Why We Live In Denial, And How To Stop Doing That

Kumar Gauraw

Living in denial is a very common occurrence and at one time or another we all fall into the trap. It seems very natural, and at times we feel pride in living in denial. Yet, it takes a toll on our lives.

3 Monkeys - Example For Living In Denial

Going through an old stack of pictures I was reminded of a significant incident that had a profound impact on my thinking. I learned a valuable lesson that day. Now, I want to share that lesson with you.

It's not denial. I'm just selective about the reality I accept.                                   ~Bill Watterson [tweet this]

I thought, just as many people coming from a middle class family think, that being rich isn’t necessarily a very good thing. Growing up I watched Bollywood movies where rich people always seemed to accumulate wealth by stealing from the less powerful and the poor.

The idea of being rich wasn’t something very appealing. Occasionally I wished I had just a little bit more in the bank when I saw things that I wanted but couldn’t afford.

I was living within my means. I was happy with what I had and didn’t have too many dreams. I definitely didn’t have a goal to create wealth, until this incident…

A Conversation That Changed My Perspective

Near the beginning of my career as an IT professional after a year of working, it was the time for appraisals. Everybody was looking forward to a significant salary increase.

But it all depended on the outcome of the job review and people were preparing to face that moment.

During one discussion with a senior executive in the company, I expressed my indifference about the evaluation. I said that I wasn’t worried about the evaluation because I knew I had done well and I didn’t care how much of a raise I would get.

I said in the end, “After all, money can’t buy happiness. So, if I am happy with my work, that’s all that matters!”

He watched me as I said that and then said,”Kumar, it’s true that money may not be able to buy happiness, love, health and many other things. But you will realize as you age that money at least puts you in a bargaining position for all of those things.”

Never before in my life had I heard anything like that. It was a “WOW” moment for me. I could see he clearly had a point. No wonder he was successful in his career and respected by many. Think about it:

  1. Money may not buy health. But it can buy vitamins and supplements to enhance our health and pay for medical treatments.
  2. Money may not buy love. However, lack of money can turn love into bitterness. Isn’t it true the majority of friction in an average household is related to money?
  3. Even if money may not buy happiness, it enables us to enjoy the happiness and provide better care and services for those we love and hope to make happy.

It was a conversation that opened my eyes towards reality. Thank God for that moment. 

You may want to refer to this popular post:  What To Teach Your Kids About Money

Complacency Is The Leading Cause

I also realized that I was one among many others who lived with the same thought process as I did before this conversation. Why does that happen? Why do people love to live in denial?

I’ve come to the conclusion that among many other reasons, feelings of comfort with what we have achieved so far doesn’t let us take up new challenges. When we are complacent, we resist taking risks and trying new things.

If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten.    ~Anthony Robbins [tweet this]

If we are complacent, we always do what we have always done and therefore, we know how much money we are going to make and we learn to live within our means. Sometimes, we may have the desire to be rich, but the desire isn’t big enough to challenge our own complacency.

As humans, we tend to blame something else for our own failure (or inability to get out of our comfort zone). We look for something external as the scapegoat to cover our faults. And that is living in denial.

I believe that complacency is the biggest enemy of our maximum potential and causes us to lie to ourselves and to live in denial.

How To Know If You Are Living In Denial

Over the years I have met many people living with a similar mindset about most things in their life. For example, I believe you are living in denial if you can relate to any of these (or similar thought processes):

  1. If you think that money isn’t important in your life and you work 9 to 5 to make money.
  2. You think you are too good to fail.
  3. If you think that others don’t understand you and that you are always right.

This list can be expanded. Use your imagination and see what applies to you. I am sure you will find several things.

Usually, my wife and I leave our children with the babysitter when we go out of town on business trips. Sometimes we leave them for a whole weekend. This happens once every few months and things work out pretty well.

Who you are speaks so loudly I can't hear what you're saying.     ~Ralph Waldo Emerson [tweet this]

One of the things I find amusing is when people come to me and say, “Oh! How do you manage to stay away from your children for 2 days? Don’t you feel bad? Is your conference more important than your kids?” The same people leave their 3-4 month old babies with babysitters every day of the week, Monday through Friday because both the parents have to go to work at their jobs. They work long hours and they are okay with that every single day because they couldn’t manage without it. Isn’t that a great example of living in denial?

How To Stop Living In Denial

Since we are all susceptible to falling into the trap of complacency, we must realize that we need to protect ourselves and be prepared to recognize it when it happens and fight back.

Here are a few steps I’ve found to be productive in this pursuit and I hope you find them useful:

  1. Be humble. Keep an open mind and listen to others who may have a different perspective on the things that you think are absolutely true. If nothing else, you learn about a new perspective.
  2. Have a mentor. What changed my perspective about money? That conversation with the senior executive whom I respected made all the difference. Isn’t it amazing how one statement by somebody I valued, made such an impact? I never miss an opportunity to talk about mentorship because it has made all the difference in my life. An average Joe doesn’t have a mentor. For him, society is the mentor. If you look around, you will notice that all achievers have mentors. This should be a great hint!
  3. Work closely with your mentor. Share your dreams and goals, create a plan of action and do periodic reviews with your mentor to make sure you are on the right track. It is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned and it really keeps me on track.

In addition to these three steps, 30 minutes of informative reading each and every day will be of tremendous help. I am writing this below everything else as a separate paragraph because reading is not just related to fighting complacency or to stop living in denial.

Reading is helpful in improving your self-image, self-confidence and pretty much everything. If you have not found it yet, then check out my recent post about reading.

Questions For You

Did you ever catch yourself in a situation like the one I shared? What did you learn from it? What other methods would you like to suggest for fighting complacency so we can see reality properly? Please share your thoughts in the comments by clicking here. Thank you kindly!

Kumar Gauraw

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Kumar Gauraw is a Personal Branding & Social Media strategist helping entrepreneurs and skilled professionals achieve personal and professional success by developing leadership and leveraging the power of the Internet, Blogging and Social Media.

8 Awesome Thoughts So Far, Add Yours Now...

  1. Awesome Post Mr. Kumar! If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.- Liked.

    • Awesome Rishabh. Glad you enjoyed this quote 🙂

  2. What a superb post. Fantastic. Got the dose for a week to fly high.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  3. I completely agree with you, Kumar. The more we are open to new ideas, the more good things it’s possible to achieve in this world. I also noticed, that a lot of people like to ignore the information. They only keep on the information they’ve gathered earlier or even worse – unconsciously.

    • You are spot on Aistis. That is so true. It is a great idea to keep a check on ourselves so we don’t fall in that category 🙂 Again, Thank you for dropping by!

  4. ime ibanga

    Thoughtfully written and communicated article with diverse applicability to helping break the tide of complacency!

    • Hello Ime,
      I am glad to see you here and yes, THANK YOU for the appreciation.

Please Note: My goal is to host interesting conversations with caring, honest, and respectful people. Therefore, I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic.