The easiest person to deceive is the person in the mirror. It shouldn’t be this way, but it is.
We’ll talk about why in a paragraph or two. But for the moment, let that sink in. Actually, allow me to rub it in. You have talked yourself into… deceived yourself into… every bad decision you have ever made. Worse, you were the mastermind behind most of your regrettable decisions. Financial, relational, professional, academic. You were there for and willingly participated in all of ’em.
You’ve done more to undermine you own success and progress than anyone on the planet. Granted, there were outside pressures. Other voices. People promising you stuff. Maybe even threatening you with stuff. But in the end, you decided. But in most cases, you didn’t decide by carefully weighing all the options and seeking wise counsel. You did the opposite.
In many instances, maybe even most, you knew better. Or, you should have known better. But, you ignored know better
and started selling yourself on what yourself wanted in the moment.
It’s embarrassing. We lecture kids against participating in this kind of nonsense. And I’m not pointing fingers. I participated in all my bad decisions as well. And yes, in many instances, I knew better.
So what’s up?
What’s up is that when it comes to good decision-making, we face our greatest challenge every morning in the mirror. Self-leadership is the greatest leadership challenge any of us face. But self-leadership is a critical component to our success in every arena of life. You’ll never be a leader worth following if you don’t lead yourself well. And while that’s apparent if you have an official organizational leadership role, it should be equally apparent if you’re a parent.
If you have children, the outcomes of your decisions are outcomes somebody you love will be forced to live with. Your self-leadership will greatly impact some other selves.
Whether or not you want to be like your parents depends upon how well they led themselves, not what they required of or taught you. And whether or not your children will want to be like you…
Exceptional self-leadership, not authority, is the key to sustained influence. We rarely open ourselves up to the influence of people we don’t respect, even if they have authority over us. So, whether we’re talking about your professional life or your personal life, exceptional self-leadership is important. Your influence won’t last if you don’t lead yourself well first.
Great leaders last because they lead themselves first.
But here’s the challenge.
You can’t lead yourself if you’re lying to yourself. Ever tried to lead a liar? It’s pretty much impossible to lead a liar. In professional settings, you fire a liar. Later I’ll challenge you to do just that. Fire the dishonest version of you and hire a new you… an honest you… a you that always tells you the truth, even when it makes you feel bad about you. Besides, dishonesty leaks. Lie to yourself and you’ll lie to others. FYI, if you have a hard time telling other people the truth when the truth makes you look bad… you’re probably not being honest with yourself either. It works both ways.
You know from experience that dishonesty erodes credibility and undermines moral authority. In a similar way, when we are dishonest with ourselves, it erodes credibility with ourselves. Sounds strange, I know. But when we lie out loud, what do we immediately do on the inside? In our heads?
Justify the lie.
We have to. Otherwise we are at odds with ourselves — a state that sane people cannot maintain for long.
But our internal, private justifications are… well… at best they’re half-truths. Half-truths we believe! Liars lie. You’re not a liar, right? So why did you lie? And off you go, creating a narrative that salvages your flailing self-esteem. And then… then you choose to believe it!
And why would you believe a narrative you created? You are a sucker for you! You can convince yourself of just about anything.
I played no sports in middle school or high school. Not officially, anyway. But when I was away from home and someone asked… particularly cute girls and athletic guys… if I played sports in school, I would immediately respond, “I ran track and played soccer.” Technically true. I ran around the track at PE and played pick-up soccer. But that’s not what they were asking and I knew it. I lied. Why? Well, you can guess. But it took me a while to get there.
Looking back, I want to blame it on frontal lobe development. But the truth is…
The truth is.
More difficult to recognize than we want to admit. But admit it we must.
The truth is, in my high school, if you weren’t an athlete, you just weren’t. You weren’t anything. Of course, that wasn’t true either. But that’s what it felt like. So I created a mostly false narrative and presented it whenever my flailing self-esteem felt threatened.
Author and professor Erin Brown defines a false narrative as a “Plastic Truth.” She writes:
What we’ve said so many times in our heads becomes our Plastic Truth. Over time, these fake parts of the story — the pieces we’ve made up — actually cement into the gaps between Truth.
False narratives become a crutch. We tell ourselves internal stories to avoid facing mistakes… It’s oh-so-much easier to create a story where someone else is to blame than to confront tough things of life.1
Got any mostly false narratives you carry around just in case? Carry them around too long and mostly false will morph to mostly true. When that happens, you’re just a few degrees away from defining yourself by a Plastic Truth.
As my AA, NA, and CA friends have repeatedly reminded me, rigorous honesty is the first rule of recovery. They would tell you that dishonesty fuels addictions of all kinds. Every addiction sits at the tail end of a series of decisions — decisions often fueled and protected by a false narrative, a narrative that begins as mostly true and erodes from there.
Nothing changes until we are brutally honest with the person in the mirror.
So, why wait until something needs to change?
Tell yourself the truth even if it makes you feel bad about yourself.
And what do “Plastic Truth” and false narratives have to do with decision-making?
A false premise will result in a faulty decision.
You can’t make the best decision for you until you are honest with you.
Furthermore, if you aren’t honest about why you are choosing what you are choosing, you will have a difficult time taking responsibility for the outcome of your choosing. We have an adjective for people who refuse to take responsibility for their decisions: Irresponsible.
A lack of candor in the decision-making process usually results in an inability to own the outcome. This creates a vicious downward spiral that leaves people broken and confused. Want to be broken and confused? Of course you don’t. So, root out your false, plastic, mostly true self-created narratives and kiss ’em goodbye.
Well, don’t kiss them.
You may find this to be more difficult than you first thought. In fact, your first step may be being honest with yourself about the fact that you’re not always honest with yourself!
Every journey begins with a step.
So, to decide our way into a better future, we must develop the uncomfortable habit of telling ourselves the uncomfortable truth regarding why we are choosing to do what we are choosing to do.
1. Erin M. Brown, “Why ‘false narrative’ is your worst enemy,” https://erinbrownconroy.blog/2017/06/02/why-false-narrative-is-your-worst-enemy/
Excerpted with permission from Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets by Andy Stanley, copyright Andy Stanley.
Telling the truth can be hard sometimes, but telling ourselves the truth can take even more practice! But, integrity matters! Let yourself be uncomfortable in the truth. Face it with the Lord and then move forward with His help. You’ll be glad you did! ~ Devotionals Daily COMMENT