Sarah Wyland | Three Categories of Thoughts

The Three Categories of Lies + How To Find The Truth

I bet you tell yourself a lot of lies. Things your internal dialogue says that aren’t true, but you believe them to be. Things about your appearance, your abilities, what you deserve out of life. Not helpful, downright hurtful, lies. 

Did you know all the many lies we tell ourselves fall into just three categories? 

The three categories of lies: 

I’m helpless. 

I’m worthless. 

I’m unlovable. 

I read about this concept in Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen. The more I thought about it, the more I agreed. 

We tell ourselves a lot of lies. 

I’m fat. 

I’m ugly. 

I’m never going to make more money.

I’m not smart enough to get that promotion. 

I’m too old to go after a new dream. 

I’ll never meet someone. 

On and on it goes. 

But those lies boil down to one of three truths: You feel helpless, worthless, or unloveable. 

Say you’re looking in the mirror. You’re critical of yourself. You think your thighs are too big, your boobs too small, your eyes a dull brown instead of the bright blue you wish they were. You don’t think you’re pretty. You are convinced you will never find a partner because you’re just too unattractive to draw their attention. 

What all of these awful, heartbreaking thoughts boil down to is you feel worthless or perhaps unlovable (or both). Something happened somewhere along the way – an unkind classmate, a negligent parent, a cruel ex-lover – that planted that ugly seed in your head. It’s not true, but you can’t help but believe it anyway. 

Take me and my legs for example. 

I have short, thick legs. I will always have short, thick legs and there is exactly nothing I can do about that. But that didn’t stop me from trying for years. I tried every exercise and diet. I tried to hide them. I wouldn’t wear shorts in public because I thought they made my legs look worse. There was a point when I would only wear heels because they made my legs look leaner. 

To me, my short, thick legs made me unlovable. 

When I was in middle school, I was a head-over-heels horse girl. I took riding lessons three days a week and spent my weekends at horse shows. I was in a lesson one day when my horse decided he was just not there for it. He would do that sometimes – have a day when he decided he wasn’t in the mood and rebel with all he had. I was fighting to stay in the saddle as he bucked and my instructor encouraged me to use my legs to hold on. One of the moms watching offered her own encouragement: “You’re doing great! Use those tree trunk legs!” 

From that day forward, I thought of my legs as “tree trunks.” 

She meant her words as encouragement and even a compliment. Strong legs keep a person on a horse. But I heard it as confirmation that my legs were unattractive. Not long after, a family member called me “bubble butt,” and the nickname stuck. For a really long time, I struggled with loving my body.

Then I discovered weightlifting and started to see my legs as strong and beautiful. I started to appreciate them for all the things they do for me. It took a long time to replace the lie that short, thick legs made me unlovable with the truth. 

You can overcome the lies you believe about yourself too. 

I do this work with clients. It’s hard work. Deep work. But it’s necessary work to reprogram our thoughts and shift them away from those three categories of lies. It is good, hard work. 

While the help of a coach – or a therapist – can help you navigate those thoughts, if you want to get started on your own, try this. 

First, “catch your thought.” By that, I mean notice when you’re thinking – or saying – one of those lies about yourself. They may be so deeply ingrained in your thought patterns that you think them without realizing it. But try to catch those thoughts, those lies, and write them down. 

From there, dissect each lie. Open up your journal or a blank Google document and answer these questions without screening yourself – let whatever comes up, come up.

  • Why do you believe this lie to be true?
  • How long have you believed this lie to be true? 
  • Where did this lie come from? 
  • Which of the three categories of lies does it belong in? 
  • Why does it belong in that category? 
  • What is the truth? 

Then, write out the new story – the truth. Instead of “my legs are tree trunks and they make me unattractive so no one will ever love me,” the truth is “my legs are strong and powerful and I am so thankful for them.”

Remind yourself of that truth every time the old lie pops into mind. You might want to write it on a post-it note and stick it to your computer or even set a reminder on your phone to pop up at certain intervals to remind you of the truth. 

With time and effort, you can reprogram the lies you tell yourself with the truth. 

Lies are just that – lies. And they all fit into the three categories of lies listed above. Take control of your thoughts and replace them with the truth. 

You are worthy of believing the truth. 

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