Beware Of Your Self-Deceit
July 16, 2022
In my mid-thirties, as I was cruising along in my career advancement, I came under a new boss who began evaluating everything I was doing from a fresh perspective. Although he approved of much of what I was doing, he had some reservations about how I was executing some of my key objectives. So, within a couple of weeks after moving in, he started challenging me.
“The approach you are taking is wrong, and I believe you must do it differently.”
“You seem to be only focussing on your immediate short-term goals and not doing enough to build the franchise for the future.“
“I think you are trying to bite more than you can chew. You should give up on some of your current responsibilities.“
It was natural for me to become defensive and wary as soon as I heard these messages. As a result, I started assigning motives and malintent to what my boss was saying, and it became very stressful. In my mind, it appeared like he planned to move me out to bring someone aligned with him.
Thankfully, I had a mentor who was looking out for me. He became aware of my mindset and reached out to me to have a conversation. The conversation completely changed my viewpoint about my boss’ actions.
“Why do you assume your boss is trying to cut you down? Have you considered the possibility that what he says might be true? Nobody is perfect. Is it not possible that what you are doing can be done differently? Perhaps, you are focusing too much on short-term goals instead of investing in long-term agendas. It would be helpful if you could suspend your defensiveness, be open-minded to feedback, and move forward.”
I followed the advice of my mentor. Instead of becoming defensive every time my boss said something, I started objectively evaluating what he was saying. It became apparent to me that much of what my boss said was both valid and appropriate. I became more open and welcoming of his inputs, and soon enough, we graduated into a great relationship built on mutual trust and confidence.
The point of this personal story is that we often believe that anyone who agrees with what we say is aligned with us, and anyone who holds a contradictory position is against us, even if that position is valid and true. We believe in our self-narrative, even when it is false and wrong.
There is a great piece of advice the great Stoic emperor, Marcus Aurelius, gives in his ageless book Meditations that points us to what our biggest mistake could be in life- Our self-deceit and ignorance. He says,
“If anyone can refute me – show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective — I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.”