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Lying vs Optimism

There have been fascinating comments, especially through Facebook, on my previous article on lying to others, e.g. lying doesn’t equate to absence of love, many parents lie to make their children behave better, and men find it more difficult to deal with lying and liars than women (about 75% of men apply for divorce due to their partners' extra-marital affairs; 75% of women forgive their unfaithful husbands and stay married).

We have excuses for lying to others (refer to previous article), but why do we lie to ourselves (Psychologists call this self-deception)? Self-deception, i.e. not acknowledging the truth about ourselves, can be conscious or unconscious. For example, an employee is consciously lying to himself when he takes a day’s sick leave once a month and stays at home in his pyjama behaving like he has colds (he has convinced himself that he doesn’t lie to his employer and that he has the right to these 10 days/year sick leave). Some managers lie to themselves unconsciously to boost self-esteem and self-confidence; for instance, they believe they are more skilled and knowledgeable than what they really are in order to be respected and admired.

Last month, our family doctor reminded me that I should have a regular physical activity (in addition to sufficient calcium and Vitamin D) to prevent osteoporosis later on. I told her that I do an hour of Zumba every Thursday and another 3 hours of gym exercises per week (in which I added the almost one hour of walking to/fro). I didn’t lie to her as walking is a form of exercise, but I felt like did to myself because I would like to be in the gym for 3 hours per week but couldn’t due to other commitments. Meanwhile, I’ve a friend who maintains that she has only coffee for breakfast, doesn’t snack and blames her extra weight solely on genetics instead of admitting the truth that she has always have a second serving of food for lunch and dinner.

Is lying to ourselves in-born or acquired? Are some individuals more likely to lie than others in the same circumstance? Is lying to cope with problems and difficulties a self-deception? For example, is it wrong to believe we are more successful than what we really are because we don’t want to change job, residence or lifestyle? So what if we feel prettier and more intelligent than what we really are – isn’t this optimism?

Optimism is cheerfulness, hopefulness and looking at the bright side of life – which is positive and has nothing to do with lying. Lying to ourselves may have short term benefits but the truth will catch up with us one day. We, including optimistic individuals, need a dose of negative truth to develop resilience and cope with life’s challenges. We have to accept our weaknesses and improve these rather than exaggerate our ability as this is draining our energy and straining ourselves. (From Being Intelligent Gifted)

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