After solving my drinking problem, I was amazed to find equally damaging aspects within my own personality–low self-esteem, jealousy, perfectionism, and constant anxiety.
I now think of these “character flaws” as survival strategies that helped me cope in the past, but no longer serve me in the present. For example, standing up for my own needs often brought on ridicule at home, so I became a people-pleaser and pretended everything was fine. Now, many years later, I no longer need to suppress my needs because I’ve learned to be honest and assertive in my relationships.
To change this old, damaging pattern, I needed to discover the motivators underlying it: where had I been fearful, dishonest, resentful, or selfish? Often these motivators showed up in my self-talk as whispered lies. For instance, my fear might whisper, “Don’t speak up; if you do, he’ll get angry and leave.” Dishonesty also played its part by denying my unpleasant feelings. (For more on Whispered Lies, see my book, 50 Ways to Worry Less Now – amzn.to/2RMx5m5).
When I used therapy, the 12 steps, and other practices to dissolve my fears and dishonesty, I gained positive self-talk (Whispered Truths) such as, “I have the right to ask for what I desire.” As a result, my happiness and relationships benefited from my assertiveness and honesty.
Here I illustrate how each motivator (Fear, Dishonesty, Resentment, Selfishness) spawns whispered lies, character flaws, and negative consequences. But the story doesn’t end there! After choosing to let go of these patterns and humbly asking God to remove them, we find the healing of internal whispered truths and many benefits.
- Whispered Lies: “If I create conflict or speak up, people will leave me.” “I must perform well to be loved.” “If I make a mistake, I’ll be abandoned.”
- Character Flaws: People-pleasing, Perfectionism, Fear of failure, Laziness, Doubt
- Consequences: Victim mentality, Blaming others, Anxiety, Procrastination, Giving up
- Whispered Truths: “I have a right to ask for what I desire.” “I can be imperfect and still be worthy of love.” “My high standards improve my work when I also take good care of myself.”
- Benefits: Assertiveness, Improved relationships, Courage, Serenity, Trust, Faith
- Whispered Lies: “I have to be who people want me to be.” “If I can figure this out, I can keep my loved ones safe.” “I can’t be happy unless things change.”
- Character Flaws: Codependency; Needing to control people, places, and things; Self-justification
- Consequences: Failed relationships, Trying to change others, Overthinking, Obsessing about the future, Lack of self-care, Anxiety, Denial of powerlessness
- Whispered Truths: “I find the courage to take good care of myself.” “My higher power is in charge of my own and my loved ones’ security.” “I can’t change people, places or things, but I CAN change how I think and act.” “This is God’s job, not mine.”
- Benefits: Loving others with honesty, Moderation, Acceptance, Resiliency
- Whispered Lies: “Nothing works out for me.” “Screw life!” “I’m not getting what I deserve.” “I hate him/her/it!”
- Character Flaws: Negativity, Self-Pity, Intolerance, Impatience, Envy
- Consequences: Gossip, Depression, Defensive in friendships, Distrust love, Anger
- Whispered Truths: “I have everything I need as God wills.” “Everything is in perfect order; I just can’t see it right now.” “This person is troubled just as I am; I see us both with compassion.” “All is well.”
- Benefits: Acceptance, Gratitude, Forgiveness, Self-care, Humility (seeking God’s will), Generosity
- Whispered Lies: “She’s better than I am, so she’ll get all the attention I need.” “I’m better at this than she is, so I’m more worthy than she is.” “I must have this NOW!”
- Character Flaws: Pride, Greed, Self-criticism, Judging others, Suspicion
- Consequences: Relationship difficulties, Withholding love, Non-communication, Stress/anxiety, Rigid expectations of others (and of ourselves).
- Whispered Truths: “I am an equal among equals.” “We’re all loved and loveable.” “We all share flaws; that’s okay.”
- Benefits: Happy relationships, Generosity, Consideration of others, Acceptance
*Note that each of the four motivators shows up to some extent in almost every flaw listed
HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY WITH THESE IDEAS? I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!
Gigi Langer has been sober 35 years, and holds a PhD in Psychological Studies in Education from Stanford University. Formerly crowned the “Queen of Worry,” Gigi resigned her post many years ago and now lives happily in Florida with her husband, Peter and her cat Murphy.
My award-winning book, 50 Ways to Worry Less Now, describes how to reject the faulty thinking leading to addiction, dysfunctional relationships, perfectionism, and worry about loved ones. Check out the practical directions, personal stories, and other helpful growth tools. Amazon: 4.8 stars (Buy Discounted Paperback, e-book, OR audiobook HERE)