Lying to ourselves
How many of us are living a lie as a reluctant projection of what we supposedly want for ourselves?
“Jerry, just remember. It’s not a lie, if you believe it.” (George Costanza)
When I moved in with my now wife and subsequently got married, many of our friends and family were of the view that we’d done things the “right way”. Then, we had a child together; again checking the box when it came to traditional societal expectations.
Although at least on my part, our yearning and sequencing of those milestones wasn’t actively sought at all.
I don’t actually believe in the sanctity of marriage vs a committed relationship, regardless of it being in wedlock. I don’t even think relationships are something we should be compelled to aspire towards (and we certainly shouldn’t be shamed for feeling this way). And the assumption that everyone wants, or can have, children really grates my cheese; especially when insensitively asking individuals or couples when they’re going to have children.
Nevertheless, despite this, was there an unconscious bias on my part to at least feel inclined to follow tradition? Perhaps on some basis there was, compounded by the fact that my wife is somewhat more traditional than I am. Although I never felt obliged or unduly influenced and I’m content that my choices and outlook in life are indeed my own.
However, that isn’t the case for everyone. Culturally and socially, some feel they have no option but to follow the path society has seemingly written for them, and consequently the toll that can take on one’s mental health.
Here, the reality is that you’re likely living a life that’s been foisted on you by social conditioning or even insecurities. If not, and you’re happy with the path you’re following, great. But if you feel the need to start convincing yourself that it’s really what you want, then sadly you’re living a lie and lying to yourself.
Society has wired us to embrace the desires of others while we project it as our own. With that, many of us will ignore all the signs that might suggest their pursuit is a bad idea.
Those inklings of uncertainty, chinks of doubt in the armour of supposedly sought after lives, can’t be ignored. Yet to acknowledge the loudest of klaxons alerting us of this is to derail the path to alleged perfection. It also takes courage that we cannot bemoan anyone for not being able to muster.
Leaving a broken long term relationship, or bursting your parents’ bubble of their desired career for you because it’s not the path you desire for yourself, isn’t an easy choice without emotional and practical consequences. It’s therefore an understandable option to fall back from fighting what society, and even family and peers, have told you you’re supposed to do. Instead, you assume the desires and expectations of others, passing them off as genuinely your own.
How many people maintain a blinkered and obsessive pursuit of marriage, ignoring the fact that they’re entering into it with someone who’s far from an ideal candidate? They see their peers getting married, exacerbating the pressure they heap upon themselves, and thus begin building the lie of their happiness to mask the truth. Like a house built on bad foundations or with substandard material, it’s only a matter of time before the shoddy construction gets exposed.
The glaringly obvious, and a fast track to a toxic or eventually failed marriage, is ignored. Instead, they tell everyone that they’ve found the perfect match and couldn’t be happier. Every time the truth rears its head via telltale signs of a toxic relationship that’s destined to fail, it’s just a matter of time before they recommence rebuilding the lie to themselves that this is what they want.
It can be the same for having children. Wanting a child more than anything else has led many people to pursue that goal with the wrong partner. Perhaps even one who is abusive. Yet leaving them might mean being back to square one when it comes to becoming a parent. The same goes for not wanting children but convincing yourself that you do. As George once told Jerry in an episode of Seinfeld, “it’s not a lie, if you believe it.”
The lies make us settle. Settle for a version of life that isn’t for us and to convince ourselves that it’s what we want. We reaffirm the lies to ourselves and others as a way of fighting the truth from coming to the fore and being projected to betray the facade we’ve created. Many will pontificate to anyone who will listen that their lives are exactly what they want and that their audience should aspire to attain what they have. It’s a way of amplifying the lies and convincing yourself with so much vigour that you feel compelled to convince all those around you.
There is no easy fix to lying to ourselves. It can become a coping mechanism to an extent that perhaps we do believe the lies after all. We may not even be conscious of convincing ourselves that we’re following a narrative that’s imposed before we actually question if it’s the path for us.
Living our truth has become an exception rather than the norm for some. It can take a conviction that isn’t alway easy to come by and for that we can’t lambast those unable to achieve it. But it does call into question how many of us are living a life, and therefore a lie, as a reluctant reality.