The Lies We Tell Ourselves

I have spent a lot of time as a student, but one of the strangest lectures I have ever had came about several years ago, when I was getting my certificate to teach. We had suffered...er, sat through hours of lectures on how to manipulate kids into good behavior in the classroom. As I started to drift off to sleep, the next speaker finally caught my attention. "You have to go to where people are, and cut through the bullshit. There are a lot of kids who are bullied, and there are reasons why this bullying is going on. Fat kids, ugly kids, kids who are poor-why are we sugar-coating everything for them? I sit down with a kid who is getting bullied, and I'm honest. I tell them, listen, you're not a good-looking kid. You know it, and I know it. But you know what? There's nothing you can do about it. So use the other things you have. You're ugly, but you're smart. Use it!"

Um...what? Yes, kids do appreciate honesty, and maybe they respect adults who get to the point and don't make everything all sunshine and roses...but, this was horrifying to me. I would rather have died than to tell one of my unfortunate-looking students how unattractive they were. How cruel could you get? At that point, another student who was equally disenchanted with this lecture raised his hand.

"Don't you think you're a little over the top with the honesty? I mean, come on...real beauty is on the inside, anyway."

At that, the speaker laughed. "Seriously? You're telling me that everyone you know is beautiful? You've never seen a good person who was ugly on the outside? You know you have. You know that there are lots of people out there with beautiful souls, whose faces could stop a clock. You think that 300 pound kid stuffed into his chair in the back of the class is going to get a prom date because of his inner beauty? If so, you are completely deluded. These kids need to realize that life isn't going to be easy for them. Once they see that, they can accept it and roll with it."

This lecture comes back to me every now and again, since I have entered the health field. Although the speaker was...well...a bitch, she was right about one thing. People are notoriously dishonest with themselves. We see ourselves a certain way, and refuse to break free of that. Time and again, I have seen hacking smokers complaining about the pollen or pollution that is bringing on that annoying cough. I've seen patients come in to be treated for weight-loss because their metabolism simply isn't up to par...and then head to the McDonald's across the street right after treatment. People lie to themselves in hundreds of ways, and a majority of these lies have significant effects on their health. I wonder how much healthier people would be if the lies stopped.