Deb Sofield

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Why We Lie

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Honesty is such a lonely word, and to add insult to injury, exaggeration is the name of the game, and that is a lie.

Oh, I know I said the word lie. I said it because, well, that is what it is when you don’t tell the truth about yourself. I know the word is harsh and it is tougher still to be called out on, but, quicker than you can hide your lie from those who know you, the damage you’ve done to yourself will cut you deeply and leave a lifelong scar for all to see. I want to encourage you today to make your way back to your beautiful and real self and not somebody else’s idea of who you should be.

We all know people who exaggerate their self-importance to the point of ridiculousness. You can see it on their websites, Facebook pages and LinkedIn profiles. It’s a sad commentary on our world that, just because someone wants it to be so, and without the work, the sweat or the knowledge, they think they can lie their way into the spotlight. It’s a funny thing that many forget about the spotlight; it doesn’t lie, and it doesn’t exaggerate the dishonest image…so the truth shines lonely on the stage.

You see it daily in the game of social media: trying to make everything seem grander, bigger and more enhanced than it really is. From preachers who claim they’ve spoken to millions of converts, to speakers who claim they have spoken to tens of thousands of people or politicians who claim they’ve heard from hundreds of constituents, when in reality those numbers are suspect at best and flat out wrong at worst.

Maybe I’m a skeptic (okay, I am), but I rarely believe the numbers unless I can quantify them, because sliding the scale to make one seem more important than they really are is quickly becoming our national pastime.

Just think about all the folks who are suddenly lifted into a leadership role only to find out they lied on their application, their resume or their wartime record, and just as quickly as they ascended, they crash, but not without the sticky judgment that will follow them the rest of their lives of being known as a fabricator, falsifier or faker.

You see this trickery all the time when unknowns claim that they’ve spoken, trained or taught 25,000 people when the reality is that no one knows their name, and they are not recognized by any organization as a leader in their industry; worse yet, they don’t show up in any online resource as a source of information. The fact is that it is more than a bit of an exaggeration that we’re dealing with–this self-aggrandizement borders on psychosis and that is a serious mental issue.

Michelle Homme has a quote that sums up this national phenomenon clearly when she says, “Denial is the worst kind of lie…because it is the lie you tell yourself.” And yet we see it all the time. I’m guessing the exaggerator doesn’t expect anyone to look for the truth, but that would be a mistake because in this day and age it doesn’t take much to be found out, and when the truth comes forth, the damage from the dishonestly is destructive.

Thomas Jefferson said, “He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, ‘till at length it becomes habitual.” It is safe to say, we are becoming a nation of habitual “storytellers.”

We all know the bar is low these days for those who make big, audacious claims of their abilities, talents and gifts, and, frankly, it’s always sad to see when they can’t measure up to the level they claim. But they’ve done this destruction to themselves, so it’s hard to feel sorry for them. Disgust, maybe; sorry, not so much. Hard to feel sympathy for someone who purposely makes claims they can’t back up.

There was a scam going around in the book industry, and it still shows up, I’m sure, where a writer would have 15 friends at a certain designated time–usually 1:00 a.m. or some off time–buy their book online, and in the crush of one minute they “claim” that they had a number one bestselling book on Amazon.com. Seems silly in the light of day, but schemes like this happen more than we know; all for the purpose of exaggerating their self-importance.

Time is a funny thing when it comes to the truth, and if this is you, the people who know you, know that you haven’t accomplished the fake list of success you claim by your bellowing or on your brochure or website. You can’t blame your friends when they finally lose the last shred of respect they had for you because you created this false avatar of someone you’re not and because you’re not willing to do the work to be truly, honestly, justifiably amazing. You just didn’t think you’d be found out.

Remember, one lie is enough to question all truths.

Is it worth it? Is it worth the trouble to keep up the false image? Is it worth the damage to your reputation? The answer is, No–a thousand times, No.

Believe it or not, your friends would be more impressed if they were told the truth; even if it isn’t as glamorous as one would like, at least they know what they’re dealing with, and true friends will support you on your journey to success and buy your book.

The problem with the little lies is that they never find an ending point. And as you well know, once the fire is started, it is hard to put out.

I like this poster I saw recently – it says,
A lie is a lie.

A white lie is a lie.

A half-truth is a lie.

A hidden truth is a lie.

A lie by omission is a lie.

A lie is a lie.

I wish I had better news, but I don’t when it comes to this issue. So here is where I want to challenge you, encourage you to challenge others and be aware of others who exaggerate their self-importance.

Before I explain, let me assure you that I have not been contacted by your ex, or your boss or your former friends. Today’s topic is one that has been floating around in my head for a while, but it was hard to put on paper because it’s not fun or uplifting in any sense of the word. But this is the truth that someone needs to say and someone needs to hear, because too many good people are on the edge of decision-making and, if they make the wrong decision to falsely build themselves up and create a false image of someone they are not, don’t let it be said that you were not warned of the damage that it will do when you are found out. And, unfortunately, you’ll be found out–you’re not lucky enough to hide, not in today’s fact-checking world.

My advice, as your friend and coach, is to do the work, make an honest name for yourself and build your knowledge base and skills to amazing instead of being a forger, a fake or, worse yet, a fool. You’re better than that and deep in your heart you know it. Don’t take the shortcut–it’s always longer than it seems. And truth be known, it doesn’t lead you to success–you’ll just amble and wander and stray down paths leading you nowhere.

Probably the most important reason I can think of for you to come back to being who you are online, off line and in real life, is that friendships–real friendships–are hard to come by and harder to maintain as you get older, and as wise old Aesop of “Aesop’s Fables” said, “Betray a friend, and you’ll often find you have ruined yourself.” Another quote I like says, “Breaking someone’s trust is like crumpling up a perfect piece of paper. You can smooth it over, but it’s never going to be the same again.” Let me add this truth, if you want a long-term relationship in life, in business and with others, follow this simple rule: never lie. Being honest may not get you a lot of friends, but it will always get you the right ones.

And I’ll close with this quote from Thomas Jefferson, “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”

Be wise, my friends, be truly amazing but, most of all, be honest.

Deb Sofield

Deb Sofield is a Keynote Speaker, Author of the book, Speak without Fear – Rock Star Presentation Skills to get People to Hear What You Say and Encouragement For Your Life ~ Tough Love Memos to Help You Fight Your Battles and Change the World, Radio Talk Show Host in the Salem Network, Podcaster and President of her own Executive Speech Coaching Co., which trains women and men for success in speaking, crisis communications, presentation skills, media and message development in the U.S. and abroad.

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