September 9, 2023




10 Dangerous Lies We Tell Ourselves

At a glance

Today’s Fast Summary:

  • Listening to your inner critic triggers avoidance and guilt. You don’t need to listen to your inner critic or the lies they tell you.

  • Reframe the lies that the inner critic tells you, and use mental models to negate their words.

  • Focus on internal validation to develop self-compassion.

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10 Dangerous Lies We Tell Ourselves & How to Conquer Them

Everyone has an inner critic. In psychology, the inner critic refers to a demanding subpersonality that expresses criticism, anguish, or general disapproval about the self.

Your inner voice is a critical part of who you are, but the critic is not. Listening to the inner critic triggers avoidance and guilt. Avoidance can cause you to engage in negative behaviors like procrastination and inaction.

You don’t need to listen to your inner critic or the lies they tell you. Here are 10 dangerous lies your inner critic tells you and how to overcome them:

  1. “I can multitask effectively.”

Multitasking reduces productivity and increases stress. Our brains are not designed to handle multiple tasks simultaneously.

First, reframe the lie. Tell yourself, “I will focus on one task at a time and use time management techniques to prioritize and complete tasks efficiently.”

Then, use time management techniques to prioritize and complete tasks efficiently. Try the Pomodoro Technique:

  1. Set a timer for 25 minutes. Focus on one task during that time.

  2. After the timer dings, take a 5-minute break from your work.

  3. Repeat this process.

  4. After completing four Pomodoro sessions, take a longer break. Aim for 15-30 minutes this time.

2. “I'm not creative.”

Everyone has some form of creativity within them. Believing you're not creative can limit your potential to innovate and problem-solve.

Reframe the lie. Tell yourself that you can cultivate creativity by trying new things, practicing, and being open to new ideas.

Try the SCAMPER Technique:

  • Substitute: Replace one component of an idea.

  • Combine: Merge two or more different concepts or elements to form a new idea.

  • Adapt: Modify an existing idea to fit within a new context.

  • Modify: Change 1 aspect of an idea to fit your vision.

  • Put to another use: Find new applications for an idea that already exists.

  • Eliminate: Remove unnecessary elements from the idea.

  • Reverse: Change the order or hierarchy of an idea.

Creatives understand the value of this exercise. Thinking about an idea through different lenses and contexts can lead you down exciting creative paths. Engage with concepts in novel ways.

3. “I need to be perfect.”

Perfectionism can lead to procrastination and inaction. Realistically, no one is perfect 100% of the time. It's important to accept that imperfection is a natural part of growth and progress.

Reframe the lie. Tell yourself, “I will strive for excellence, not perfection, and accept that mistakes are learning opportunities.”

Conquer your desire for perfection using the 80/20 rule, or the Pareto Principle:

  • Focus on the 20% of your tasks that yield 80% of your desired outcome. Accept imperfection in the 80% of tasks you don’t focus on

  • Prioritize tasks based on their importance and potential impact on your future goals.

  • Accept that not every detail will be perfect. Concentrate on the most critical aspects of each task.

Strive for excellence, not perfection. Mistakes are learning opportunities.

4. “I'm not good enough”

Self-doubt stops you from reaching your potential and from pursuing potentially beneficial opportunities.

You have unique and valuable strengths and abilities. Identify your strengths and enhance them. Apply them in personal and professional settings.

Reframe it: “I have unique strengths and abilities that make me valuable, and I can always work to improve areas where I feel less confident.”

Use a Strengths-Based Development tool to negate this lie.

  1. Take a strengths quiz. The VIA Character Strengths survey is effective and free to use. Use your results to identify your top character strengths.

  2. Spend time leveraging and enhancing these rather than fixing your weaknesses.

  3. Seek opportunities to apply your strengths in personal and professional settings.

5. “I don't deserve success”

Undermining your accomplishments prevents you from enjoying and building upon your successes. You deserve success as much as anyone else. Embrace achievements with gratitude and humility.

Reframe it: Tell yourself that you deserve success as much as the next person. Promise that you will embrace your many achievements with gratitude and humility.

Try gratitude journaling to reflect and keep stock of your accomplishments:

  • Regularly write down your accomplishments and positive experiences. These can be as small or as large as you wish.

  • Reflect on the factors that contributed to your success. Journal about these as well.

  • Cultivate gratitude for the opportunities and resources that have helped you succeed.

6. “I can't change my habits.”

Changing your habits is difficult, but not impossible. Believing you can't change your habits keeps you stuck in unhealthy patterns.

Change habits using determination, patience, and constant effort.

Reframe the lie and tell yourself, “I have the power to change my habits with determination, patience, and consistent effort.”

Use the Habit Loop to quit your negative habits. Let’s use overeating as an example.

  1. Identify the cue, routine, and reward you associate with an existing negative habit.

The cue is anything that triggers the habit. Oftentimes a location, time, person, or emotion is the cue.

For example, each day, you have a difficult meeting that ends at 2 pm. You feel drained, tired, and overwhelmed. In this case, your feelings are your cue.

A routine is a behaviour you wish to change or reinforce. In this case, emotional eating, and overeating, is the behaviour.

The reward is the reason why your brain continues the pattern. It’s a form of reinforcement. In this case, a chocolate bar, leftovers, or a pastry is the reward. Realistically, the reward has little value. Remember this.

  1. Replace the routine with a new, healthier behaviour while keeping the cue and reward.

In our example, you would eat a healthy snack, then the one you perceive as bad.

  1. Remove the reward.

After a few days or weeks, stop engaging in the reward. Remove the unhealthy snack, and eat the healthier option.

  1. Evaluate and track your progress. Make adjustments as needed.

7. “If I fail, I'm a failure.”

Failure is a part of the learning process. It doesn't define your worth or skills.

Your self-worth isn’t determined by your failures but by your successes and values.

Tell yourself, “Failure is an opportunity to learn and grow, and my self-worth is not determined by my successes or failures.

Use a growth mindset to conquer a fear of failure:

  • Embrace challenges as growth opportunities.

  • Value effort and persistence over natural ability.

  • Seek feedback from peers. Learn from setbacks to improve future performance.

8. “If it's meant to be, it will happen.”

Relying on fate or destiny prevents you from taking proactive steps toward achieving your goals. You have the power to actively pursue your specific goals. Fate doesn’t achieve your goals. You do.

Reframe it: “I have the power to shape my future through my actions and decisions, and I will actively pursue my goals.”

Set SMART Goals to negate a fear of failure. These will help you reach what you wish to accomplish:

  1. Set SMART goals. They should be:

  • Specific: Ensure the goal is well-defined. Determine who, what, when, where, and why. Write this down.

  • Measurable: Develop criteria for progress measurement based on KPIs. Quantify the goal’s result.

  • Achievable: Ensure you can realistically achieve the goal based on your skills and resources.

  • Relevant: Your goal should align with your overall objectives.

  • Time-based: Set a deadline for the goal’s completion to provide yourself a sense of urgency.

  1. Break SMART goals into smaller tasks. Regularly review progress and adjust your approach as needed.

9. “I need others’ approval to be happy.”

Seeking validation from others leads to a constant need for reassurance and a lack of self-confidence. Don’t look to others for the validation you can easily provide yourself. Focus on internal validation to develop self-compassion.

Tell yourself, “My happiness and self-worth come from within, and I don't need external validation to feel good about myself.”

Use affirmations to conquer this lie:

  1. Create a long list of large and small affirmations about your character qualities, achievements, and personal values.

  2. Recite these often—preferably daily.

10. “I can't handle failure or rejection”

Believing you're unable to cope with setbacks keeps you from taking risks and trying new things.

Failure is a temporary and isolated event. Learning from high failure probability situations fosters growth and wisdom.

Reframe the lie: “I am resilient and can handle failure or rejection, learning from these experiences and becoming stronger as a result.”

The 5-Step Resilience Plan is an effective way to cultivate a growth mindset and dispel this lie.

  1. Reframe: View setbacks as temporary and isolated events.

  2. Regroup: Take a step back to regain perspective and emotional balance. This might appear like a short break or a trip to the water cooler. Take time to regain clarity.

  3. Reflect: Analyze the situation to identify lessons and opportunities for growth.

  4. Recharge: Engage in self-care activities to restore energy and well-being. Go for a walk or exercise. Spend time with friends or read a book.

  5. Reengage: Apply newfound insights and renewed confidence to future endeavors.

Stop listening to your inner critic. Conquer these lies through reframing and coping techniques.

This week, we’re going to apply these practices to the lies we tell ourselves throughout the day. Grab a writing utensil and some paper, and reflect on what your inner critic tells you. Consider how it’s holding you back from achieving your goals.

  1. Write out your limiting beliefs 

    a. Create a list of limiting beliefs—or lies—you hold true about yourself. For example, you might write, “I can’t learn new things.”

    b. Why do you tell yourself this? Consider the origin of the limiting belief.

    c. Reframe it. Using the previous example, you would tell yourself, “I can learn anything I set my mind to. I must focus on it, read the right books, and speak to the right people.”

  1. Set a SMART goal for yourself. This goal should have a clear deadline. Aim to set a goal you can conquer within a month or so. 

    a. Ensure the goal is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. Include all of these categories on your paper.

    b. Break the goal into smaller steps using a ‘to do’ list format. What steps must you take to get there?

    c. Enact the plan. Regularly review your progress, and adjust your approach if necessary.

Use these frameworks to conquer your inner critic’s most formidable lies.


I’d love to hear from you:

  • Which of these do you tell yourself?

  • Which reframing techniques help you?

  • Are there any lies you’d add?

Tweet at me (@_alexbrogan) or respond to this email — I’ll try to respond to everyone.

Have a wonderful Saturday, all.

Until next time,


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