Why you should delude yourself

There’s a story about duchess who had been self-conscious all her life because of a deformed nose. One day, a plastic surgeon was called to operate on the nose to make it aesthetically appealing. The surgery was a success, and everyone who knew the duchess before and after the surgery was truly astounded at the dramatic change in her appearance.

There was just one little problem - the duchess herself didn’t seem to 'feel' beautiful. She continued to feel self-conscious and miserable about her appearance though there was no reason to. It’s almost as though the deformity hadn’t left her mind though it had left her body.

This isn't all that unusual. In fact, I think a number of us go through this in a slightly different form. There is an unconscious tendency to label ourselves and fix the definition of who we are and who we can be. For instance, if a person believes they are intelligent growing up, they are likely to interpret a failure in an exam as a temporary deviation from their natural state of being an intelligent person. On the other hand, if someone has grown up believing they aren't all that intelligent, they are likely to take academic failures as proof of their incompetence.

While this just seems like boring semantics, consider this:

A person who sees themselves as a drug addict is likely to revert to old habits after short periods of abstinence simply because they see the addiction as a part of their personality. Someone who chooses to state that they have developed a drug addiction is more likely to interpret their situation differently. They might see it as something they can be rid of. The addiction isn't a part of who they are.

Subtle but powerful.

The trick to using this to improve the quality of one's life is quite simple. Rewording situations and tendencies to use them as springboards rather than mousetraps is the key.

For instance, I am an introvert, though my day job requires me to talk to my team all day. In fact, some days are so chock full of meetings that even lunchtime is optimised by way of 'lunch meetings'. Upon some reflection, I realised that the reason I felt so drained from talking to colleagues was because of how I was viewing myself. I thought that I wasn't cut out for this role because my extroverted peers would be more suited and that there was nothing I could do about it.

Surely, I prefer to be introverted but this doesn't mean that my ability to interact with other people is fixed. Introversion isn't a fixed trait, it's a tendency.

Once I started to see my introversion as a tendency, it became easier for me to stop limiting myself. This proved especially useful since I quite enjoy working with people. Of course, I need my time to recharge after social interaction. However, this does not prevent me from being the best I can be at my role.

One might say that all this rejigging of narratives of who we are and what we're capable of is just another way of deluding oneself. And I agree. It may just be that we are deluding ourselves when we play around with semantics to feel good about something. Though to be fair, believing that our abilities are limited and that we can't get past certain limitations is also a delusion in itself.

There's no evidence that tells us who we can or can't be in the future.

The truth is that there is really no way to predict the future; although there are such things called self-fulfilling prophecies. If you believe you can't do/be/have something you may just end up making sure that's true. On the contrary, the greatest visionaries on the planet all started believing that something within them was superior to the circumstances they found themselves in. And they all ended up proving themselves right.

I've discovered that letting myself take a few liberties with these delusions usually results in a positive outcome. I end up doing things I never thought were possible for someone like me or I get cut down to size. When the latter happens, I know exactly what to change and how far off the mark I am. That is valuable input for me to take back and work upon if I want something badly enough.

I can't get this kind of insight any other way.

Belief is what gets you started on journeys you never knew you could undertake. Without it you'd never take the first step.

Who cares if you get a little lost on the journey?

Lose yourself to find yourself. Go on and delude yourself a little, you won't be disappointed.

With thanks to Vivek Ishwar

Author of 'How to be a Lighthouse'. I write for those pursuing excellence and meaning.

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