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The Importance of Being Earnest

Updated: Jun 7, 2020

What Happens When You Tell Yourself the Truth

Self Examination Can Be Tricky
Thanks to Daniil Kuželev for sharing their work on Unsplash.

About Last Night

After putting in three very long days in a row, last night I went to bed late, with the intention of getting up early anyway. My goal was to begin today with an extra long workout before my first appointment.

But this morning, I woke up later than usual, rather than earlier. As I rushed a quick mile, I was aware of a story offering itself to my brain. It went like this:

“It’s too bad it was so hot last night that I didn’t sleep well. After my husband puts in the air conditioner this weekend, I’ll sleep better, and I’ll get up earlier then.”

This was really, really close to being a true story. Close enough that believing it, and adopting is as the reason for my 1 mile jaunt, was an option that was totally available to me. But an alternative view presented itself to me dimly, and I decided to acknowledge that it was the truer story.

“Last night I worked late, went to bed late and then watched 3 episodes of Bosch in a row before finally trying to coax myself to sleep despite my blue-screen induced alertness. This morning’s short workout is because of last night’s viewing binge.”

The point of this story is NOT whether it was bad or good for me to have made that particular choice. As far as I’m concerned, it’s OK if I conclude a series of marathon workdays with a #BoschBinge. But what’s not OK, is to make up almost-true, better reasons for failures in my performance.

On the one hand, my ability to enjoy the intended workout was either interfered with by the weather, or perhaps even my husband’s delay in completing household chores. On the other hand, the workout of my dreams was totally within my control, and I had just chosen not to prepare myself for it after all.

Later in the morning, I laughed with my assistant over the sparring reasonings of my defensive brain. But here’s what still has my attention:

It would have been so easy to believe my own lie.

What made the first story a lie was not the facts themselves, but the issue of causality.

And had I chosen to go with the first story I thought up, it would also mean a subtle shift in my opinion of my power over having all the long workouts I want in the future. #locusofcontrol

One Last Point

The thing is, I tend to be deeply honest with myself as a habit. I don’t shy away from ascribing character weakness or bad motives to myself when appropriate. But despite the typical candor with with I self examine … I can’t over emphasize the ease with which I might have opted for Story #1 — the almost-true story. It felt really credible at the moment my imagination produced it.

It occurs to me that there’s a pretty good chance that those times when I’ve wrestled with a sense of powerlessness, were preceded by a series of bad decisions concerning which of my own stories to believe.

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