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The 5 Most Dangerous Lies We Tell Ourselves

Fernanda Lind, February 23, 2023

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the lies we’ve been told throughout our careers. Sadly, many of them are ones we often tell ourselves when we are feeling scared. And while some research has shown that fear can be helpful to entrepreneurs, most of the time, the lies we tell us only serve to hold us back from reaching our true potential.

Self-limiting beliefs may be unique to the individual, but they are not unique in general—and I, for one, am over them. So get ready for a little tough love.

Here are five of the most common lies we tell ourselves and how we can stop them.

LIE #1: WHAT IF

A recent study conducted by ResearchGate outlined the seven most frequent fears of entrepreneurs, but most of them can be translated into the familiar refrain of these four “what ifs?”.

• What if I try and it doesn’t work?
• What if I make a mistake?
• What if it’s not good enough?
• What if I’m not good enough?

We ask them when we’re trying something new or making a change; they’re dangerous because they prevent us from taking chances. “What ifs” create doubt causing us to freeze up instead of moving forward with action.

The Hard Truth: Ask yourself, what if the opposite is true? Instead of focusing on the negative outcomes, flip the script and find potential positive solutions. What if this works? What if I learn something new? What if my idea sparks a better one? What if teaming up takes off some of the pressure?

LIE #2 JUST WORK HARDER

You’ve probably heard this one before. “If you want something bad enough, you’ll have to work hard for it.”

Well, yes and no. While it’s true that we can’t expect to get what we want without trying and that working hard is a necessary (and often admirable) prerequisite for success, there are some ways in which this statement is misleading and harmful. For example, we may work harder than others yet still not reach our goals because of external factors—like lack of opportunity, resources, or support; or internal factors—like our own self-defeating attitudes or habits, lack of motivation, or direction. 

The Hard Truth: Telling ourselves to simply work harder, could end up wasting even more time or leave us spinning our wheels. Sometimes the best action, when you’re feeling stuck is to take a break and walk away. Give your brain a chance to reset; if that doesn’t work, try talking it out with someone. 

LIE #3 QUICK FIXES & OTHER EASY BUTTONS

The Hard Truth: There are no quick fixes.

Anything that promises to make you happier, more successful, or healthier in a short period of time is not going to be sustainable. In fact, it will probably be detrimental to your mental health and well-being in the long run. 

Your best formula for success will always be: consistent practice + time = success.

LIE #4 I JUST NEED MORE TIME

A lot of us feel like we wish there were more time in the day. Or, if we had more time, whatever we were working on would be better. But we know better. Our lack of motivation, procrastination, or fear of failure (or success!) comes from within ourselves, not outside forces like “time.” And even if we had more time, if we aren’t in the right mindset to take advantage of it, chances are, we’ll likely squander that too.

The Hard Truth: Time isn’t an excuse, scapegoat, or crutch—it’s a neutral force that doesn’t really care what you’re doing with yourself and has no bearing on when you get it done. Instead of lamenting not having enough time, you’re better off using what you have more efficiently.

LIE #5 THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME.

This is by far the worst lie we can tell ourselves because it was designed to keep us stuck in a place of fear.  Imagine if a friend asked you if something was wrong with them—what would you say to them? After the initial shock, you would probably try to cheer them up and reassure them of how much value they bring to your life and those around them. So why don’t we do that for ourselves?

The Hard Truth: Nothing is or ever was wrong with you. Your intrusive, obsessive thoughts are just hijacking your brain. You don’t have to indulge them; you can choose to simply acknowledge them and then let them go because you have way more important things to focus on.

The Bottom Line: Having occasional negative thoughts is part of being human—but we get to choose how much emotion we put behind them. The sooner we are able to accept what we are thinking in the moment—the easier life becomes—and a new, more honest story can be told. 

Looking for more on this subject?  Check out this article for additional reading and actionable steps you can take to overcome the lies we tell ourselves. And for more leadership insights and inspiration geared specifically for executive women, be sure to subscribe to the Wired Weekly newsletter.

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