I’m a Compulsive Liar — I Tried Coming Clean, Now Things are Worse

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Reader’s Question

I’m 20 and I’m a compulsive liar — at least, a self-diagnosed one. I recently came clean on all my long-standing fabrications to my girlfriend and closest friends, and in the process I lost all or most of them I’m pretty sure. So now I’m depressed, dealing with a breakup, and have low self-esteem and a behavioral disorder. I’m starting to wonder if it would’ve been better to keep up the deception. Was it the right thing for me to do to come clean? It just doesn’t feel as much of a relief as I hoped it would.

Psychologist’s Reply

First let me offer you my congratulations on having the courage to confess your lies to your friends. This was a brave thing for you to do. True, it is causing some negative repercussions, but it was an essential step toward getting better and having healthier relationships. Sometimes it is necessary to experience short-term pain to get long-term gain.

Honesty is one of the pillars of any solid relationship. People have to be able to know that what you tell them is true in order for them to trust you. Your lying betrayed your friends’ trust and it is understandable that they are angry with you. If the situation was reversed and they constantly lied to you, you would probably feel the same way. Rather than feeling sorry for yourself because you are now alone, learn from this.

For anyone in a similar position, it may be useful to find a good counselor who can help you figure out the reasons why you feel compelled to lie. People lie for all sorts of reasons, including attempting to make themselves look better, trying to keep out of trouble, telling people what they want to hear so they will like you, or being afraid that honesty will make you vulnerable. Given your problems with lying, I am guessing that vulnerability is what keeps you from telling the truth. Allowing people to know who you truly are can be scary because it leaves you open to getting hurt.

However, the flip side is that being honest allows for greater emotional intimacy and healthier relationships. It increases self-esteem because you eventually learn that you can be yourself and people will still like you. Honesty also helps you move more easily through the world because you no longer have to hide behind your wall of lies. Lying takes work, while the truth is something you never have to think about. Consequently, I hope you start being honest with yourself, and eventually you will discover that, just like the saying goes, the truth will indeed set you free.

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