Lies We Tell Ourselves To Be Liked
- Posted by James Altucher
It is not easy for me to be honest. I grew up thinking I had to lie to people to get them to like me.
I needed to somehow be someone I wasn’t in order to burn away invisible scars that I was sure everyone could see.
I thought I had to, for instance, get into a good college for people to like me. Or be a chess master. Or even have straight hair. Or get rid of my glasses. Or acne. Or have a lot of money.
These were all lies I told myself because I didn’t think I could be liked without these medals shining bright off my shirt.
Then there were lies I told others. I told the first girl I ever went out with that I once stole a lot of money from my parents and lost it all gambling on horses.
Then her dad came to visit and he heard all about my race track adventures. So he said, “Let’s all go to the horse track!” I had never even been to the race track before.
So we went and I had no idea what I was doing and it was pretty clear that I had lied to her, like I did on many occasions before that and even after that until there was nothing left of us.
The truth is: I did steal money from my parents. But I spent it all on going to movies and buying comic books and books about chess. And I would use the money to skip school and go into New York and hang out in Washington Square Park playing chess with everyone there.
Not an exciting enough story, though, to tell a girl who wanted me to confess all sorts of things to show her what an outlaw I was instead of a jewish suburban middle class kid.
Then there’s the lies I told as I went from job to job. Skills maybe I had 10% of but I claimed 100% of. A salary that I would enhance by a few thousand so when I got an offer I’d make a few thousand more. Titles I had at old jobs that never even existed.
Then later I wouldn’t tell people I was getting a divorce. Or losing a home. Or losing hope.
Why did I tell the lies to others?
I never thought I was good enough for anything. And I always wanted more of it. If I could just get to the 4th rung on the ladder, I was sure the 5th rung had my name on it.
And even though I was sweating, hungry, unhappy, scared, I knew if I just reached that 5th rung I’d be happy. That the prize was waiting for me there.
So I’d lie to get it.
Everyone would forgive me then. Everyone would pat me on the back and have a big meeting and all say, “we knew you could do it.”
Girls who had broken up with me would claim they were only testing me, that they were also waiting for this moment. They would be side by side with the bosses that fired me. The people who had ignored me. All of them together in a big party to celebrate me.
They would all be happy, laughing and slapping me on the back.
I wouldn’t believe it.
How did they all know each other? Here they all were – loving me, because now I had finally gotten to the point where I didn’t have to lie to them anymore.
But I never reached that rung on the ladder. And I never will.
I fell off the ladder.
A few months ago I had breakfast with the CEO of a company I once worked for. They had fired me and then withheld a bonus payment I had desperately needed.
But they had since changed CEOs several times and now I was meeting their latest CEO who had reached out to me.
It was around the time they withheld that payment that I realized nobody out there at all was going to help me. Nobody would be fair. This wasn’t a blame thing. Nor was it pessimism.
I just needed to pick myself up and it’s my own fault for not dealing with good people. For not constantly being creative. For not feeling grateful.
But in order to be around good people, I also had to be a good person, not an imaginary one.
I had to feel abundant without lying about it in order to have abundance hit me. Not in a law of attraction way, but just so I could sleep at night.
It was that simple. I had to stop using all the energy in my brain coming up with imaginary futures. The brain is too powerful and needs a lot of fuel to keep the lies going.
Better to use that fuel for being happy and good now than to make up futures and anxieties and regrets.
The CEO told me, “I heard you had a heart attack or a nervous breakdown a few years ago. That’s what everyone told me.”
I couldn’t believe what she said. To me I had just had the most fulfilling and successful few years of my life.
But to the people who knew me, to people looking in from the outside, it appeared to be a nervous breakdown, as every facade fell away. I had been buried in my lies and now I no longer was.
“No,” I told her, “I’ve been healthier than I had ever been.”
She repeated it, “Everyone insists you had at least a nervous breakdown.”
Maybe I did. But I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t broke. And I wasn’t down.
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