Self-deception, perfectionism, and control are all things I have struggled with throughout my life. I tend to deny my feelings in an attempt to be “fine” and maintain the illusion of perfectionism. Often I forget that feelings of sadness, anger, regret—any negative emotions, really—are just a part of life, and a necessary one at that. We can’t expect to enjoy happiness without embracing the full spectrum of human emotion. I’ve been learning to lean into moments of sadness and boredom, to embrace them and enjoy them for what they are.
On the topic of self-deception and illusions, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
All addictions are built on illusions. The illusion of control, the illusion of perfectionism, the illusion of objectivity. Dishonesty and denial are the building blocks of addiction. When we participate in any of these illusions, we are deceiving ourselves, and when we deceive ourselves, we lose ourselves. Why is it that we find self-deception and illusions so much more attractive than honesty? It could possibly be because we are surrounded by a society where illusion is the name of the game. Denial runs rampant at every level of our society, and there is not much support for “truth speaker.”
Yet, we are the only ones who can deceive ourselves. We are the only ones who can refuse to acknowledge our perceptions and lie to ourselves. The choice to deceive ourselves is ours.
I do feel that I have lost myself in denying my true self to appease others. I’ve also felt the pain of denial in having to relearn the same lessons over again as they manifest in different problems throughout my life. Denial often has caused me to ignore certain problematic behaviors in my life to the point where they escalated to crises that could be ignored no longer and must be dealt with immediately. Slowly over a time, as a result of a few painful outbursts that cost me some friendships, I have learned it is far better to be direct and honest about my feelings than deny them to try to make everything okay for others. The truth about denial is eventually whatever you are avoiding bubbles up and resurfaces, and it is usually far worse to deal with at that time. Emotional wounds are like physical ones in that sense; if you cover them and try to ignore them, they fester and become infected, causing far more pain than if you had exposed them and treated them immediately.
Another way in which self-deception is a part of my life is when I deny what I know in my heart to be right, or deny my own perceptions, to agree with others in an effort to be liked. People still like others who don’t always agree with them. In fact, people probably like and respect someone more for standing their ground on their beliefs and opinions. If they don’t, at least that person is being true to themselves. That is how I wish to live going forward. My denial only causes me more pain in the long run. The great news is that I have the power within me to change it.