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Self-Deception & Getting Out of the Box

Self-deception determines one’s experience in every aspect of life. I promise my clients that I will assist them in getting out of their own way and because I feel strongly about ‘walking my talk’, I am regularly taking a look at my own self-deception.

Self-betrayal (the twin to self-deception) is an act contrary to what I think I should do. When I betray myself, I begin to see the world in a way that justifies my self-betrayal and I enter… the box. When we see a self-justifying world; that view of reality becomes distorted meaning that we don’t see ourselves, them or the situation correctly. Being in the box is all about me, me, and me.

Let me give you a personal example of how I realize I was minimizing people. When I fly (Southwest, no seat assignments), I always try to get the aisle seat if it’s in the day time (so I can get up) or the window seat if it’s in the evening (so I can sleep). When I got on the plane and into my seat, knowing that I like my space, I always placed my briefcase, jacket or something in that middle seat hoping that it would remain vacant. Then I’d get busy reading my book so as not to meet the eye of the people coming down the aisle and hoping they wouldn’t disturb me. Eeeks, sounds selfish, huh? I could justify my behavior by saying, they should have gotten their boarding pass online, or gotten to the airport and in line earlier, not my fault they aren’t a good planner, etc. Now, I know I should’ve removed my article from that seat so as to be kind to the people looking for seats. So why didn’t I; because I was in the box, thinking only of myself. I had forgotten that the people coming down the aisle have the same hopes, dreams, comforts, and needs that I do. I was not thinking of them at all….unless it’s that they go as far to the back of the plane as possible. I was in fact betraying myself, because I was not doing what I knew was the right thing to do, and which is in the end made me feel bad about myself.

Think of some of the things you might do that even though you have a sense of what people might need and how you can help, you neglect to do so, even when it feels right. This is an act of self- betrayal. Over time certain boxes become characteristic of us and we carry them with us throughout life. These boxes are filled with our beliefs, our filters, our justifications and our secrets.

The biggest problem is that when I’m in the box, I invite others (by my attitude and behavior) to get into their box; then their being in the box invites me to stay in the box. You can’t see what you’re doing while in the box, because all your decisions are made from within the box. What do I need most when I’m in the box? I need to feel justified. I need problems to justify staying in the box longer. We are blind to how everything we do in the box provokes others to do the same.

Why do we do what we do? For example, If I’m not interested in remembering someone’s name, do I say I’m bad with names or do I admit that I’m really not interested in them as a person?

When you think about your relationships and the responsibilities that go along with those relationships, do you sometimes do the right thing but in the wrong way? People can tell if you’re ‘handling’ them, coping with them, or manipulating them (also known as being in the box). How do you feel when you handle people…are you deceiving yourself…is this an act of self-betrayal? What do you hope people won’t find out about?

Does your behavior at work encourage other’s creativity and enthusiasm about their work or less? Does your behavior invite cooperation and productivity or resistance? These questions may assist in determining whether you're coming from within the box or out of the box?

Wouldn’t it be better to recognize when others are in their box rather than blame them for it? After all, it’s not like you haven’t been there yourself. Out of the box, you understand what it’s like to be in there and you neither need nor provoke others to be jerks.

The leaders people choose to follow are those who are out of the box. So your success as a leader depends on your being out of the box. Can you (1) come up with a plan to identify when you’re within your box and therefore not focusing on real results? And (2) find a way to think differently so you can refrain from getting in the box so often?

Merely knowing this material doesn’t get you out of the box — living it does.

Source: Leadership & Self-Deception by The Arbinger Institute

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