Fooled by certainty

To fool people is assolery. To fool yourself is thievery.

Of the former, the world reeks. The latter is what prompted this essay.

When you fool yourself, you rob yourself of the truth. It’s the beginning of everything from cults to superstitions. You may have steered clear of grand crap-canoes like those, but there’s something far more cardinal and ridiculous we continue to ignore in this thieving:

We fool ourselves in order to avoid looking like fools. The bullshit without the bull.

The current psychobabble around biases can be summarized in three words: I love you. Not really. It is: Stop fooling yourself.

A lot of your foolishness comes down to justifying your mostly wrong and almost always exaggerated beliefs. This plays out in everything from money to work to relationships.

You are buying the expensive watch because once you have it, you won’t need anything else and therefore you will save money not buying the things you are sure you won’t need some time in the future. And that’s how you become a millionaire.

You are unhappy with your job because you aren’t making an impact and never because of the highly plausible scenario that you may just be lousy at work, admitting which means actually working hard which means doing a lot of shit that’s not going to have any impact.

And you are still in the relationship that’s not working because you want to wait until the day you have your first lobotomy.

We are never short of novel ways to fool ourselves. Most often, this foolishness takes the form of excuses and justifications.

These excuses are laziness wrapped up in a creamy layer of entitlement and over-confidence wrapped up in a leaky foil of responsibility.

Introversion is my ready excuse for pretty much everything I suck at. Peel the layers and you will see the fear of rejection at the epicenter of my social earthquakes. And instead of taking responsibility for my own feelings and doing something about them, I find it easier to convince myself that’s the way I am supposed to be. And go on to falsely internalize the idea that everyone around me is a bozo I don’t want to talk to anyway. The truth doesn’t escape me. I escape it.

Our justification for fooling ourselves about our belief is stronger than our conviction about the belief itself.

There was a phase in the early days of this blog when I wrote just because I didn’t care if people read or not. A typical fool’s errand.

I fooled myself long enough that I never bothered to confront the important question: do I want to write at all? I realized that I did. But it took crawling through my insecurity to find out why. If I had continued fooling myself, my writing would have festered in the shadow of a self that wasn’t me. And that’s a disservice not just to your art, but to your life.

It doesn’t require a special sort of awareness to understand when you are fooling yourself. What it requires though is a special sort of courage. The courage to look foolish. To admit ignorance. To do what’s right.

Most often, life’s not designed that way. Here’s a crumby idea to drive that home.

Somedays, you are the statue — putting up with all the shit the world throws at you. Other days, you are the pigeon and people put up with your crap. Life happens in the space where the world and you find ways to complement one another. There’s one exception, however,

When you fool yourself, you are both the statue and the pigeon.

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