There isn’t a person alive who hasn’t told a lie at some point.
Lying is a destructive behavior that can complicate and damage relationships.
Regular lying also causes problems with the self. A person who feels the need to lie is not being true to themselves or their feelings.
That kind of rift in their authenticity can cause stress and anxiety as they worry over the perceptions of others and maintaining their lies.
Does that make you a bad person?
Not at all.
People will rarely admit to the times they might have been dishonest.
Lying is even seen as a socially acceptable practice for a lot of people. Who hasn’t told a “little white lie” to protect someone’s feelings or escape an obligation?
Those lies can all have unintended and sometimes severe consequences.
Breaking the habit of lying is difficult, especially if it’s something you’ve been doing for a long time.
But it can be done!
Let’s take a look at some ways to break this bad habit.
Step 1: Understand Why You’re Lying
The key to solving any problem is to understand the cause of that problem.
You need to know why you’re lying in the first place.
Once you understand the why, you can employ strategies or seek appropriate help to curtail the behavior and overcome the habit.
– What was the lie? Detail out what you said.
– What type of lie was it? Was it a lie by omission? Exaggeration? White lie? For personal benefit? To avoid discomfort?
– Who did you lie to? Is it a specific person that you’re regularly lying to?
– How serious was the lie? Was it a white lie, or was it something more serious?
– What did you hope to gain by telling a lie?
– What are the circumstances surrounding the lie? Are you at work? At home? In social situations?
By answering these questions, you should be able to identify the reason why you told a lie.
Then, you can look for patterns within those reasons.
Perhaps you have to lie to your boss at work because they are an unreasonable micro-manager who doesn’t honor or accept the truth as a good enough reason.
Perhaps it’s because you feel inadequate compared to other people in your social circle, so you lie to make yourself feel like you’re on their level.
But what if there aren’t identifiable reasons?
Well, in some circumstances, lying may be a subconscious survival mechanism.
Lying For Survival
Lying can become a habit if it’s something that is done regularly for the sake of survival.
That can start at a young age for a child who is born into an abusive family dynamic.
Lying becomes a reflex, a maladaptive coping mechanism that helps the child stay safe in a hostile home.
Children who grow up under domineering, excessively strict, and unreasonable parents often need to lie to avoid being harmed or unfairly punished.
That habit can continue into adult relationships where a circumstance may subconsciously touch on feelings of anxiousness or trauma that they are trying to avoid.
A person trapped in an abusive relationship may also develop the habit of lying for survival.
A lie can save the person from being harmed for telling their truth or violating whatever controlling paradigm the abuser is trying to enforce. Lying may be a matter of life and death for the abused.
Unfortunately, lying as a survival skill is a habit that needs to be unmade because it will destroy healthy relationships.
Compulsive behavior is repetitive and persistent but doesn’t provide any tangible benefit or reward.
A person who compulsively lies about things that don’t make sense may be experiencing other mental health issues that are manifesting through this behavior.
A pathological liar, on the other hand, will typically lie for personal gain in some way. They may lie to make themselves look better or appear to be more elevated than they are.
Pathological lying for deception may sound like:
“I know Dr. Smith well. He’s kind of like a mentor to me.”
A lie told to impress the listener and make the liar seem more connected than they are. That may help the manipulator create leverage that they can use against the listener later.
“Man, I just closed this massive deal that no one else could close. I’m getting a huge bonus because of it!”
Another lie told to impress the listener. It elevates the liar over the listener and helps feed their ego.
These types of lies differ from compulsive lies. These types of lies serve a purpose.
Compulsive lies don’t necessarily make tangible sense.
“I have a sister who lives in a different town,” when the person doesn’t have a sister.
“Oh yeah, I listened to their music, but didn’t like it,” when the person never listened.
“I think he just got a new car,” when the person has no idea if they were in the market for one.
Compulsive lying is a much harder hurdle to overcome without professional help. It may come from a deeper problem that needs resolving first.
You may also like (article continues below):
- Telling White Lies: When It IS And When It ISN’T Okay
- 4 Signs You’re Lying To Yourself (+ 6 Ways To Stop It)
- How To Rebuild And Regain Trust After Lying To Your Partner
Step 2: Admit the problem to someone you trust, who will help hold you accountable.
The first step to being a more honest person is to admit that there is a problem in the first place.
Admit the problem you have to someone close to you that you can trust with that information.
Ask them if they would be willing to work with you on changing your habit.
The idea is to have an accountability partner who can help keep you on the right track when you’re working through the issue.
Step 3: Set realistic boundaries.
Boundaries are important. They help teach other people how they can treat you and what to expect from you.
You shouldn’t need to lie to save the feelings of others. That includes lying to get out of duties that will stretch you too thin, overwhelming you with work, or being agreeable to avoid conflict.
Setting and enforcing healthy boundaries derails the need to appease and lie to others about your own needs and expectations.
Step 4: Take a few seconds to think about your reply before responding.
There’s nothing wrong with taking a few seconds to think about what you want to say before you say it.
That little break of time can allow you to defeat a lie before you speak it and save yourself from needing to correct the lie later.
A habitual liar may find that a lie escapes them before they have an opportunity to think about it.
A person that lies by omission or exaggeration may need to take some time to examine what they want to say and how to say it.
Step 5: Admit to a lie when you tell one and offer the truth.
A person who has been reflexively lying for a long time is still going to lie from reflex.
When this happens, own it if the environment is appropriate.
Apologize, admit that you lied, and correct the record.
It’s going to feel scary and intimidating, but this will also help you in your relationship with that person.
Quality people generally respect honesty and the push for self-improvement.
Step 6: Repeat the process.
Repetition helps dismantle and build habits. By admitting to lies told, correcting them with the truth, and carefully considering your words, you can create a new habit of honesty.
Committing Yourself To Truth And Integrity
The process of developing yourself into an honest person of integrity is uncomfortable, but the benefits of honesty far outweigh the pain.
A person who is uncovered as a liar loses their credibility, which can have drastic, long-term consequences on their relationships and life.
Emotionally healthy people don’t want to spend their time around dishonest people. It’s a part of healthy boundary setting.
It will take time and effort, but it is a habit that you can change.
And if you do find yourself having a hard time getting to the bottom of why you lie, it would be worthwhile to speak to a certified mental health counselor about the problem.