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Secrets You Keep From Yourself:
How to Stop Sabotaging Your Happiness

book by Dan Neuharth, PhD

“It’s as if a part of you doesn’t want the rest of you
to know what it’s doing.” – Dan Neuharth, PhD

“We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves.” – Eric Hoffer

“Truth is such a rare thing, it is delightful to tell it.” – Emily Dickinson

Self-deception is universal. Often harmless. At times humorous. But sometimes what you don’t know can hurt you.

You define who you are in every moment.
You can see yourself as big or small, smart or dumb, worthy or unworthy, winner or loser. Sometimes self-definitions are benign, even humorous. For example:

  • In an Australian study, 86 percent of workers said their performance was above average. 1 percent said below average
  • 80 percent of U.S. drivers surveyed rated their driving as better than average
  • 85 percent of people rated their own manners as good or excellent. Only 23 percent give the same marks to others
  • 94 percent of university professors ranked themselves better than average at their jobs
  • 25 percent of high school students rated themselves in the top 1 percent in leadership ability.
  • 87 percent of Americans surveyed said they expected to go to heaven. In the same survey, only 79 percent said Mother Teresa would go to heaven.

Other times you may define yourself and your options in counterproductive ways.

Examples of common self-defeating thoughts:

  • I must never quit
  • I must be successful
  • I can’t let anybody beat me
  • I can’t be alone
  • I am not competent
  • I must be different from others
  • I must be like others
  • I cannot survive arguments or disagreements
  • I can’t be happy when others close to me are not
  • I cannot break the rules
  • I cannot tell a lie
  • I cannot get caught in a lie
  • I cannot be bored
  • I cannot openly ask for what I want

Counterproductive self-deception
Negative self-deception can take many forms. Look through the following 12 examples and ask yourself: Do I recognize behaviors like these in myself or people I know?

  1. Repeatedly enter inappropriate romantic relationships, each time vowing that this one will be different
  2. Spend more time fantasizing about improbable financial windfalls, like winning the lottery, than working
  3. Overbook and overpromise so often that you no longer trust what they say
  4. Work hard to lose twenty pounds through various diets, then quickly regain the lost weight and then some
  5. Dwell on regrets or resentments and can’t seem to move on
  6. Endlessly take care of others’ needs ahead of their own but, in a candid moment, tell you how unappreciated they feel
  7. Procrastinate by submitting a job application late after hours of hard work, only to find the job filled
  8. Make major decisions without considering the consequences
  9. Automatically shun advice or a helping hand
  10. Ignore a romantic partner’s mistreatment, or stay in an unhealthy relationship even after deciding to leave
  11. Overspend wildly, but get a steady stream of new credit card applications
  12. Yearn to have children, but choose potential mates who send clear signals that they aren’t interested in being a parent

If you do recognize a pattern of self-deception or self-defeating behavior, it does not mean that there is something wrong with you, or that you are “bad” or “flawed” as a person. Self-defeating behavior is not anything to hide or feel guilty about. If you sometimes miss the boat, “step in it,” or trip yourself up, you are simply human. Self-defeating behavior is a habit reinforced by biology, culture, and your individual upbringing and development. Like any habit, it can be unlearned.

Secrets You Keep From Yourself: How to Stop Sabotaging Your Happiness A new psychology / self-improvement book published by St Martin’s Press and written by bestselling author Dan Neuharth, PhD


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