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TEDxUNLV Honest Liars: The Psychology of Self-Deception

Giving a TEDx talk on lying forced me to share my own deceptive tendencies.


I faced a serious dilemma. I couldn’t ask the audience how they deceive themselves because that would require them to tell the truth. Furthermore, if I lectured about the ways that people lie to themselves without disclosing that I have the same self-deceptive human tendency, my message would be lost. 

As I pondered the difficulty of the task in front of me, I was humbled by the opportunity. TED is an organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Through short talks, TED speakers deliver compelling information to help us understand and change the world. As such, my talk would join a group of fantastic TED talks on psychology aimed at helping people use the information to live more fulfilling lives. 

I started writing. I wrote and wrote and wrote. As I wrote, it became increasingly clear that I had to use myself as an example. If I was asking the audience to be more honest, I had to show that I was willing to do the same. That I practice what I preach. That I am on a similar journey. 

Yet, as you might imagine, the thought of disclosing my own vulnerabilities and experiences with self-deception in a public forum that could be watched by thousands of people was daunting. Self-disclosure is not easy for me. I am generally a very private person. In some ways, this is my personality and comes from a healthy place—we should not share all of the intimate details of our lives with everyone we meet. In other ways, however, my inability to share stems from early childhood learning experiences in which sharing my truth was punished. Consequently, I systematically hid "non-ideal" parts of myself from others because I was afraid that I would be rejected, left, or unloved for being flawed. 

The Naked Truth is this: Giving a TEDx talk on self-deception became an opportunity for me to change. To authentically communicate my message and help others, I had to share some of the ways that I have lied to myself throughout my life, the consequences of those lies, and how to start the journey towards self-honesty.

Although I only had 13 minutes for the TEDx talk, I had enough material for a long lecture. Consequently, if you enjoy the talk and want more information, a long version of the talk is available as a short book titled, Lies We Tell Ourselves: The Psychology of Self-Deception. TED also has some wonderful videos on psychology that I highly encourage people to watch.


Copyright Cortney S. Warren, Ph.D.