This might be controversial.
However, acknowledging it can completely transform your ability to create success.
The biggest cause of stress in business is self-deceit.
Basically, lying to yourself.
These lies take many guises.
It might be anything from ‘I love working in my pyjamas’ to ‘I’m flattered that successful entrepreneur has copied my best idea’ to ‘I’m an introvert’ to ‘I have all the confidence I need’. There’s nothing wrong with any of those statements. Except when they’re not true. The funny thing is, there would be nothing wrong with stating the opposite either:
‘Sometimes I miss getting dressed up for work.’
‘I’m hurt that has happened.’
‘I think I’ve forgotten how to be around people.’
‘My confidence has taken a beating lately.’
When we lie to ourselves, there are all sorts of consequences:
1. The pain that’s being ignored adds to the constant, low-level stress that hums away in the background of your brain, driving you to avoidance behaviours like drinking, eating, and binge-watching tv.
2. In denying the truth, we deny ourselves the opportunity to sort out a problem.
3. People can sense the inauthenticity a mile away, and it doesn’t feel good – to them or you.
So why do we do it?
Why do we tell ourselves such a load of balls?
Here are the four most common causes of self-deceit:
1. Saving face.
This is a fascinating one, because it self-perpetuates. When we have a tendency to pretend everything is perfect, it’s extremely difficult to admit that anything is wrong. So we don’t get the help we need, which makes all our problems worse, which gives us a deeper sense of being a fraud, which means we have to grip the mask of perfection to our faces with an iron fist. Eventually, we don’t just pretend to everyone else that things are perfect, we convince ourselves too. This isn’t just a vicious circle, it’s barbaric.
2. Being heartbroken
When we suffer a heartbreak, there’s a river of pain that runs so deep into our psyche that we’ll do anything to avoid tapping into it. And it probably isn’t from a romantic relationship. Most of us have had our hearts broken by our parents by the time we’re eight years old. We begin to believe we’re fundamentally flawed and unlovable – and so we begin to deny our true selves.
3. Hurting others
True fact: Most people don’t want to hurt others. Also a true fact: Most people have a memory of accidentally hurting someone as a result of being honest. A common example is a childhood recollection of blurting something out, leading to a telling-off that felt completely out of proportion. The shock of accidentally triggering someone’s anger is an experience most of us don’t want to repeat. So we start to second-guess our thoughts and regulate our opinions, until we’re no longer sure what our truth sounds like.
4. Loving others
We want to protect those around us, particularly those we love. In order to give what we think our loved ones need, we become adept at denying ourselves. When we’re following our dreams we might think we can’t share our stress because it seems ‘ungrateful’ – so we box it off instead, and convince ourselves ‘everything is fine’.
Self-denial is incredibly painful.
When we start to admit the truth about our deepest wounds, oldest habits, and darkest fears, it releases an enormous amount of stress. Not only is this a huge relief, it also creates space – which is rapidly filled with the truth about what you really want, and ideas and insights about how you can achieve it.
If we truly want to combat stress, and build the business we love, the best place to start can be a simple question: “What’s really going on here?”
Michelle Lowbridge is an author and teacher on the art of unlocking human potential. She specialises in the sub subconscious behaviours that govern our interactions with money and success, and is the author of The Agile CEO and Wealthology: The Science of Smashing Money Blocks.