Brigid O’Shaughnessy [Mary Astor]: Help me.
Sam Spade [Humphrey Bogart]: You won’t need much of anybody’s help. You’re good. Chiefly your eyes, I think, and that throb you get in your voice when you say things like ‘Be generous, Mr. Spade.’
Brigid O’Shaughnessy: I deserve that. But the lie was in the way I said it, not at all in what I said. It’s my own fault if you can’t believe me now.
Sam Spade: Ah, now you are dangerous.
In The Maltese Falcon (1941), Brigid is a serial liar, though she does it with much charm.
Like some politicians, for instance.
Self-actualization depends on honesty
Telling lies to others to gain power, money or whatever is one thing. But what about the dangerous lies we tell ourselves?
Psychologist Abraham Maslow helped define the field of personal development and the concept of self-actualization – defined, he notes, as “ongoing actualization of potentials, capacities and talents, as fulfillment of mission (or call, fate, destiny, or vocation), as a fuller knowledge of, and acceptance of, the person’s own intrinsic nature, as an unceasing trend toward unity, integration or synergy within the person.”
He said healthy, self-actualizing people are defined by characteristics including “Superior perception of reality” and “Increased acceptance of self, of others and of nature.”
[From his book and article Toward a Psychology of Being.]
Accepting your abilities
But we can also lie to ourselves about our talents and capabilities.
In his book The Road Less Traveled and Beyond, M. Scott Peck, MD wrote about counseling a student:
“I don’t want to be a whiner,” she said.
“Then you’ll need to learn how to accept your superiority,” I retorted.
“My what? What do you mean?” Jane was dumfounded. “I’m not superior.”
“All your complaints – your whining, if you will – center around your probably accurate assessment that your dates aren’t as smart as you, professors aren’t as humble, and fellow students aren’t as interesting as you.”
The airhead mask
Many people with exceptional abilities may lie to themselves and others – in the sense of discounting or hiding those abilities – in order to fit in.
Robotics pioneer, prosthetics visionary, and 2007 recipient of a MacArthur grant, Yoky Matsuoka used to describe herself as an “airhead.”
“I realized that acting smart or talented in school made me sound like a geek or nerd. So I remodeled myself as an airhead.”
From article The airhead mask and self-limiting.
Also see my article You may be gifted – get over it.
One problem with this sort of masking strategy is we may start believing our own “reverse” hype thinking that we are not, in fact, talented.
Awareness and acceptance
Two of the hallmarks of personal development are awareness and acceptance, according to many leaders and thinkers in spiritual growth and positive psychology.
Eckhart Tolle (author of The Power of Now, and A New Earth) writes in his article Don’t Take Your Thoughts Too Seriously, “Thinking that is not rooted in awareness becomes self-serving and dysfunctional. Cleverness devoid of wisdom is extremely dangerous and destructive.”
Acceptance is basically acknowledging the truth of the situation and ourselves, not saying everything is acceptable or should not be changed.
So how do we help root our thinking in awareness? Especially about ourselves?
Honest to others, lying to yourself
Brian Vaszily, creator of The Nine Intense Experiences program, explains in his article Change Your Life in Mirrors, “You may be the most honest person in the world with others, but we all tend to have the hardest time admitting the most difficult truths to ourselves.
“We’re of course not setting out to sabotage ourselves. Most of the time we are not even aware that we are lying to ourselves, or denying the truth, until things really come to a head (i.e., until things get messy, frustrating, really tense, etc.) And of course we therefore DO sabotage ourselves by never admitting – never facing – the truth.
“Think about it: how many times in your life have you been faced with ‘big’ questions that, later on, you realize deep down you already knew the answer to? But the answer was difficult, the truth was hard, and you just could not, or did not want to, face it?”
Look in the mirror
To honestly face and start dealing with those questions, he advises “going somewhere alone that has a mirror. Obviously a washroom or a bedroom, where you can close the door to ensure your solitude, is a smart choice. It is even better if you are so alone that you can talk to yourself aloud: hearing your own voice ask and answer questions prompts even greater depth and honesty.”
In his new book Personal Development for Smart People: The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth, Steve Pavlina quotes writer Henry Miller:
“Life has no other discipline to impose, if we would but realize it, than to accept life unquestioningly. Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end.”
Read more from the book in the article Steve Pavlina on truth as a principle of personal development.
Is your self-image based on old lies?
Another personal growth leader, Brad Swift (author of the Life On Purpose book and programs), writes in his article The Road to Recovering One’s True Self, that our identity can be lie-based: “The you you’ve come to know is made up of the ‘molecules of meaning’ that you ascribed to things that happened to you in your early, formative years during times when you felt threatened or unsafe.
“They may have been severely traumatic, like the loss of a parent, or milder, like someone repeatedly telling you that you’d never amount to anything. In the Life On Purpose Process we identify this as the Inherited Purpose — the fear and lack-based lie you’ve been telling yourself about yourself and about life for so long that you’ve come to believe it to be true.
“In other words, you’ve identified yourself as this lie and have gone about enrolling others to relate to you in this way… The good news — it’s not the truth — it’s a lie.”
To grow into being more fully our authentic selves, more excellent and effective in whatever we choose to do, we need to embrace truth.
Article publié pour la première fois le 20/06/2015