• briansharplpc

Albert Ellis' "12 Lies We Tell Ourselves"

Updated: May 26


The late psychologist Albert Ellis famously maintained that humans contribute to their own emotional upset by awfulizing. He said that when circumstances are not as we tell ourselves that they should or must be, we convince ourselves how awful, terrible and intolerable our circumstances are and how ill-equipped we are to contend with them. Further, he cited 12 lies we tell ourselves, which contribute even further to our awfulizing. As an online LGBT counselor, I encounter these frequently in my work and have witnessed firsthand just how "awful" the toll exacted upon us by awfulizing can be.


  1. I must have the love and approval of others. I must avoid disapproval at all costs.

  2. I must be perfect and a success in all my endeavors. I must not make any mistakes or ever fail.

  3. People must always do the right thing. When they don't, they must be punished.

  4. Things must always be the way I want them to be. Otherwise, life will not be tolerable.

  5. My happiness/unhappiness is caused by external events. I have no control over my happiness/unhappiness.

  6. I must worry and obsess about things that are dangerous, frightening or unpleasant. Otherwise, they might happen.

  7. I will be happier and more content if I can avoid all of life's responsibilities, difficulties and unpleasantness.

  8. I am weak/powerless and must depend upon others, who are stronger than I am.

  9. Past events have strongly influenced me (negatively), and they must continue to do so.

  10. I must be upset when others have problems. I must be sad when others are unhappy.

  11. I should not have to feel discomfort or pain. I must avoid feeling them at all costs.

  12. There is one right and perfect solution (usually my own) to any problem. It is a pity when others do not recognize or embrace it.


Of the "12 Lies" mentioned above, with which ones do you find yourself struggling most often? What would you say to a friend or family member if they were to approach you about a problem they had from the perspective of one of the "12 Lies"? How is it that the rules would be different for someone else than they would be for ourselves? Why would we not tell a friend or family member, for example, that they "absolutely must worry about things that are unpleasant...otherwise they might actually happen" if that is the rule, by which we are living?


I'd be happy to meet with you online to discuss how you, too, can regain control of your life and stop falling victim to the "12 Lies." Reach out, and let's talk about what I can do to help.

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