ControverSunday: You can’t handle the truth!

by Ginger on May 23, 2010

in Random

It’s that time once again–ControverSunday! If you’d like to join in (just jump in and join us! It’s what I did), just write something up, grab the badge from Accidents’ and then head over to Perpetua’s place to get linked up. And obviously, we don’t really care if it’s Sunday, or Monday, or heck, even  Saturday–if you’ve got something to say, just join us!

This week’s topic is Truthiness–the original question being when (if ever) is it ok to lie to your kid, taking into account the gradation between, say, Santa and “if you don’t do x then y”?

But I’m not going to talk about that. I’m actually going to veer this discussion away from the parenting/kid angle and make it personal. So let’s revisit that question with my twist:

When, if ever, is it ok to lie to yourself? I’m not talking about the big lies–the ones about pain, or addiction, or hurt. I’m talking the little/medium lies that we use as a defense mechanism for ourselves or others. But do lies we tell ourselves cause more damage than lies we tell other people? Do lies we tell ourselves hurt us more than the lies other people tell us? Or do they just convey the parts of ourselves we have the hardest time facing?

We all lie to ourselves.  We tell ourselves we’re not THAT out of shape, that we deserve that extra scoop of ice cream because it’s been a rough day, that the color yellow looks good on us, that no one will notice that we’re not giving 100% at work, that we can still fit into those pants. Some of those lies are there to make us feel better about ourselves. Some of them are there to make us feel less guilty about something we’re doing that we know we probably shouldn’t. And some of them are there to cover up what we know are our character flaws.

But is it ok? Are we really deceiving ourselves, or do the lies just layer more to the disappointment/frustration/guilt that we feel?

Sometimes yes, those lies are ok. Even if we KNOW they’re not true, they can help us feel a little better (think “I don’t look too bad for being 3 weeks post partum” or “Wearing this outfit makes me feel amazing–thank goodness it wasn’t THAT expensive”). Those little lies can help bring you out of a funk, or build up some missing self-esteem. They can also give you a glimpse of what you wish to be true–and if you learn to recognize that, can help lead you to changes.

But sometimes we lie to ourselves because we’re too lazy to change (I’m not THAT out of shape) or because we don’t want to admit we’re wrong (no one at work notices I’m not giving 100%). We lie to ourselves to try and hide from ourselves. Which, let’s face it, is the dumbest thing possible. I believe those lies lead to more and more unhappiness, because you’re trying to cover up a fundamental wrongness in your life–and until you accept that, you’ll always feel guilty/disappointed/frustrated with yourself for those lies.

A personal example: There aren’t a lot of pictures of me and Jackson. Out of thousands (yes, thousands) of photos of the kid, there are probably less than 50 with he and I. And when you get rid of the ones that are out of focus, blurry or poorly lit, you probably have less than 20. I’ve been telling myself a lot of little lies or half-truths about why that is: I’m usually the one with the camera, most of the photos N.C. takes during the day when I’m not home, we’re usually too busy playing to stop and take a picture. And while those are all partially true, the real truth is that I don’t like the way I look in photos, and so rarely 1) let myself be photographed or 2) keep the photos with me in them. So then the little lies continue–I’m not photogenic, I don’t know how to hold myself in front of the camera, I didn’t have any make up on so I look washed out, blah blah blah.

But the bigger lie is one that’s harder to explain away. In my head, I’m not as heavy as I am. In my head, I’m 40 pounds lighter than I am. In my head, I still look like I did when I was 21 (and I was in DAMN fine shape at 21). So the lie I tell myself over and over is that I don’t look that heavy, or weigh that much because I allow the lie in my head to remain. But every time I get in front of a camera, or see a photo of myself, I can’t keep that lie up. Reality slams up against my lie and the jolt, the shock of it makes me do a double take. But what’s worse? Trying to keep the lie up, which results in no photographic connection to my kid, or letting the lie die which means 1) coming to terms with how I really look (replacing the image in my head) and 2)doing something about it?

I realized the other day that I WANT pictures of me and the kid. I want proof that I loved him and held him and laughed with him. I don’t want to be the missing piece of his life in pictures. And in order to do that I have to stop lying to myself about how I look. The lie I’ve been telling myself is no longer giving me comfort, and instead is denying me something I want. The lie I’ve been telling myself doesn’t work anymore. And that’s the point at which lying to myself isn’t ok anymore.

Now,you should go check out more of the participants of ControverSunday as they tackle truthiness–they’re all smarter than me, and have the posts to prove it!

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Alexis May 23, 2010 at 3:19 pm

You have perfectly expressed my exact feelings. Day to day I can get by thinking I look pretty good, the lack of hitting the gym isn’t showing etc., but the photos don’t lie. I do. As part of my recent taking stock of my life I am hoping to address this point. You are right, it is the lies we tell ourselves that add up to real trouble. Now, accepting the reality doesn’t necessarily mean I can motivate myself to change, but perhaps just recognizing the “truth” is the most important first step.

I will borrow (shamelessly steal) Partial’s point and apply the mantra “I am doing the best I can to change this and that is good enough.”

Great post!

Ginger May 24, 2010 at 3:15 pm

I’m hoping that for me accepting the reality is the first step–or at least the step that lets me stand in front of the camera and not want to cry when I see the results. I want to do something about the additional weight, but more importantly (I think), I want to see the REAL me, not the imagined me. If that makes any sense.

Partial May 23, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes, and yes.

It’s a the same with me. This week I finally had to “give in” to the fact that I just wasn’t fitting into my pre-pregnancy pants, and that I could no longer wait to wear pants until I could fit into them. I went out and bought some pants and cried at reality.

I cry all the time at pics of myself.

I told my teeny-tiny mother that sometimes I thought I had the opposite of anorexia, that I have a false belief much of the time that I look good.

She demurred from answering me.

Just like we need to soften the blow about the harsh nature of the world for our kid’s benefit, we also need to do the same sometimes for our own well being.

And sometimes we just need to look ourselves directly in the mirror and say, “I’m doing the best that I can, and it’s okay.”

Ginger May 24, 2010 at 3:13 pm

I’ve long thought I have reverse body dysmorphia, instead seeing myself as thinner and prettier than I actually am. Which, on the one hand, YAY that I’m not always beating myself up over perceived flaws, but then…um, wait you mean I’m NOT a size 6 anymore (and haven’t been for like 10 years)?
That’s where I need to work on being more truthful with myself.

Mama Tortoise May 23, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Ohhhh… good observations.

Do you think, though, that lying to oneself is an acceptable coping mechanism when we’re not ready to handle the truth? Maybe you’re now ready to tackle that part of your life that you weren’t ready to do before? For me that reality has been finances. My husband and I were really really good at justifying spending money. But since I have now quit my job, we’ve had to meet reality head on. We’re finally ready to seriously confront our financial situation.

Perhaps the ‘coping mechanism’ is just an excuse. But sometimes I think that we can’t concentrate on too many self-development things at the same time. One by one, we’ll get there, but too much might be the recipe for a breakdown of sorts.

Anyway, even though I don’t really know you, I think that your lie to yourself was maybe what you needed at the time. And that’s okay. Now, you’re just in a place where you’re ready to face things.

Great post and angle! Thanks.

Ginger May 24, 2010 at 3:22 pm

I do agree that sometimes it’s an acceptable coping mechanism, and that when you’re ready you (hopefully) will put aside that tool and take charge. And absolutely, I think that there are often only so many self-development things you can handle at any given time without just freaking out (or I know that about me anyway!).
But it does beg the question of how long is too long to try and justify “coping”? And when does it just become a crutch you’re not ever going to face on your own?
I think finances is a perfect other example here–this is a place where it’s often easier and more comfortable to lie to yourself about what you’re doing (we’re not spending THAT much, or we really need that thing type stuff) than to face the reality. But there does come a point where that becomes more of a problem than facing the truth.
Ah, here I go writing another blog post in my own comments section, don’t mind me. But thanks for the interesting thoughts on the post!

Elizabeth May 24, 2010 at 2:48 pm

I’m not there yet, obviously, but I imagine that the post partum period is a pretty tough time–everything shifts again, and I’m sure that doesn’t do much good for confidence. I think Mama Tortoise is spot on–you needed that illusion to get through the first months, and now you’re probably emotionally ready to do what you need. I’d suggest forcing yourself to be in pictures with him every week. One, he’ll cherish those FOREVER, and two, you’ll have a visual marker of your progress.

In the meantime, that’s what liquefy on Photoshop is for. I’m kidding!

Ginger May 24, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Oh, I’ve had the husband break out Photoshop before, don’t you kid yourself 🙂 But usually it’s for a giant zit not for weight stuff!
I like the idea of forcing myself to take pictures with him every week. Plus that will make me more comfortable with being on that side of the camera!

Mama Lungo May 24, 2010 at 7:49 pm

This is me to a T. And I told myself with #2 I would be better about being in the pictures with both kids, yet I am not.

Great post!

Keely May 25, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Fantastic spin on it. I don’t lie to myself – I know I look like crap in photos these days, but I would still like more of myself and my son. I really am the person behind the camera most times though, and I’d have to actively ask someone to take photos of us. I neglect to ask, probably because I’m trying to spare myself.

I make up for it by having professional family photos done. Sure, it only happens every couple of years, but a good photographer will make you look great no matter what your weight. Then I don’t feel so bad about not showing up as often in the candids.

Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist May 25, 2010 at 2:47 pm

You know one thing that has helped me with this exact dilemma (sans kids, just pics in general)? Don’t look at them for a long long time. Like a year or so. It really helps. I don’t know why. Something about it being in the past (maybe that helps with the lies?!) and the emotions of that day (the bad ones anyway) fading away just makes me relax about the flab and be grateful I have the pictures.

Perpetua May 26, 2010 at 4:31 am

I do the same thing Rebecca suggests–I’m okay with pictures of me with the kid, but I also don’t look at them. I know that if I did I’d delete them.

That doesn’t exactly mean I’m not lying to myself, though. I pretty much hate how I look post-baby. My face is so much fatter than it used to be that I can’t believe I look like what the pictures says I look like. Ugh.

The husband and I have completely different ideas about self-truth and self-hate. He will go in the direction of telling himself the worst things possible so that he might be pleasantly surprised once in a while. I do the opposite. Makes me wonder how the kid is going to approach these things….

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