We all tell ourselves dumb lies, especially when times are hard. I know this because my life is more of a “hard time” punctuated by periods of relative peace and harmony. Maybe you feel the same way about your life.
Currently, my marriage is falling apart; I am separated from my husband. This doesn’t happen suddenly. Relationships degrade over time, and I’ve had a lot of hours and days and weeks to wrestle with facts and emotions and the dumb lies that I tell myself using that particularly harsh voice in my head.
You know the voice. Or The Voice. Likely, there’s more than one. I’ve called this presence The Mean Voice. The Critic. The Shitty Committee. All with the hope of naming and claiming it. If I give a voice a name, then maybe I can take the power from the lies that fill my head.
Given my particular tough time right now, I can tell you that this is not a thing. The Voice and accompanying Shitty Committee do not care if you give them a clever name. When grief descends and distractions fade and everything is quiet, those voices are still there. And they lie.
The good news is that we have choices. Life is hard. Our advantage is that we get to pick our hard (that’s what she said). We can either choose to listen to the dumb lies that we tell ourselves during hard times, or we can choose to get rid of the dumb lies. The first step is being aware of the lies.
Lie #1: Everyone else is happy
This is a favorite lie even when our lives are stable and we feel emotionally regulated. Social media is an ideal tool for The Voice. We scroll through Instagram photos and Facebook newsfeeds and Pinterest boards and hear, “See? Everyone else is happy. Everyone else has good lives. This lady made a cake look like Fortnight. Your friend from high school is thin and has a good marriage. Your kid is the only one who is not the best in sports/music/school.”
Guess what? Everyone else is not happy. Guaranteed. Social media is Oz and the wizards behind the curtain are letting you see what they want you to see. I do it myself all the time, not because I’m (consciously) trying to make my life look a certain way, but because some information is private. There are times when other people are involved in our actions, emotions, and stories, and we do not have permission to share. The results are incomplete stories and half-truths.
Lie #2: Nobody wants to hear about my struggles
As a writer and comedian focused on mental health challenges, I hear this a lot. There are many apologies that come with someone sharing their experiences and related emotions. In groups that I teach, I hear this sentiment expressed in different ways, like, “I don’t want to make this about me,” or “This is a real downer,” or “Wow, I’m a great party.” I have said these very things myself, especially lately.
Maybe we’re trying to protect ourselves and each other from our own emotions and experiences, because they are difficult and uncomfortable. People like me from abuse and trauma have barely had their feelings acknowledged, much less know how to express them or think that their emotions are important. More important than this lie, though, is the certainty that there is value in the stories we choose to tell, for both the storyteller and the listeners.
Lie #3: Why can’t I just get my shit together?
This is a really easy lie to throw around, as it can apply to almost anything. Is your house dirty? Did you eat a sleeve of cookies? Skip out on walking this morning? Late for work? The automatic response can be, “Geez, why can’t I just get my shit together?”
This question comes with an assumption that everyone else has their shit together but you, and it is a lie. The shit is a myth, and nobody has this mythical shit together. We are all going through a myriad of hurts, disappointments, and grief that are throwing us for a loop.
Lie #4: I’m just being dramatic
I am an intuitive, empathic writer, speaker, and comedian. I’ve got a bit of drama, I’m not going to lie, and I use it to my advantage. However, feeling and expressing my emotions is not “being dramatic,” it’s being human.
This lie is closely related to, “Your situation isn’t that bad,” or “So-and-so has it worse, you should stop complaining.” We’re not in a suffering contest. Some people have it worse, some people have it better. Some people also have brown eyes, and some people have blue. Your feelings matter.
The Facts to Combat the Lies
These lies are just the tip (#twss) of the iceberg. There are more, for sure, many times tailored to whatever difficulty you happen to be going through at the time. The trick is to identify these messages by The Voice(s) and shut them down.
Let me help. Here are the facts.
You are worthy of love. Your story matters. Your feelings are important. This time in your life and your thoughts and feelings are essential for your growth. You are brave and courageous and strong. We need more of you, so hang in there. Go through the process.
Remind yourself of the facts. Every day, every hour, every minute if you have to.
I promise. This is worth it.