Six Lies Keeping Lance Armstrong (and You) from Happiness

Posted Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I just watched Lance Armstrong confess to doing exactly what I was sure he had never done. 

As a teenager, I idolized professional bike racers. So, I got a road bike, rode all over Milwaukee County and I pictured myself riding the hills of France someday. So when Lance (who is only 16 days older than me)  won his first tour, I was hooked. I followed every tour, every stage, every interview. I believed him and defended him to anyone that would listen. Even as the evidence piled up, I'm sure I was one of the last to admit to myself that he probably cheated. He was my hero. He duped me. 

I'm not mad or even disappointed in him today. I'm sad for him and glad for him. Sad that he had to create such outlandish lies and hurt so many people that he cared about. Glad that he can finally enter his own authentic life. 

I see irony in the most common term for him these days: DISGRACED. It's ironic because I think for the first time in his life he is understanding what the word GRACE means. For the first time in his life, some people (even if only a few) are demonstrating care for him simply because they do. Sometimes it takes being "disgraced" to know who will be there no matter what.

If I am honest with myself—I want this level of "disgrace" to happen to all of us. We all tell lies and show a different face to the world than we truly are. Some of those lies become epic in the case of Lance Armstrong but for each of us we have our own (epic) stories we tell ourselves that keep us from experiencing the fullness of our lives. Six lies in particular come to mind:

  • Lie #1: Life is a battle and I must fight with everything that I have to win at it. What drives us to fight? Lance said in his interview that he had only one response when he felt threatened—only one response when he felt like someone was infringing on his territory. He went on the attack. What if life isn't a battle? What if people aren't lined up on the other side to bring you down? What if the universe has good for you and you don't have to fight or win—you simply are meant to be you? 
  • Lie #2: If you aren't with me, you are against me. Lance believed in loyalty and more than once ended the career of those that he felt were disloyal. The big lie here is that it's all about me. Truth is that everyone is caught up in their own story and when you take it personally—you project your own shadow on others. Imagine the pain Lance must have felt to be so angry, so defiant, so hurt by those that betrayed him. It wasn't betrayal—the world was not out to get him. He created his own pain but he still went on the attack. Me and you are the same. Our ex's aren't out to get us. They are consumed by their own pain. Conservatives/Liberals/Fill in the blank aren't evil and no one is on a witch hunt. They are acting out of their own stuff—get on the same side of the table with them if you can. 
  • Lie #3: I must be in control. Over and over in the interview Lance talks about "controlling the narrative" or "controlling every outcome." He states that "his worst nightmare" was the story getting out of control. This is us. Think of the last time you were angry—really angry. For me, it's when I feel helpless about how other people view me—and the way they view me isn't good. Truth—we aren't in control of the outcome. No matter how hard we try, we can't completely control ourselves—much less others. Although we try. Lance said he's "getting comfortable with not knowing the outcome." I'm certain that just that one realization is turning his life upside down. Mine too—and yours if you try it.
  • Lie #4: I am invincible. He says that he "felt invincible, was told I was invincible, and believed I was invincible." I wonder about the personas we each create—the person we show the world. Johnny Cash recorded a song and video (Hurt-2003) that captures for me this lie and the consequences of it. Truth is we are not invincible. Truth is that we are vulnerable. Brene' Brown talks at length about how vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity, and love. Start here—with vulnerability.
  • Lie #5: The past is the past—and it should stay there. How many of us tell ourselves this lie? Truth is that the past doesn't stay in the past.  Lance was two years old when he was abandoned by his father. In his interview with Oprah he stated that he has never talked about it with his mom. In his words—they never talk about the past. It's no surprise to me that the single thing that Lance said that brought him to the point of confessing was not about the money or the fame—but it was about his son. Realizing that he was lying to his oldest son Luke—Lance called it the ultimate betrayal. Realizing that he was not only doing what his father did to him to his own children but also abandoning his surrogate children (his fans).  So, we need to go to the past and feel what happened to us. We need to do the work. What are you unwilling to look at in your past? What you avoid runs your life. 
  • Lie #6: I must do good things for people to like me. I must win the most difficult race in the world. 7 times. I must create a charity that changes the way the world thinks about cancer. We do the same things. We have to get promoted, be a perfect spouse, get a degree, be a philanthropist, be successful, be beautiful, be, be be… We learned the truth in kindergarten yet it rarely sinks in until much later. It's all an effort to earn love. Good luck with that since earned love isn't love at all. At some point we must stop and see what happens when we stop. 
I want to end this post with a quote from Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist, who wrote in October about Lance here. This is what I want for all of us (me included).

"…I wish Lance Armstrong Godspeed on his continuing journey toward the certain knowledge that he was always a worthy person, even if his father was too broken to love him. That is the only race worth winning in Lance Armstrong’s [AND YOUR] life, and it is the beauty of this miraculous existence of ours, that it can still be won."

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November 4, 2016--Crossing the Continental Divide (Both Literally and Metaphorically)

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