I make it look like I do all of this easily. I make it look like my values and my morals are higher than everyone else’s. I make it look like I have no fundamental flaws or issues.
But that’s not true, at all.
I am a liar and a fraud
The truth is, I’ve considered myself to be a pathological liar for most of my life. I’m really, really good at it. Like, if I should be awarded for something, it would be for that. I pass by undetected in most situations. I’ve honed this craft for years.
I know it sounds like I’m proud, but the reality of why this came to be a trait of mine isn’t really something I’m proud of at all.
When I was growing up, it was safer to lie (and run the risk getting caught), than to tell the truth.
- Telling the truth meant not getting what I wanted.
- Telling the truth meant aggressive confrontations.
- Telling the truth meant danger for my life.
Statements like “I don’t want to talk about it” were not acceptable in my home.
I don’t want to tell you what would happen if I said that.
So, rather than telling the truth or asking not to speak about it, I learned instead to create a story so I didn’t need to show myself to people I didn’t trust.
Lying didn’t serve me in a lot of ways – I have had very few people in my inner circle – but it also served me in a lot of ways.
- It got me what I wanted.
- I was able to avoid difficult conversations that I didn’t have the skills to deal with.
- I could hide from people I didn’t like or didn’t trust.
- I could control people’s view of me.
After traveling the world, working for a large company in the US remotely and building a successful product business, you’d think it’d be enough to soothe my feeling of “not being enough”. The sad reality is it hasn’t.
Achievement doesn’t solve anything, least of all childhood trauma
So for the last two years, my sole mission has been to strip myself of this behaviour built off trauma and abuse. During this time, I’ve been absolutely terrified that people would find out who I really was.
I was someone who was incapable of telling the truth.
And oh boy, have the last two years been a journey. During this time, I’ve learnt a lot.
- I’ve become the type of person who does what they say they’ll do.
- I’ve learned to shoulder responsibility and to bend the knee.
- I’ve learned to tell the truth in spite of the potential repercussions.
- I’ve learned to wear the consequences of my actions.
And I have to say, it’s been a long time since I’ve lied about the big stuff.
But I’d still catch myself lying about the stupidest little things, even up to the start of 2019. Things that didn’t even matter, like how I felt about a recent date or what had happened in my day.
As you can imagine, this was hugely upsetting.
If after two years of work on myself, I was still lying about stupid shit… when was I ever going to stop? Would I ever stop? Would I always live with the fear that someone would find out I was a liar?
I’d lock myself in the bathroom, look myself in the eye in the mirror and swear I’d never do it again. I promised I wouldn’t be the man who taught me how to lie, the ultimate deceiver and manipulator…
But then I’d lie again.
Seemingly without the ability to stop it, I would cover my tracks and conceal the truth. I realised that I had to do something to get a grasp on this… because this habit, this trauma, this problem was stopping me from having all the things I’d ever wanted.
I realised I needed professional help, so that’s what I engaged in.
I’ve always been a loud supporter of therapy and psychologists. I think they’re critical to any person’s life, but in particular high-performing product business owners. Trauma hinders triumph and if you want to be successful in business, you have to triumph over your trauma.
When I was talking to my psychologist about what I was experiencing and how angry I was with myself for doing this, she gave me easily the best response I could have been gifted.
“Well, of course you’re a liar. You grew up knowing it wasn’t safe to tell the truth. You started early and had many years of practice. But you’re changing that now. It’s okay to be kind to yourself about this.”
I think like a lot of high-performers, I’d discovered that delivering and absorbing criticism enhances performance and output.
But, what my psychologist gifted me was the opportunity to approach myself, my trauma and my habits from a completely new angle. An “it’s okay to be fucked up and working on it” angle.
I can’t tell you how freeing it was.
Armed with this new kindness, I decided to look at my behaviour from a new perspective. I realised that the real trigger for me with lying about stupid, small things was that I genuinely didn’t know what to say to avoid a conversation I didn’t want to have.
So, I started practicing saying “I don’t want to talk about it” in the mirror until it felt natural. Then, I starting using it.
And now, lying is something I do very rarely, but always something I fall back to when I don’t know what to say to hold my own boundaries. It’s something I’ve accepted as a part of me to some small extent because childhood habits are incredibly hard to shift.
But the biggest contributor to my progress and overcoming of this has been the kindness and love I have given myself. To make mistakes. To fall back to old patterns. To fail and try again.
Unfortunately, right up until this week, I’ve been absolutely terrified that someone would find this out about me. Because if everyone knew I lied about the small stuff, out of a survival mechanism I built as a child, what would they think about me?
- That I was a liar.
- That I wasn’t trustworthy.
- That I was unprofessional.
- That I was flawed.
- That I wasn’t good enough.
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.
That has been my biggest, deepest, darkest fear up until today, right now. But now, I’m taking control of my habits and my story, and I’m choosing to share the truth.
I will not hide in fear anymore.
I am flawed, I am fucked up… but I am good enough to stand here and offer what I have to the world in spite of the mistakes I’ve made. And that’s what I will continue to do, every single day.