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.the lies we tell ourselves

xteaparty lies we tell ourselves

They lied to you.
Gladiators were not those glorious, muscled men fighting to death for the promise of glory. Roman gladiators were fat vegetarians.

Russell Crowe may have won an Oscar for the role of Maximus in the Gladiator, but scientists say he wasn’t fat enough (Image: Reuters).

Austrian anthropologists analysed the skeletons of two different types of gladiators, the myrmillos and retiariae, found at the ancient site of Ephesus, proving that they ate mainly barley, beans and dried fruit. This diet gave the gladiators a lot of strength even if it made them fat.

Scientists discovered that a balanced diet of meat and vegetables leaves equal amounts of zinc and strontium in the cells, while a mainly vegetarian diet would leave high levels of strontium and little zinc. Gladiators’ bone density gave the scientists clues to how they lived; allowing to debunk also another myth – that gladiators wore strappy Spartacus sandals in the arena. The samples taken from their feet gave clues that the gladiators fought with their bare feet in sand. And because some gladiators fought with little more than their bare hands, they could increase their survival chances by storing layers of fat to protect their vital organs from the cutting blows of their opponents.

Now, do you expect to see a fat vegetarian gladiator in the next Sparta-like movie?
Don’t bet your money on it. So why do we often stick with the old “truth” if we know better?
Because it’s easier. The narrative is already there, it sells, it’s catchy, so why bother with explanations. And, because in most instances, it’s so hard to escape confirmation bias. New information messes up with our reality, and most people are not prepared to have theirs challenged, so they become only more and more radicalised in their wrong convictions.

Sweet little lies

Even if we know that the Santa doesn’t exist, we use the concept for our own purpose of subordinating our little ones.

We are liars.

You and me. We probably both lied about something just today.
We lie to save face, to avoid hurting other people’s feelings, to impress others, to shirk responsibility, to hide misdeeds, to be seen as cool, to prevent conflict, to get out of work and many more reasons.
When we start a business or a new job, we fake it till we become it. We all just wing it here. Play confident, smile, learn on the go.

So not all lies are bad blooded. These are – what scientists call – prosocial lies, the sweet little lies told for someone else’s benefit, as opposed to antisocial lies that are told strictly for your own personal gain. Prosocial lying reflects the development of at least four distinct human capacities: theory of mind, empathy, compassion, and the combination of memory and imagination that allows us to foresee the consequences of our words. It all needs to add up. We don’t want to be called out.

And maybe you do look fat in that dress or the new dish you cooked tasted as it looked, but the subtle way I will give you a feedback sweetening it with a bit of a lie can encourage you to change something.

I’ll call you right back… I’m on the way… I’ll try to make it.

More destructive lies aren’t intended to protect the social fabric. They’re told to protect our own self-image. Even when that means we sabotage our own wellbeing and happiness. When our ideal self is contradicted by reality, we lie to build ourselves up.

People tend to blame external factors for all the misfortunes they go through. Victimising themselves, instead of facing the reality as it is and taking ownership for their own actions. Accept the fact that your marriage is over or your job isn’t making you feel challenged any more. It’s time for a change. No matter how uncomfortable it may be.

Three key parts of our brain are stimulated when we lie. First, the frontal lobe (of the neocortex), which has the ability to suppress truth—yes, it’s capable of dishonesty due to its intellectual role. Second, the limbic system due to the anxiety (hi, amygdala!) that comes with deception—and yes, when we’re lied to our “Spiderman sense” here can perk up, just as we can feel guilty/stressed when we’re doing the lying. And third, the temporal lobe is involved because it’s responsible for retrieving memories and creating mental imagery. Just for fun, add the anterior cingulate cortex because it helps in monitoring errors, and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex because it is trying all the while to control our behavior. Our brain is busy, busy, busy when we lie. And it’s far more peaceful when we tell the truth, because our limbic systems isn’t stressed about lying and our frontal lobe isn’t inhibiting the truth.

Christine Comaford, Forbes

Stop lying to yourself, it’s just making you tired.

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