I'm insecure so I lie — but I want to stop!

Dear Alice,

I'm so insecure that my first reaction when I'm asked a question about myself is to lie and make myself seem like I'm more than I am. It's not even with questions, I've made up stories, and taken other people's stories as my own and I can't seem to stop. What can I do?

Dear Reader,

Feeling insecure can certainly affect how you interact with others, including how you present yourself. If you think your insecurities lead you to lie, you may consider exploring their source as a first step towards changing this behavior. Working to change your way of thinking may help you realize that you have a lot going for you already, and that you don’t need to portray yourself as more than you are. If this doesn’t seem to be effective, you may also consider talking with a mental health provider to help you work through your go-to reaction to lie. Reader, it’s worth noting that you’ve already taken a big step towards by acknowledging you want to stop lying, so give yourself a pat on the back!

Most people deal with insecurities at some point in their lives. Insecurities can sometimes be a result of low self-esteem; though the reasons are unique to the individual, they can be a result of setting unrealistic expectations of yourself, magnifying negative experiences while minimizing the positive, or comparing yourself to others, among other reasons. Once you figure out why you feel insecure, you may be better situated to challenge that line of thinking.

If you’re ready to address your low self-esteem, you can begin by trying to note your patterns of thinking, particularly when you feel the need to lie. Do you engage in negative self-talk? Do you tend to jump to negative conclusions? Whatever the situation, you may try replacing these negative thoughts with statements that are more positive and constructive. For instance, think about things you’re proud of or things that you’ve done well recently. Another approach may be to ask yourself: what would happen if you told the truth? How have you felt when you’ve told the truth previously? Reframing your thoughts could go a long way in addressing your insecurities and setting you on a path towards the truth.

Struggling with low self-esteem is a normal and common experience for people throughout their life course, and many seek professional help to overcome it. Part of addressing your concern may also involve talking with a mental health provider, who can provide a safe space for you to talk through your situation as well as decide on and work towards some reasonable goals for changing the way you interact with others. By opening yourself up and engaging truthfully during therapy sessions, you may find that that you’re more prepared to address some of the underlying thoughts and feelings that urge you to lie in certain situations and practice ways to overcome it.   

For help getting a referral or finding a mental health provider in your area, check out Finding low-cost counseling and How to find a therapist in the Go Ask Alice! archives. If you have health insurance, you may be able to check the insurance company’s website or call them for a list of providers and instructions on the process for connecting with services. In any case, it may help for you to know you’re not alone in feeling the way you do from time to time — check out the Emotional Health category in the Go Ask Alice! archives to learn even more about similar issues. Ultimately, Reader, you are the one who can best decide the next steps. No matter how you choose to move forward, you can be proud of reaching out for support.

Last updated Aug 19, 2016
Originally published Mar 27, 2009

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