It’s the term coined by psychologist Leon Festinger in 1954 to describe “the feeling of psychological discomfort produced by the combined presence of two thoughts that do not follow from one another. Festinger proposed that the greater the discomfort, the greater the desire to reduce the dissonance of the two cognitive elements” (Harmon-Jones & Mills, 1999). Dissonance theory suggests that if individuals act in ways that contradict their beliefs, then they typically will change their beliefs to align with their actions (or vice-a-versa).
Here are some of the ways in which we lie to ourselves and why…
Just like an alcoholic saying they don’t have a problem, we use denial constantly! Saying to yourself that something isn’t happening doesn’t make it go away. It will still be there regardless. A three pack a day smoker who says there’s no way he’s getting cancer to an overweight person saying that one more slice of pizza won’t hurt.
There is an old saying that ignorance is bliss and that may be the case but pleading ignorance is just an excuse in my book. Just because you say you don’t know something doesn’t make it OK. Not knowing how many calories is in two Double Stuf Oreos doesn’t make eating them OK. (140 for two cookies in case you were wondering). You may think you have the most well-behaved child in school but you find out from a neighbor that they are hanging out with a bad crowd and behaving poorly. Ignorance is not bliss when this happens!
Perception of Self
There is a term called self-handicapping which in it’s simplest form is when someone makes an excuse for potential failure or bad performance. “I’m tired today so I don’t think I’m going to do well on my midterm.” If they happen to do bad they can blame it on something other than themselves. This lie is a way of protecting one’s self-esteem.
This also can be the way we portray our lives on social media. Everyone puts their best foot forward on social media. It’s your actions that truly portray the type of person you really are. Will you go out of your way to help someone in need?
Let’s say we were really excited about the prospect of getting a new higher paying job that we were being considered for. The company decided to go in a different direction and hire someone else. Your response is simply “I never wanted that job anyway”. You are lying to yourself as you did want the job. That’s why you applied for it and were excited. In the end, you want it to always seem as if it was your choice.
This one is one of the more popular lies and revolves around passing the buck or not taking credit for your own failures. “The reason I didn’t pass the test is that I was up all night talking to my friend about her boyfriend”. You didn’t pass because you didn’t study enough – it wasn’t because of someone else. People take credit for their accomplishments but attribute failures to someone or something else.
Sometimes we lie to ourselves to feel better about a situation and sometimes we lie to ourselves for protection. The worst possible thing to do is to believe your own lies. Be honest with yourself and learn to work through situations instead of lying about them.