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.
Could you be feeling the effects of Narcissism Awareness Grief? Download the free chapter to find out:
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Practice conscious awareness: Self-awareness releases us from making impulsive and potentially damaging decisions.
Practice Ferocious Self-care: We take responsibility for getting our needs met instead of waiting for someone to change or to meet our needs for us. We are in control of ourselves. No one is responsible for us but us.
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About the Author
As a result of growing up in a dysfunctional home, and with the help of professional therapists and continued personal growth, Diane Metcalf developed strong coping and healing strategies. She happily shares those with those who want to learn and grow in their own recovery journies.
Diane is an experienced advocate, speaker, and writer on narcissism, family dysfunction, and abuse. She draws from her personal childhood experiences, as well as her work in human service fields like domestic violence and partner abuse. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a Master of Science in Information Technology.
Her transformational books about healing and moving forward include the highly praised “Lemon Moms” series. This emotionally supportive collection explains narcissistic traits and teaches how to reconcile past hurts to begin self-nurturing, healing, and moving forward.
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