Managing Reality: Little Lies We Hide Behind Every Day

I’ve just been confronted, yet again, with the perils of
“managing reality”—deciding that the full truth of what you’re feeling or
thinking is not acceptable. It’s the role our egos play: managing the
information going out so that we look good, make others feel good, or any other
seemingly good reason that leads us to in effect lie to the world about what’s
really true. I keep learning over and over that it’s a serious wedge in my
relationships. The other person doesn’t really know me. They know Managed Me.

One of my good reasons is that I like my personal
relationships to be harmonious. Not a bad goal. Perhaps not yours. But it’s
been my goal as far back as I can remember: six years old, trying to get my two
best friends Julie W and Julie C to stop fighting, shake hands and let us all
be peaceable friends. As an adult, I catch myself doing a lot of things to keep
the peace that aren’t always such clean simple gestures. I find myself not
saying all of what I’m feeling. Or I clean up the truth and present it in such
a nice package that the essential message gets blurry or worse, completely
confused with another message I wasn’t intending.

Last week I actually created stress and upset by trying to
manage it away. I was in a bad mood and answered a phone call I had planned not to take. A wise part of me
knew that I needed space. But I didn’t clearly ask for this. I sent a pleasant
email the night before saying I probably wouldn’t have time to talk in the
morning. Not at all the same thing as saying “I’m in a horrible mood. Not up
for talking—can you send me details in email?”

6a0112790b2c7d28a4011570ad6d3f970bYou’ve done something like this, haven’t you? Made an edit
in what you said that seemed harmless at the time, but in fact was a really
significant discrepancy between what you said and what was really going on
inside you? My rationale was something like “Do I really need to discuss my bad mood? If I don’t bring it up I won’t have to talk about it or answer questions that could be stressful.”

When the phone rang, I knew I hadn’t really asked clearly for space and had the thought “it would be rude not to answer the phone.” I tried to be civil.
Gritted my teeth through mounting anger about…I don’t even know what now.
Everything we talked about seemed to get me more upset. Through it all, I did
my best to be civil. Not surprisingly, the other person got off the phone
thinking I was mad about the specifics of our conversation. It was needless,
confusing upset about things that didn’t start out being the problem—a divide
created where none existed. The real truth would have been so much simpler.

Today I re-commit myself to what often feels like ‘the way
of the warrior’: take the risk to expose my real self and say the simple truth
at the heart of what I’m thinking and feeling. What simple truths are you ready
to take a risk and reveal?

About Jane: Jane Cavanaugh is an internationally acclaimed business leadership and career coach who has helped more than 6,000 professionals develop their career and leadership skills. Jane is creator of The Passionate Professional: How to Make Your Ordinary Career Extraordinary, a guided career transition program, and a co-author of Breakthrough! Inspirational Strategies for an Audaciously Authentic Life. Contact or visit Jane at

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