I recently read an article in Psychology Today about a woman who found out her husband was gay, and kept his secret only to realize it had totally consumed her life. From an outsider’s perspective, this may seem ridiculous. Who would stay? Then I realized; how often do we tell ourselves lies, or protect other peoples, just to keep this belief in our head that “everything is fine?”
Personally, I think there is a catch-22 in telling the truth. Sometimes we tell the truth because we legitimately believe the other person deserves honesty. On the other hand, sometimes the guilt of our transgressions is eating us alive, and we don’t want to bear this burden on our own. So, we share the lie, and dump some of the burden off on someone else, hoping for forgiveness we know we don’t deserve.
I once cheated on my boyfriend, and I felt this enormous guilt. I regretted it, deeply. It was a mistake; the encounter had truly meant nothing. I couldn’t stand looking at him, hearing him say that he loved me, all the while knowing I had totally betrayed him. So I told him. That was the beginning of the end. Don’t me wrong, some relationships can survive this, but most can’t. He could never trust me again, and all I could do was spend all my time trying to make it up to him, to the point where I began to resent him.
“I was honest, I didn’t have to tell him,” I would tell myself. That statement in itself was a lie. Since telling him essentially ended the relationship, I could have just broken up with him and spared him the pain. Or, I could have dealt with the guilt myself and not dumped it onto him. Instead, I took the selfish easy way out, and made it his problem. In truth, I had been lying to myself from the minute I cheated. It probably did mean something, because it meant that I didn’t have enough respect for my boyfriend not to be betray him. Then, when I couldn’t cope with the guilt, I lied to myself again and thought that getting it off my chest would make things better, when in reality, I knew it wouldn’t.
Yet even when we’re on the receiving end of the lie instead of the telling end, sometimes we lie to ourselves in order to cope. Fast-forward to a number of years and a number of relationships later, my boyfriend cheats on me (karma, I know.) The feeling you get in the pit of you, in the core of your being, I swear it makes me believe in the existence of the soul. I couldn’t tell you where I felt the pain, but man, was it excruciating. It’s like someone put a vacuum in my mouth and sucked my organs out, and then spit them all back in seconds later. You don’t learn anywhere in school how to actually cope with betrayal. You think, “He cheats, I leave,” but the scary part is, no matter how inevitable a split may be, it’s not that simple. Even with as much pain as you’re in, the love doesn’t go away. So I stayed, I tried to trust and I tried to forgive. I told myself I loved him enough to forgive him, I told myself I could build trust again. They were all lies.
The most common form of lying, in my opinion, is the lies we tell other people in the hopes of convincing ourselves. The negative social stigma that surrounds the idea of being seen as unhappy or discontent is mind-boggling. Why any human being should ever feel shame for feeling emotions will never be something I can comprehend, but we seem to do it in an attempt to protect ourselves. We lie even when we don’t know were lying. We post a thousand pictures from a night out so people will think, “look how much fun they’re having,” when we know full well we were feeling sorry for ourselves and drunk-texting that guy who only responds us after midnight. We go to the gym and tweet “On that gym grind,” when in reality, we’re only going to the gym because we’re miserable about our bodies and all we really want are some French fries. After my boyfriend cheated, I didn’t tell anyone what was going on. I lied and smiled and said that everything was fine. That he was amazing, that we were doing well, that I was great and happy and anything but crumbling inside. I think that I subconsciously felt that if I didn’t say it out loud to anyone, it would be less real.
We’re always so quick to judge people, but we’re also always so quick to judge ourselves. Instead, we ought to spend less energy lying to yourself and others, and dedicate that recycled time to becoming more accepting of ourselves and our flaws. Being insightful and being honest are the most attractive and beautiful things in the world. Forget what people say, vulnerability is attractive.
We need to stop lying, but most of all, we need to stop lying to ourselves.