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Why Lying Becomes Second Nature for Some People

Why Lying Becomes Second Nature for Some People

We all occasionally lie. Most of the time, it’s a small lie that doesn’t have much of an effect, and sometimes it’s a big lie that can end up hurting you or others in some way. However, we all know that lying, in general, isn’t a good thing to do, and we try not to make it a habit. But for some people, lying becomes second nature or even a way of life.

You might have come across a compulsive liar at some point in your life. Maybe they were a work colleague or a friend or even a partner. Compulsive lying, also known as pseudologia fantastica, pathological lying, and mythomania, describes a condition in which an individual lies habitually and often for no reason at all.[1]

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Not only do compulsive liars bend the truth about issues large and small, they take comfort in it. Lying feels right to a compulsive liar. Telling the truth, on the other hand, is difficult and uncomfortable [2] , so lying becomes an addiction.

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What’s Distinctive of a Compulsive Liar

  • They lie frequently, about anything. Even something that makes no difference whether they lie about it or not.
  • They seek attention. They might use lies as a way to get attention.
  • Their stories always change. This is because they can’t remember all the lies they’ve told.
  • They refuse to admit they’re lying when confronted, even when it has been proven they are. They also may become angry when caught lying [3] .
  • Sometimes you can identify a compulsive liar by their body language. They may not be able to look you in the eye when lying, they could be fidgety, they could have closed off body language, like keeping their arms crossed, and they might even start to sweat. However, body language is not a reliable way of identifying a compulsive liar because, if they’re an experienced liar, they may not do any of these things.

If you’ve had experience with a compulsive liar, you were probably puzzled at why they felt the need to lie so much.

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The Secret Behind the Rise of Every Compulsive Liar

  • Admiration and Popularity. They want rewards and admiration without actually working for it. They want to gain attention and popularity. The person usually has feelings of low self esteem and inadequacy, and admiration and popularity is craved because it temporarily boosts their self esteem and makes them feel less inadequate. So they tell lies to help feed that craving.
  • Control and Manipulation. They use lies to gain control where they normally wouldn’t have control and to manipulate others around them into doing what they want. The lying continues because of the thrill of getting away with the manipulation or seeing that their attempt to gain control worked. They might also need to keep lying to keep the control and manipulation going.
  • Low Self Esteem. The underlying reason a person might want admiration and popularity or to gain control is usually because of low self esteem. They feel down about themselves so they lie or make up stories in order to make themselves look better to other people. They are constantly afraid that they will be rejected by people so they exaggerate their good qualities or make up things about themselves that they think will make them look good to others.
  • Pathological Lying. Although compulsive lying and pathological lying are often used interchangeably, sometimes pathological lying is viewed as a slightly different disorder. The difference between the two is that a pathological liar will lie for absolutely no reason, and do so very convincingly [4] . If a person does not lie because of low self esteem, or in order to gain popularity, admiration, control or manipulation, then they might be diagnosed as a pathological liar, rather than a compulsive liar. A pathological liar is also often a sociopath who lacks empathy, and they lie just because they can.

However, both compulsive lying and pathological lying are usually a symptom of a bigger issue, such as:

  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Addiction or Substance Abuse
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Sociopathy

Compulsive liars can be hurtful to people around them, especially those who are close to them, like friends and partners. Because they can be manipulative and controlling, they often manipulate the emotions of those who care about them. If the lying is a symptom of a bigger disorder, they might lack empathy so they cannot see how their lies are hurtful and destructive. They could be serial cheaters or even mentally and emotionally abusive. Above all, they are untrustworthy.

How to Win the Game with Compulsive Liar

  • Make sure they are actually a compulsive liar. Sometimes people lie but that doesn’t always make them a compulsive liar. In order for someone to be a compulsive liar their lies have to be habitual and excessive. For example, a friend going through financial problems but telling you things are fine because they don’t want you to know, is not compulsive lying. A friend who constantly tells you unnecessary stories, which you often find out are untrue, might be a compulsive liar.
  • Try to catch them out in a lie. Pay attention to their story. Stop them when they tell an obvious lie by asking them how what they’re saying could be true. Question them about small contradictions or ask them for specific details when they’re telling a story. This will make them uncomfortable and they might try to change the subject.
  • Reassure them. If they are a someone close to you, remember that they are compulsive lying because they likely have self esteem or other issues. Reassure them that you like them for who they are and that they don’t need to impress you. You can also tell them about your own insecurities, letting them know that they aren’t the only ones who feel this way.
  • Confront them about their lies. – Make sure that you have proof that they are lying before you go to confront them.Be tactful in the way you confront them as they may get angry or defensive. A compulsive liar might also unconsciously believe their lies, so help them to see the truth instead of outright accusing them of lying. Suggest professional help, let them know that you want to help and that you will support them.
  • Stay away from them. A compulsive liar might be unwilling to change or seek help. If that is the case, you will need to decide whether or not you want to stay in their lives and deal with their lies. If it is a person you are not close to or invested in, stay away from them and don’t encourage their stories.
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Reference

[1] GoodTherapy: Compulsive Lying
[2] TruthAboutDeception: Compulsive Lying
[3] WikiHow: 3 Ways to Spot a Pathological Liar
[4] LoveToKnow: Compulsive Lying Disorder

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Sheena Vincent

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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