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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 March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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