeed etc. we have a duty to ourselves to push the limits. I have learnt recently from starting my own maternity clothing business that when I can’t do something, I find out how I can do it rather than accepting the limiting factor. This has helped me to grow and I am learning from my failures and new experiences.
    A great reminder to us all! Thank you again!

    • Congratulations on your business Zoe and on practicing to stretch yourself. Push yourself just a bit to do something scary or uncomfortable will help you let go of these lies and move closer to authentic living. And that’s where real freedom and happiness meet you. Good for you!

  9. That is one of the best articles I have read. Thank you so much for describing it all in so much details and for suggesting a solution to the problem. Thank you <3
    I must print it and keep it !

    • I am so glad you like it Nikky. Thank you for being such a loyal reader and commenter.

  10. Hi Barrie,

    This article is the basis for the crisis that happened in my life and why I started writing. I was in Denial Land. It was easier at the time to be there than to try and figure out what to do and I didn’t want to look like a failure as a parent. I’m not sure all that was completely conscious thinking, but certainly played a role in my life.

    I can also spend time thinking that I am not good enough. We may feel that we got that message from our early years, intended or not, but I agree that it is so important to look at that and work through it. Thanks for a great post.

    • Hi Cathy,
      We all should have met up in Denial Land and had a party, because we’ve all been there. πŸ™‚ I don’t know why we fear the truth so much. At least for me, the truth is ultimately for less taxing than pretending. And I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard through the years talk about not feeling good enough. It’s epidemic. I have finally (mostly) been able to cut loose from that one. I hope you do too!

  11. I love no.7!! No I can’t live with those things, people, messes…can’t and don’t want to!! A part of being an “adult” I always thought was tolerating and keeping peace and making do instead of making a conscious choice to walk away from things and people that are unhealthy. Choices! Life’s too short and full of goodness for tolerating crappy things! I respect my time, happiness and health too much for all that now.

    • Amen to that Chenea! I think women in particular learn to smooth things over so no one gets ruffled feathers — often at the expense of our dignity or personal needs. We always have choices. You can make a conscious decision about the energy you want around you.

  12. Of all the lies we tell ourselves the one that stuck out to me the most is:
    “I can’t fail because I have a standard to live up to”

    To me, this is total crap (excuse my french). I think that failure is one of the most fantastic tools for learning. Without a doubt my greatest lessons have come from my biggest mistakes and failures.

    The danger in living a life where you choose to “never fail” means that you won’t take any risks. And if you don’t take risks than you can’t do awesome things with your life.

  13. Yep, I’m the first to admit that those big fat lies used to haunt me for many, many years. It was made worse by moving from a 3rd world country (Zimbabwe) to a 1st world country (Australia) and going from the managing director to an electrician on the tools.

    It was a huge culture shock and gave me even more excuses… Then I hired a business coach who recognised these self inflicted limitations and wouldn’t put up with it.

    The results where spectacular and the $5k I spent on coaching was the best investment I have made EVER!

    Thanks Barrie for this great post.

    Ian McConnell
    Western Australia


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