What do you lie about? This is what those lies say about your work-life balance

What do you lie about? What does it say about your work-life balance?

I was sitting on an airplane, waiting to take off on a snowy day. We had been on the tarmac for an hour, waiting for de-icing. I wanted to keep my cool and not get frustrated or worked up, so I thought it would be great to listen to a Gretchen Rubin happiness podcast. I came across one called “what do you lie about?”.  It intrigued me. I think of myself as a pretty honest person, someone who tells the truth and is authentic with others and myself. I wondered – what do I lie about?

As I listened, I immediately realized that what we lie about is a HUGE clue about how your life and values don’t align. Living your values is essential for feeling work-life balance, but understanding your true values is hard, REALLY hard.

Essentially, Gretchen presented a few examples of lies we tell others (and maybe even ourselves), and we do it because how we are living doesn’t reflect what we value.

Let me share her examples, because they are brilliant.

A pediatrician asks a mother how much TV her kids watch, she responds, but knows it’s a lie. Her kids really watch 4 hours a TV a day, but she wasn’t prepared to admit it. Afterwards this mom thought about how she lied because what’s she doing (letting her kids watch 4 hours of TV a day) doesn’t fit her beliefs about parenting. So, she either needs to change her values or find a way for her kids to watch less TV.

Gretchen’s example of her own lie is that she told the dog trainer that she walks the dog for 30 minutes twice a day, when really it’s more like 10 minutes at a time.

What do I lie about and what does it say about my values vs. the way I live my life?

The first thing that popped into my head – my excuses when cancelling coffee dates, playdates, and social gatherings of any kind.

I value social time. I see myself as a supportive friend, someone who offers empathy and inspiration. I’m a social person, but the reality is that the moment I feel stressed, overwhelmed, or overbooked, seeing people drains me. Just the thought of going for coffee feels stressful and exhausting. So I cancel – I do this fairly often.

What’s so interesting isn’t that I delay or cancel these social interactions – I think that’s actually pretty good self-care. What’s most interesting is that I lie about why I can’t meet. I tell people my kids are sick (which they may be, but I normally meet after they are in bed and my husband can take care of them either way). I lie and say a meeting came up (during the workday). I lie and say that my husband and I double booked ourselves that evening, I’m going to let him go out, so I need to cancel.

What’s at the root of my lies?

The real reason I’m lying is to pretend that I’m taking care of someone else or doing something for someone else at that time. The reality is that I’m going to use that time as alone time, as an opportunity to get things organized for me, or to just sit alone by myself.

I confess that I have even cancelled a coffee with a girlfriend, only to lie to my husband (by omitting the fact that I cancelled the coffee date) and leave the house to go sit at a different coffee shop all by myself. So I lied twice – once to my girlfriend and once to my husband. All of this just because I couldn’t admit that I wanted and needed time to myself.

So, I’m still sitting on the tarmac. I’ve listened to the entire podcast. I’ve had a huge mental breakthrough. I’ve written a blog post. And I’ve realized why I love travelling for work so much – I get LOTS of alone time. I will be alone for the next 3 hours on the plane. I will be alone in my hotel room at night. I will be alone as I eat breakfast at the hotel restaurant. I get to be alone and I don’t need to lie about it.


 Can't find time for your kids, your work, your spouse, or yourself? 

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    How knowing my lies will change my work-life balance

    My next steps are:

    1. Remind myself that it’s not only okay to want alone time, it makes me a better mom, a better wife, a better friend, and better at my job.

    2. Next time I go to lie about why I’m backing out of something, pause and tell the truth – “I would like to reschedule our coffee date because I feel really overwhelmed with work and family stuff and I want and need some time to myself to rebalance.”

    3. Stop feeling guilty that I’m taking time for myself.

    Do you know what you lie about?

    What does it say about your work-life values and balance?

    What does it say about how you are living your life?

    What needs to change so that you don’t need to lie about it? Your values? How you are living your life? Both?

    I know it’s so hard to share, but sharing your examples in the comments will really help other people figure out what they lie about.

    Good luck!


    Work life balance and lying - how are they connected?