This month we’re talking about narcissistic lying. Here’s the thing: narcissists lie. A lot. It’s part of their nature. But did you know that all human beings lie? Our reasons for lying and the types of lies we tell are based on various grounds. The fundamental difference is motivation.
We may tell self-serving lies (aka “egocentric lies”) to enhance our feeling of well-being, to achieve a goal, to avoid disappointing someone, or to avoid potential humiliation. Have you ever told a self-serving lie? Here’s an example: you offered to make a homemade veggie dip for tomorrow’s office meeting. But you didn’t have time to make it, so you wake early and go to the grocery to pick one up from the deli. You put it in a dish and add it to the table’s offerings. When you receive compliments, it feels good! So you don’t divulge that the dip was store-bought (Neal 2017).
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We may tell kindhearted lies (aka “face-saving” or pro-social lies) to prevent someone’s feelings from getting hurt, to save a relationship, or to keep ourselves from losing status. We tell kindhearted lies because we feel empathy or because we care about the person we’re lying to. Sometimes we want to look like we care more about something than we really do, and so we tell a kindhearted lie.
Have you ever told a kindhearted lie to avoid hurting someone or to seem more interested in someone or something than you actually were? Same.
The current theory about narcissistic lying is that all narcissistic behaviors, including lying, are unconsciously motivated by shame and driven by previous narcissistic injuries.
Lying is central to a narcissist’s identity, but because all of their experiences are filtered through previous narcissistic injuries, they’ll view their lie as “The Truth.” In his book “The Narcissist You Know,” Dr. Joseph Burgo says about the narcissist, “He doesn’t see himself as a liar but rather as an embattled defender of the ‘truth’ as he has come to see it” (Burgo 2016).
Narcissistic behaviors, including lying, are unconsciously motivated by shame and driven by previous narcissistic injuries.
A narcissist’s lies are a combination of their character traits and life experiences, so there’s usually a small “kernel” of truth in each lie. It’ll be difficult and confusing for you to try to find that kernel, but your intuition will tell you it’s there. In their story, in addition to lying, they’ll also exaggerate any information that makes them look “good,” and they’ll just as easily minimize information that has the potential to make them look “bad.”
Because narcissists must believe that they’re always correct and never make mistakes, they often have difficulty knowing the difference between lies and the truth. It makes absolute sense if you remember that a narcissist’s entire life is a lie because of their false face. They carry grandiose beliefs about their false selves, and they need validation and affirmation to hold onto those beliefs. The false self keeps the narcissist feeling superior, and that’s essential to avoiding narcissistic injuries. They see anything that threatens their superiority as an attack and will respond as such.
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Lemon Moms: A Guide to Understand and Survive Maternal Narcissism, by Diane Metcalf
For as long as I can remember, there was something “different” about my mother. She wasn’t like other mothers.
My mom didn’t hug or kiss, smile at, spend time with, or play with me. She never seemed happy to see me. She didn’t ask about my school day and wasn’t interested in knowing my friends. She seemed to have no interest in me or anything that I did. My mom called me hurtful names and obscenities, and at times, she ignored me, not speaking to me for days, weeks, or even months. When she felt sad I was expected to emotionally care-take her. When she didn’t feel like parenting, I was responsible for my siblings. When she lost her temper she hit. When I was disobedient, there were bizarre punishments.
I was not allowed to express feelings, ask questions, or show initiative or curiosity. My feelings were discounted, minimized, or invalidated. She re-wrote my memories, and I was expected to believe her version. I was to obey, stay quiet, and not question.
If any of this sounds familiar, you are not alone. If there is manipulation, power struggles, or cruelty in your relationship, this book can help. If you second-guess your memory, doubt your judgment or sanity, or continually seek your mother’s withheld affection, attention, approval, or love, this book can explain why.
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About the Author
Drawing from her personal experiences of growing up in a dysfunctional household, Diane Metcalf has developed effective coping and healing strategies. With the assistance of professional therapists and mindful personal growth, she has honed her skills and now happily shares them with others who are interested in learning and growing.
As an experienced advocate, speaker, and writer, Diane is well-versed in topics such as narcissism, family dysfunction, abuse, and recognizing warning signs. Her extensive knowledge is drawn not only from her personal experiences, but also from her work in human service fields, including domestic violence, partner abuse, and court advocacy. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a Master of Science in Information Technology.
Diane’s transformational books on healing and personal growth, such as the highly acclaimed “Lemon Moms” series, offer emotional support and guidance in understanding narcissistic traits and healing past wounds. Her approach emphasizes self-awareness, intention, self-care, and establishing healthy boundaries as essential components in the healing process.
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This website is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional therapy.