TEDxUNLV, April 11th, 2014. Honest Liars: The Psychology of Self-Deception
Did I really agree to give a TEDx talk on self-deception? What was I thinking! How am I going to help people see how we lie to ourselves, understand the costs of our self-deception, and start us on a journey towards choosing honesty in 13 minutes?
As I pondered the difficulty of the task in front of me, I also reflected upon the amazing opportunity that giving this talk provided. TED is an organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Through short talks, TED provides a platform for disseminating thought-provoking ideas and information that can help us understand and change the world. For me, TEDx provided an opportunity to deliver a message about lying and self-deception that I believed could really help people change. The talk needed to be compelling, informative, and engaging: it needed to promote discussion and deep thought about life fulfillment and purpose.
I started writing. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I had so much information that I wanted to share—but only 13 minutes!
As I wrote, I was faced with a serious dilemma: I couldn’t ask people how they deceive themselves because that would require them to tell the truth. Furthermore, if I come across as someone lecturing about the ways that people deceive themselves, without disclosing that I have the same self-deceptive tendencies and insecurities that I am asking people to confront, the message would be lost.
My internal dilemma was to share or not to share. Disclosing something about my own self-deception—sharing—was essential to my not asking people to do something I was unwilling to do. But self-disclosure also brings up considerable anxiety and discomfort in me; it requires me to confront the unhealthy reasons that I don’t share personal information.
The truth is that self-disclosure is not easy for me. I am generally a very private person. In some ways, this is my personality and comes from a healthy place—we should not share all of the intimate details of our lives with everyone we meet. Over self-disclosure can burden our relationships and be highly inappropriate. In other ways, however, my inability to share stems from early childhood learning experiences in which sharing my truth was punished. Consequently, I systematically hid parts of myself from others as a protective mechanism; I masked non-ideal parts of myself for fear that their exposure would result in my being rejected.
As the reason behind my difficulty with self-disclosure became clearer, I understood myself in a new way. TEDx became an opportunity to challenge myself to change. This did not mean that my life needed to be an open book. But it did mean that to authentically communicate my message and help others, I needed to be willing to self-disclose in ways that I have avoided throughout my life. In short, I had to change.
The bottom line is this: Everyday the world gives us opportunities to understand ourselves in new ways. As we become more aware of who we are, we are given opportunities to change. In the end, although I only had 13 minutes for the talk, I had enough material for a long lecture! I decided to put this more extensive material in the form of a book; that book is titled, Lies We Tell Ourselves: The Psychology of Self-Deception. For those who want more information, it is available in print and ebook formats through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Google Play. To see the TEDxUNLV talk, visit TEDxTalks.
Copyright Cortney S. Warren, Ph.D.