49 Powerful Lies We Say and How to Tell the Truth

Tell the Truth

Note: All the links in this article are carefully curated to contain the best online content I’ve seen in the past three years. Such is the power of the curating mindset, which you can have too by joining the Refuge of Simplicity


A morally, ethically sound person feels ridiculous when forced to say something they know is false.

I knew this all along.

But Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists put this into words I could truly understand and share.

Bear with me as I highlight the key section of their guest post on Becoming Minimalist. It’s absolutely worth reading yourself.

One thing that helps us these days is to say something out loud. There is an unavoidable ridiculousness factor to certain incongruent statements when we say them out loud. Go on, give it a try. Let’s start with the easy ones, the ones that won’t sound ridiculous. Let’s start with the important things in your life. Say these things out loud. Heck, shout them if you feel like it:

‘My family is incredibly important to me. It is immensely important for me to contribute to other people in a meaningful way. I don’t know where I would be without my close friends. It is extremely important for me to live a healthy life.’


Did you say them out loud? See, none of those things sound ridiculous. That’s because they are congruent with your beliefs, they coincide with the tone, passion, and conviction of the statements themselves.

But try these on for size. Try to say these things out loud with the same conviction and passion and feel the difference.

‘This T-shirt is incredibly important to me. It is immensely important for me to go to the mall and shop today. I don’t know where I would be without my khaki pants, they are so important to me. It is extremely important for me to eat that extra piece of pie.’

You get the point. Ridiculous, right? They are ridiculous even though they are the same sentences structurally. You just replaced a few words when you said them out loud. The problem is that you know these things intellectually but not emotionally. In other words, you don’t feel it in your gut.

My article here is not just a supplement to what Joshua and Ryan wrote. And it’s not about preaching what you should value.

Like The Minimalists, my intention is never to give a lecture from “someone who knows best.”

This is about helping you shift your priorities if you need a push. It’s a reminder than you and I aren’t the center of the universe.

If you know someone whose lifestyle is out of alignment with their values – or what they want their values to be – share this with them. And if this resonates with you, share it freely via email, social media, or whatever method you use to spread an idea whose time has come.

What You Should Have Them Say

Joshua and Ryan gave some powerful examples of statements you should say to yourself. I want you to empower other people by having them say these 49 statements to you or in front of their family and friends.

This challenge can be done tactfully and free of conflict when you approach it with the proper intentions.

You don’t always have to chop with the sword of truth. You can point with it too. – Anne LaMott

So help someone tell the truth and create the spark for a big change.

Help your friend or co-worker drowning in debt say some of these things to jump start their freedom from the shackles of liability.

Help that family member – too selfish to see their own greed – realize the biggest rewards are reserved for those who focus on everyone else.

And if you don’t like what you see in the mirror, say these things yourself.

Say, I value:

  1. Worrying about how I’m going to die over obsessing about how I want to live
  2. Spending most of my time chasing money I don’t need versus spending time with family and friends
  3. Waiting for the perfect scenario to act over just freakin’ starting today
  4. Not starting anything hard over growing as a person
  5. Being able to prepare, eat, and clean up a meal in fifteen minutes rather than making my own food, knowing its ingredients, and staying healthy
  6. Not knowing why I do what I do over finding out what makes me tick
  7. Mentally checking when overwhelmed more than being constantly present
  8. Being ignorant about investing rather than ensuring my continued purchasing power
  9. Not acknowledging my problems instead of asking people to help me do something about them
  10. Staying up late watching TV, playing video games, and surfing the Internet more than getting enough sleep
  11. Not investing some money now over gaining the tools I need to realize my future talents
  12. Trusting the instincts of others over listening to my own inner voice
  13. Not reducing my unrewarding commitments over being a fully engaged parent
  14. Living an insular life over seeking fresh relationships that could become amazing future friendships
  15. Creating multiple versions of me for different physical and social contexts over having just one, authentic me
  16. Being entertained over being informed
  17. Pointing out everyone else’s shortcomings over focusing on my own
  18. Spending on consumables over timeless experiences traveling or exploring
  19. Being clueless about the science of healthy lifestyles over learning to overturn long-held assumptions about what’s healthy and what’s not
  20. Focusing on what you do and how you do it over why you do it
  21. Struggling with repeated processes over one-time efforts that put my future success on autopilot
  22. Hiding from change over being blindsided by personal evolution
  23. Having no intention behind what I do over understanding the motivation behind my actions

  24. Blaming everyone else for my problems over taking personal responsibility
  25. Hiding my true feelings more than letting people know where they stand with me
  26. Judging others over understanding why someone makes the choices they do
  27. Having fleeting feelings of personal happiness over creating long-term happiness in others
  28. Spending more time learning over applying what I already know
  29. Highlighting our differences over finding common ground
  30. Keeping endless clutter (just in case) over intentionally assessing what I really need
  31. Buying momentary joy through presents over breaking the label of “consumer”
  32. Convincing myself I can “start tomorrow” over actually doing something positive today
  33. Building a protective shell over growing from within
  34. Beating myself up rather than finding a movement or belief to empower me
  35. Being weighed down by my limiting beliefs over shattering them
  36. Depending on a system run by others instead of creating my own
  37. Follow generic advice and clichés over a customized kick in the pants
  38. Saying yes when I can’t afford to over being able to say no to overwhelming promises
  39. Competing against everyone else more than collaborating to make a bigger pie
  40. Forcing myself into a work niche over expressing all my talents at once
  41. Self-preservation and conformity over self-expression and happiness
  42. Forgetting why I do this work over learning the power of enough
  43. Holding on to secret grudges over resolving problems right away
  44. Sticking to a paper filled world over the possibility of paperless
  45. Thinking only safe thoughts over letting something radical and game-changing enter my brain
  46. Avoiding selfless acts more than doing what’s right, regardless of who’s looking
  47. Taking everything for granted over showing gratitude frequently and deeply
  48. Following someone else’s vision over establishing my own vision
  49. Not leveraging my experiences rather than curating them to express who I am (and help others)

What You Should Have Me Say

Now that you’ve empowered yourself or someone else, I need to empower myself.

I’m deficient in many ways and want to declare them publically. The goal is to make myself feel ridiculous enough that not doing something about these things is even more ridiculous.

I, Joel Zaslofsky, value:

  1. Prioritizing sub-optimal health over doing regular yoga and bodyweight exercises
  2. My addiction to sugar more than a binge-free eating existence
  3. Doing boring tasks that could be outsourced over using that time to build my legacy
  4. Wasting hours reading too slowly over spending some money and time learning speed reading
  5. Spending time in online forums helping strangers over helping friends and family
  6. Checking and sending emails over eliminating distractions and creating useful things
  7. Being a good minimalist more than being a good papa

This is Me Actually Saying It to You

So you know I’m serious, click play on the audio player and listen to my actual words.

Can’t see the audio player? Right click here to download the MP3 or read this on Value of Simple if You’re viewing it via RSS or Email.

What Someone Should Have You Say

Tell us in the comments at least one thing someone should make you say to tell the truth.

And then actually have someone make you say it.

To a stranger on the bus. To the love of your life. To your dog and your child. To your best friend.

Record a clip saying it and post it in an online forum. Link to it in the comments here so the rest of the awesome community can see how sincere you are and help you be accountable for a specific change.

Do something now, feel ridiculous, overcome the powerful lies we tell ourselves, and finally tell the truth.

Photo Credit: deVoS and juliejordanscott

22 Responses to 49 Powerful Lies We Say and How to Tell the Truth

  1. Shanna Mann says:

    You know, I always say to myself “God, I’m old.” I picked up the habit in the oil patch and I can’t break it. And it’s stupid. Not only am I not old (by any stretch of the imagination), but it disempowers me to treat my body right, because I sure as hell don’t want to be all achy and delicate when I really am old.

    • I’ll make sure to call you on it if/when I hear you say “I’m old.” A lively spring chicken (relatively speaking) like you shouldn’t be thinking about getting old. Thanks for announcing a little something you can work on and that we can help you be accountable for.

  2. Ethan says:

    I really think the lies we tell ourselves are wrapped up in a lot of negativity and ultimately lead to procrastination and self-sabotage. Do you think all negative beliefs that one holds are self-lies, or are there any valid ones?

    • Ethan, there are tons of negative self-beliefs that are true. Heck, I could have a post with much more than 49 of my own negative self-beliefs I’ve held at one time or another.

      The point I was trying to make is that we shouldn’t deceive ourselves when we have the awareness to know better. Awareness is a tricky thing though. If you have a lot of it and don’t use it wisely, it can eat you up inside and be a disincentive to improve. I’m also trying to help people improve their self-awareness and general awareness, but that’s not good enough. We need to use that awareness to call a spade a spade and then speak the truth on what it will take to get rid of limiting beliefs. That’s a post for another day (and probably from another person who’s better able to diagnose and solve such a major obstacle).

  3. Erin says:

    “I value staying safe over taking the kind of risks that help me grow.” That’s the biggest, most all-encompassing one for me.

    I remember that article by Josh & Ryan. It’s so true. Once you get those words out there, actually say them instead of letting them hang out as vague feelings, their truth (or total lack thereof!) is hard to miss.

    • I knew I’d get some other folks here who have read the same article by Joshua and Ryan and I’m hoping many more people read it after they read this. Not only are they unbelievably inspiring, but they get people to actually change. Sometimes small ones, sometimes big ones. But those guys rock my world!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Erin!

  4. Denise says:

    OK, I think there’s value in this. The truth hurts, but it’s the truth, right?

    But, I can’t do it. I grew up with nothing but criticism and UNacceptance, so I think this exercise will do me more harm than good.

    I see where it can be good if you have the right mindset and don’t have the issues I have. But, this time in my life, I need to be more graceful with myself. Kinda hard to explain.

    Anyways, I like the list of 49 – those are a lot of good ones that I’m sure many can relate to.

    • Your honesty and transparency are awesome, Denise. Not just right now, but all the time. I never worry that you don’t know what’s best for you, meaning it’s cool if you don’t feel compelled to verbally make some declarations. Keep being who you are in your own way.

  5. “I value trying to find the absolute perfect thing to do with my life instead of taking chances, living experimentally, and making a difference along the way.”

    This is a really helpful exercise that did go where I thought it would. Kudos on snapping us out of the blog-reading patterns that we so easily fall into.

    I’m really excited about trying out some life experiments over the coming months. Since I’m too scared to commit to something long term, this should be a great way to still get out there and make a difference and learn more about how I can best help.

    • I’m glad this was different enough to spark some small action on your part. Where did you think this exercise was going before you tried it, Michael?

      • I don’t think I read the title carefully enough. I expected a series of quick inspirational thoughts, but focusing on the lies made me actually pay attention to what I was reading. No “glaze over” from this computer chair.

  6. The first part of your post reminded me of a Lou Tice course I went on a long time ago, where he talked about “Cognitive Dissonance” – basically the discomfort we experience when our brains try to hold two conflicting ideas as true.

    We don’t always realise we’re experiencing this and the “say it out loud” idea is a great way of calling it out.

    Another method that Lou advocated was Affirmations – writing down positive statements that reinforce your beliefs, values and goals. I’ve always found my little index cards of positive affirmations a source of inspiration at low moments.

    Great article!

    • Hi BC! It’s great to see your comment here after seeing you on social media a number of times.

      I’ve heard the term “cognitive dissonance” before and really, that’s what I’m talking about here. You diagnosed the strategy I’m trying to help others adopt even if I didn’t use the best terminology. One thing I’ve never really tried (for more than a day or so) is affirmations. I realize the potential of them and don’t really have a good reason why they’re not a part of my life. Care to share one or two affirmations on those index cards with us?

  7. Mikey says:

    This article attempts to tap into the self-help mentality that ‘you’ are not good enough and that there are one-sided answers that fix all of our perceived problems. ‘Simply’ change the perception and know that you are perfect and what you’ve always wanted will follow.

    • Hi Mikey,

      That’s a concise and clear statement you’re making. And I agree with it to an extent. However, personally speaking, I don’t believe that I am perfect. Nor do I believe that anyone who has ever lived or will ever live is perfect. The issue I have with thinking I’m perfect is that it decreases (or eliminates) the motivation and need to evolve into something different. Something better. Something beautiful.

      I love my life, I love the people in it, and I’m fortunate to be able to do what I do. In most regardless, I’m a phenomenally happy and healthy person. But I can be better. I can change from my current state and believe I should be changing all the time. This article was an attempt to move that message forward without being too judgmental of myself or others. Perhaps I failed in my attempt at clarity and purpose with this one. It can happen. I’m not perfect. :)

  8. Sarah says:

    Heh, I realized today that I am acting as though I value worrying and wavering and stressing about what I’m supposed to do rather than actually getting out there and helping people. Damn selfish of me, too.

  9. Ciara Conlon says:

    Very interesting Joel. I think ill have to write my own blog post to put down all of mine! But already I’m feeling guilty and that’s not a good thing. I totally agree that awareness is the first step to personal improvement but how to avoid the guilt or is that a female thing?

    • I felt guilty too when I recorded my statements, Ciara. The Minimalists had a great premise of making ourselves feel ridiculous and incongruent with our core beliefs when we say things that we strongly don’t believe out loud. I can’t tell you how not to feel guilt or avoid the onset of it (that’s Bobbi Emel and other people’s territory). But I can tell you this isn’t a gender issue. I think our feelings are close to universal and that’s both a good and bad thing. Good in that there’s not something “wrong” with us and bad in that far too many people are living parts of their lives that are not aligned to their moral compass or true values. I’m one of them and I’m striving to change how many things are out of alignment and how deeply those things are out of whack. Sounds like you’ll join me in the pursuit of telling ourselves the truth and then doing something about it!

    • Amit Amin says:

      That’s not a female thing. Unless I’m a female.

      But there’s a flip side – the fact that there’s so much to feel guilty about means that if we can make progress, our lives will be much better.

  10. Amit Amin says:

    This is a really great article. It packs an enormous amount of wisdom into a single page.

    And it was just the kick in the pants I needed. I just created $4000 in commitment contracts.

    If I go broke, it’ll be your fault 😉 But the risk is worth it. Definitely worth it.

    “I value chronic physical ailment and short-term mental comfort over doing momentarily painful and aversive physical and mental exercises several times a day.”

    • I assume you mean you created $4,000 worth of penalties in a website like StickK when you say “$4,000 in commitment contracts.” If so…wow! I wonder how many commitments that is and how much each one is. Don’t feel a need to share here of course. I’ll be too busy getting ready to hide from your wrath if you go broke and think about seeking revenge. 😉

      Thanks for typing up your own statement to make yourself sound ridiculous, Amit. Your contributions on and for Value of Simple have been awesome and are accumulating rapidly.

  11. Karen J says:

    Thanks for putting words around a feeling that’s irritated me no-end!
    I gave up doing Surveys a while back because of the total ridiculousness of not only giving a Y/N to “I highly value the scent of my laundry” or “This is a brand that I trust” and like that, but ranking my feelings about those statements from 1-10! I couldn’t justify the time and energy, to even think about ’em that hard.

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