I'm Fine: The Lies We Tell Ourselves as INFJs
Are you an honest person? I bet you just said, “yes.” I know I did. I like to think that I’m mostly honest, but the truth is, I’m a terrible liar. I lie constantly, not to others, but to myself. Does it matter if you’re only lying to yourself? I never thought so. Then I read a book that changed my whole perception of lying. Lying to yourself is actually the worst kind of lie. If you can’t even be honest with yourself, how can you be honest with anyone else?
Let’s look at some of the ways we lie to ourselves as INFJs and what it does to us.
Lie #1: I have read the terms and conditions
Have you ever read the terms and conditions? Really? I don’t. Not ever. Not when I bought my car, rented my apartment, bought my iPhone or signed up for iTunes. I get burned by it so often too.
I read a story (that of course I can’t find now) that said you don’t own music or movies that you buy on iTunes or Apple Music. You pay for and are simply given a license to use it for as long as Apple has a license to let you use it. I was wondering why I had bought some songs and movies that had disappeared from my library and now I know. It makes sense. Why do they tell us that we are “buying” music and movies when we’re simply “renting” it? Idk. You’ll have to ask them.
The truth is that no one reads those things but everyone gets outraged when they get burned by not reading them. Would you still “buy” music from Apple if you knew ahead of time that you’re simply renting it? (And before you go all scorched-Earth on Apple, rest assured that Amazon, Google, Spotify and your favorite music source do the same thing) Would reading the terms and conditions change your behavior or your outrage? Does it matter?
Lie #2: I’d love to go
I’m good at saying this to others, but I also think it when I start making plans for some trip or outing, when I buy plane tickets and concert tickets. At the time I make the plans, maybe I actually feel like going somewhere, but inevitably when the appointed time comes, I never feel like going. I always hope that something happens and the date is canceled, no matter how bad I wanted to go when I bought the tickets or made the plans.
The good news is that most of the time I make myself go and about 80% of the time I’m happy that I did.
Lie #3: I don’t need help
I can do everything by myself. I don’t need help. I say this when I’m overwhelmed at work, carrying all the grocery bags up the stairs at once, looking for the coffee shop that Siri swears is on the right side of the road, and cooking Thanksgiving dinner while everyone else watches the football game in the living room. Asking for help seems weak. It’s the admission that I don’t know how to figure things out all by myself, that I’m not smart enough, even when being intelligent won’t help you lift something heavy or see addresses better. And so the lie carries on while I struggle.
Maybe it’s the way that I was raised, but it’s a difficult cycle to break out of. Asking for help is always defeat in my mind.
Lie #4: It’s OK. I’m fine.
Is it ever really OK when you say it’s OK? That is code in my book for, “It’s not OK, but I’m not going to say that. I’m just going to act like I'm fine and fall apart later.”
When I was growing up there was an understanding in our house: if you have a problem it’s your problem. You work it out. If I have a problem with you it’s still your problem and you still need to work it out. It was like fight club: nobody talks. Not about the problem. Not to each other. Nothing gets worked out. Nobody talks about anything. You just act like you’re ok and if you’re not ok then you go away from everyone else until you’re ready to act like you’re ok again. It was exhausting. You can only squish so many problems down until there’s no more room to squish and they all come out with a massive explosion. But again, you act like you’re ok, whether it was you who exploded or someone else.
Lie #5: The Life Lie
We’ve spoken about Life-Lies in a previous podcast, episode 108, that I’ll link in the show notes.
The worst of all lies is the life lie. Tell me if this sounds familiar: you love to daydream, creating the perfect world in your imagination. You have the perfect body that’s easy and simple to maintain. You always look your best in the latest clothes that are comfortable, but stunning. Your hair never misbehaves and your makeup is simple, but gorgeous.
That guy you’re crushing on only has eyes for you. He says all the right things at all the right times. He takes you in his arms whenever you need comforting and makes you feel adored and understood. You build a life together in your picture perfect house with the French windows, marble countertops, reclaimed hardwood floors and a white picket fence.
It’s perfect, especially compared to what your life actually looks like… the sparsely furnished 600 square foot apartment in the dodgy part of town, that job you can’t stand with the boss who talks down to you and your crush who can’t be bothered to even notice you exist. But you’re crafty and determined. You decide you want the life you’ve imagined for years because you’re just arrogant enough to believe that everything you know now is all you need to know for all time and this life you dream about must be the best thing for you because it’s all you want. It’s all you think about.
The English poet John Milton referred to this belief like this: all I know is all that needs to be known.
Maybe you’re determined enough to move across the country for this dream of yours. You give up so many things… guys who are great but not dreamy, friends who are your kind of weird but not who you dream of being seen with, opportunities that would take you in a totally different direction from your chosen desire… the list goes on and on. You stubbornly cling to what you have already decided is for your highest good.
Maybe you spend 20 or even 30 years trying to make this dream a reality. But try as you might things just don’t fit into place in real life. At this point you have a choice: are you going to keep pushing for what you thought was best or are you going to admit that you don’t know what is best, that you need help, that there could be more to life than what you currently know (or than what you knew when you created that dream life and decided it was the only thing you could ever want)?
I’ve been there, facing that same dilemma. I’ve coached so many INFJs who are in this situation too, especially when it comes to their career. They decided in high school or college that they were going down one path and now it just doesn’t feel right anymore, but they don’t know what else to do. They feel like they have invested so much time, money and effort into this one decision that they need to make it work. But do they really?
I decided I was going to be an engineer when I was 15 years old. 15!! I was just a baby! I had no idea what life was or how to live it, but I remained committed to that decision for nearly 13 years. I was committed even though I didn’t like it, even though it wasn’t what I thought it was, even though I really wanted to do something else. I was embarrassed. I felt like if I said that I didn’t want to do it anymore, then I would be admitting that I had failed, that I wasn’t smart enough or tough enough and that just wasn’t acceptable to me. I had defined my intelligence by the classes that I took in college and the degree that I would get. If I wasn’t going to be an engineer, then I didn’t know who I was anymore. I didn’t know how people would perceive me or how I would deal with their disappointment. I didn’t know how to deal with my own disappointment in myself that I had wasted all that time, over $70,000, all that effort, all that expectation… it was all gone. Now I had to start over with something new… that was even worse of a thought for me.
The Bible tells us that pride goes before the fall. Whether you’re religious or not, I’m sure we can agree that too much pride, too much belief in only yourself and your current knowledge is a bad thing. It’s the thing that caused Lucifer to fall from Heaven. It’s the source of conflicts and regimes that have killed hundreds of millions of people in the past 100 years alone. It’s the singular source of multitudes of evil that exist in the world today. For me, it’s been the end of so many friendships, the termination of so many projects and desires in my life.
The antidote to the prideful life-lie is curiosity about the truth. When you’ve been lying to yourself for so long you have to start investigating what the truth actually is.
The antidote is admitting that you don’t know all there is to know. It’s looking for more information than what you already know. It’s opening your eyes and mind to new ideas and information.
It’s looking for truth. Nietzsche said that a man’s worth was determined by how much truth he could tolerate. How much can you tolerate? Enough to even admit that you’re lying to yourself? I couldn’t tolerate that much when I started down this path. It was too much.
I found myself in a painful place where facing the fact that the dream was a lie felt like the end of everything. What was the point of going on? I spent days, months even wondering if there would ever be a point to my life or if it was simply meant to be one painful lesson after another leaving me feeling dumber and dumber continually. The dream gave me a sense of control over my life and when that was gone, life ceased to be worthy of living.
The antidote is also surrender. And oh, surrender is difficult when control means life. Surrender is uncertain, it’s dangerous, it’s opening yourself up to the possibility that you may not get what you want, even though you might get something better. You’re willing to sacrifice the better for the dream, no matter how better the better is.
Last year I joined a support group that has a list of steps that all must work though. It’s the path to happiness or some facsimile of it. So we work the steps. Step 1 seemed harmless enough: admit that you are powerless. My life has already proved that. I’ve accepted it. Step 2 is belief in a Higher Power. I’m good there too. I was raised in church and though I don’t go to church now, I certainly believe that there is a Higher Power that watches over and protects me. I’ve seen enough evidence of it in my life that I’m certain it’s true.
Step 3 was a million times harder than I thought it would be: surrender your life to your Higher Power. Jesus, take the wheel. If control is life then surrender is… something much less than life. It’s pain. It’s terror. It’s the horror of accepting that control isn’t life at all. It’s an illusion that you’ve believed for far too long. The jump from control to surrender seems impossible to make. It’s jumping off of a cliff where your landing is shielded from your view beneath a dense fog of uncertainty. You don’t know what’s going to happen, you just jump into the fog and hope for the best.
Gabby Bernstein says, “To begin the practice of allowing I must get out of the way and let Spirit give me direction. When I truly surrender my desires to the Universe [or your favorite Higher Power] a mighty force of faith can set in.”
Faith for me has been something that I always thought that I had. I was baptized at 10 years old, went to church school for most of grade school, not only attended church, but was deeply involved in the work and mission for years. I went to work at the church when I was 16 and then went to England to volunteer for a ministry when I was 22. I was convinced that my life would be devoted to the church at that point in my life.
But things happened that put me on a different path. I realized that I hadn’t found God in church and began to see that the people I had trusted to show me this Higher Power were unworthy. I had expected too much of them and began to question my faith and my place in this world once again.
Now, 14 years later, I wonder if I truly know what faith is, what surrender is. Have I ever really surrendered or was it all just childish obedience? Do I really know my Higher Power or have I just accepted what others have told me? How do you learn how to surrender at nearly 40 years old?
It’s Your Responsibility
At the end of the day, whatever conclusion you come to about yourself and your life, it’s your responsibility. You get to choose the life that you live. You get to choose how you look at your circumstances. You get to choose if you are a victim or an overcomer. You get to choose if you are going to accept what others tell you or if you are going to make your own way.
It’s not popular today to say that your life is your responsibility, but it’s true. We don’t all have the same opportunities from the start. Some of us have to work harder than others to get to where we want to be. But ultimately the choice is yours: you can complain about how difficult your life is because of other people (and oh, how I love to complain) or you can get up and get going to get what you want. The older you get the more you’ll realize that life is very short. You don’t have all the time that you think you do. So the more time you spend complaining, the less time you’ll have left for actually living.
You can’t change other people - the way they think or the things they do. You know this is true because you’ve tried to make a change in your own life that you want. You know changing this one thing will make your life better. Maybe you want to quit smoking or drinking or quit eating sugar or quit drinking soda pop. It feels impossible.
Mark Twain said, “Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.”
If you’re anything like me, you’ve struggled with just one of these things for years. If you struggle to make a change that you want to make, imagine how difficult it is to ask someone else to change something that they don’t want to change?
You can only control what you think and do. So you can wait for the world to change and hope that it changes the way you think it should or you can be the change that you wish to see.
You can take responsibility for your life. You can tell the truth. You can start with that lie that you’ve been telling yourself for years. You don’t like your job. You’re not satisfied with your marriage. You hate your apartment. You want more out of life. It’s not what you thought it was going to be. You need more. More connection, more meaning, more hope, more happiness, more purpose.
It’s brave to admit that you’re not where you want to be. It’s the first step to getting what you truly need in your life.