We all lie to ourselves. We all fool ourselves. In lieu of April fool’s day, let me summarize some ways in which people fool themselves and how to get out of that. I’m not going to talk about psychology or rational theories on how cognitive biases work. This is just a layman’s view based on day to day life. Here goes:
- Harbouring self-sabotaging thoughts
No one is perfectly capable of assessing their ability and self-worth. While some people overestimate their competence, others constantly underestimate themselves, suffer from below average self-esteem and/or are often mean to themselves.
If you fall under the latter category, try to dissociate yourselves from the situations and think how you would react if it was not you, but your friend who was going through what you are going through. People who have self-sabotaging thoughts tend to be kinder and more rational towards others, but are mean and overly critical towards themselves. If you are such a person, take a vow today to be nice to yourself. Stop fooling yourself into believing that you are not good enough.
- Finding excuses for everything
Are you the kind of person who often says that you would do something if only you had enough time, money, resources, support system, mentor, sponsor, a specific alignment of the stars, auspicious day of the calendar, and more outlandish excuses to not start doing what you wish you could do? Well, either you don’t really love the thing as much as you claim to or you have to take charge and just do it.
Of course, there are exceptions to any rule, and some people will have legitimate reasons for not being able to spend time on what they want. However, if you are someone who constantly gives excuses for not doing something, perhaps your aim is too high or are distracted by other things. Maybe start taking baby steps towards your goal and see if the progress makes you feel more inspired to continue to make giant leaps someday.
- Suffering from know-it-all syndrome
Are you almost always surrounded by people who aren’t that bright and you feel the need to dole out advice and ideas to make their life better when they never really asked you for it? Do you often feel a noblesse oblige to enlighten the people around you? Do you feel like the people around you didn’t really deserve to be where they are but just got lucky? Do you sometimes feel like you are the only one talking and no one voluntarily comes to talks to you much? If your answer is yes to all of the above, then maybe, just maybe, you suffer from the know-it-all syndrome. This can also manifest as chronic expert cum advice giver syndrome.
There are two main problems with this. First, if you think only you know best and everyone else is inferior, you don’t get to learn from others. Every single person you meet knows something that you do not and has a different perspective on things. If you do not let them speak and think too highly of yourself, you will lose the opportunity to learn something from them.
Second, although you don’t mean any harm and may actually wish well, not allowing others to speak and constantly offering unsolicited (and useless) advice can make people very annoyed, so people may drift away from you unless you are their boss.
Try this exercise. The next time someone has a different opinion, don’t cut them off and listen. You may be surprised by their insight. The next time you feel the urge to offer some advice, stop and think if the other person actually needs it or is this just to stroke your own ego. Do you even know the person well enough to advise them or did you just need to assert your own intelligence and competence and ended up talking to any set of ears that would listen to you?
- Staying in comfort zone even if it is suffocating
If you are not in a good environment, be it home or work, and think it’s fine because it could have been worse, think again. Talk to someone who has experienced a similar problem or who seems to understand you. Try getting advise from different people if you can’t decide, but follow only what strikes a chord with you.
Remember that you deserve better. I don’t know who you are, but you deserve good things; everyone does. But things are not going to fall into place by themselves if you don’t take the first step out of your comfort zone. Instead of resigning yourself to think that there is nothing you can do or that things are worse for others, take action and do the things that need to be done to get you where you want to be.
- Feeling Entitled
Some people tend to feel that the world owes them things. They think that they deserve all the good stuff in life without even trying. They want it all but aren’t ready to do their part. If you are constantly disappointed with the world, feel like no one lives up to your expectations, think no one holds you on the high pedestal that you deserve and wonder why real life sucks but movies and fiction, in general, are great, then you may have unrealistic expectations from everyone around you.
Granted, you may just be surrounded by the wrong people, but check if you confuse the real world with films and wonder why no one treats you like the hero you are. Put yourself in the side character’s shoes, I mean other people’s shoes, and see how they feel about a situation. Ponder whether what you want is a normal expectation or a feeling of entitlement. As for wanting it all, think whether you have truly put your efforts in achieving it or you just think you deserve it because you said so.
- Associating stress with success
Being busy and stressed are considered synonymous to success these days. While hustling is good and can prove to be valuable for our careers, moderation is key. Stress is increasingly becoming a cause of death. We see news of people getting heart attacks in their mid-late 30s. This is a cry of alarm to take stress more seriously.
If you constantly feel stressed and think it is just part and parcel of a good career, stop and think again. Find ways to balance your work and life better. If you cannot separate work and life, find ways to integrate them wisely. Get help from a professional if required. Just don’t dismiss it because you think everyone is stressed anyway.
- Indulging in vices
Vices come in different forms and everyone is susceptible to it. I’m not just talking about the obvious things like alcoholism or gambling. There are more subtle forms of vices and bad/unhealthy habits like caffeine addiction, procrastination, addiction to social media, not getting enough sleep because you had to binge-watch a whole season of a series in one night and so on.
These are not generally considered vices, but end up affecting us in the long run. Whether an activity that you do frequently can be considered a vice or not is something only you can conclude. Find out what your vice is, why you fell into its trap and identify steps to wean off of it.
- Taking things too personally and overthinking
This one is more of a note to self, but I’m sure it applies to others as well. Some of us tend to take things too personally and overthink about things that are not worth a second thought. Case in point, I sometimes even overthink about overthinking.
If you are one of those people who are super sensitive and tend to consider all passing arrows to be aimed at you, then try to remember that the world mostly doesn’t really care. Remember the things that happened decades ago and still make you embarrassed and sometimes lose sleep at night? Chances are, no one else cares.
While your sensitivity is a strength (though the world and even you may not see it that way) and your instincts may more often than not be spot on, realize that you don’t have to worry about everything and everyone around you. Even if someone throws a dagger at you, instead of pondering upon why they decided to do that, wondering if you did something wrong to make them do that, overthinking about how you could have avoided making them throw the dagger at you or anyone else, feeling guilty that you did not realize about the person’s motive sooner and contemplating how to convince them that they have misunderstood you and that throwing daggers is wrong, realize that you have the option to just duck out of the way and hold up a shield to protect yourself.
That wraps up my list of ways that people fool themselves. There are many more ways people lie to themselves, but this post is quite long as it is. This April Fool’s Day, instead of playing pranks on others, try to identify if you have been fooling yourself and work on getting out of self-deception!