The Lies We Tell Ourselves
How negative self-speak and overconfidence hold us back
This newsletter features weekly musings about life, career, identity, and behaviour by a questioning African centennial. To get it in your inbox every week, subscribe here ⬇️
We tend to talk a lot about self-awareness, but we don’t often question the validity of our self-conceptions. We rarely query our ideas of ourselves, benchmarking them against feedback from others to check whether they’re true.
Self-awareness can be a dangerous thing if the ‘self’ you’re aware of is built on lies.
The most dangerous lies are the ones we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel more or less than we truly are. They are also the most difficult lies to stop because of how deeply intertwined they are with our personalities and sense of self.
Let me give an example.
For the longest time, I always thought I wasn’t supposed to be an entrepreneur. I even mentioned that in my application essay to Stanford GSB. What was my rationale for that belief, you might ask? Well, I had a lot more failed businesses than successful ones, so I felt I wasn’t supposed to be an entrepreneur.
But do you see the lie in that belief? I knew that most entrepreneurs fail a lot before they succeed. I knew that their path to success is littered with the carcasses of their many failed businesses but that didn’t stop them from being entrepreneurs, and successful ones at that.
I knew that, yet I refused to see how that applied to me too. I could have failed at my past businesses and still be poised to be a successful entrepreneur. I could still be an entrepreneur, because of my failures, not in spite of them.
Entrepreneurship is a trial-and-error process that is undergone through many tunnels of failure. Yet, I lied to myself that it wasn’t and used that lie to fabricate my identity and I accepted that false identity hook, line, and sinker.
That is the first lie—negative self-speak. The second is overconfidence.
Negative self-speak lowers our self-esteem, while overconfidence inflates it by heightening our estimations of our abilities and capacities. Both of these have an adverse effect on our internal growth and external progress because they allow for a warped sense of self.
I’ve learnt that when we lie to ourselves, we put ourselves in our own way. And when we are our own obstacle, we set ourselves up for some of the hardest challenges we would face—confronting ourselves, deconstructing our long-held beliefs, and reconstructing our identities.
But it is difficult work we must do to find our true selves, embrace them, and live them out authentically.
Think about what your lies are, positive or negative and begin to query them. Take in feedback from those around you. Get to understand how they see you and compare that with how you see yourself. Notice the discrepancies and interrogate them further.
By doing that, you allow your real self to emerge and shine.
See you next week!
- Arinze ❤️