A Practical Guide on How to Start Telling the Truth and Stop Lying

A Practical Guide on How to Start Telling the Truth and Stop Lying

Have you ever:
  • accepted an invitation to a party even though you had no intention of coming?

  • agreed to stay at work to help your colleague with their project instead of relaxing at home on a Friday night, as you planned?

  • withheld the truth from your partner to avoid uncomfortable conversations?

We all lie from time to time – 11 times each week on average, to be exact [1]. We sprinkle a lie here or there to dampen the painful impact of harsh truth, prevent hurting someone or paint a more favourable picture of ourselves. Yet, even these seemingly harmless white lies are a slippery slope that can destroy relationships and decrease self-esteem over time. Luckily, there are many ways to learn how to stop lying and start embracing the truth. Read on to find out more!

Dilemma between truth or lies

Identifying Patterns and Triggers: How to Stop Lying by Breaking the Habit

The habit of lying can be pretty tempting. After all, it might seem like a convenient way to escape uncomfortable situations or avoid being seen in a bad light. However, if you feel like you can’t stop lying, don’t see a way out but keep justifying your lies, chances are you’re struggling with a much more significant issue than simply slipping a half-truth here or there.

The first step to figuring out how to stop being a compulsive liar is to admit that you have a problem and take a closer look at your addictive cycle of lying behavior. While providing temporary relief and an emotional high, lying in the long term can only harm your self-esteem, erode the trust you built with others and decrease your happiness.

To stop lying habitually, start by asking yourself these questions:

  • When am I most likely to lie?

  • Are there specific situations, places or people around whom I feel I can’t be truthful?

  • What triggers my urge to lie – is it my emotions or particular thoughts?

Pin-pointing what pushes you to lie is a starting point for breaking this lying habit. Next time you find yourself in a similar context, you can approach it mindfully, paying attention to your choices and prevent lying behavior.

Defining Compulsive or Pathological Lying

Pathological lying (aka compulsive) is quite a complex psychological phenomenon. It describes someone who lies frequently and impulsively without a clear motive or benefit. When we compare it to ordinary lies, the compulsive ones are most of the time unnecessary and without an obvious purpose. The liar might even be aware that their what they’re saying is implausible or even easily disprovable, but they continue to lie.

Keep in mind that pathological lying is not a diagnosis but rather potentially a symptom of other psychological conditions. For example, it can be associated with personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, or even antisocial personality disorder.

Why Do I Lie So Much? Understanding the Motives

As kids, we learn that lying is wrong and we should tell the truth. As we grow up, we can understand the nuances of life and specific circumstances in which we’re encouraged to slip a small lie. We also can see clearly how lying can be highly harmful in other situations.

How can we tell whether our motive to lie is justifiable?

Deception researchers like Bella DePaulo divide lying into two categories [2]


Prosocial lies

Antisocial lies


small, seemingly harmless lies

lies that are more significant,

they’re likely to hurt others


not hurting others’ feelings, preventing confrontation

intentionally deceiving others,

using others for personal gains


it helps to smooth the flow of  social exchanges,

it promotes social harmony

it creates obstacles in social interactions,

it contributes to social fragmentation


Returning a compliment on your coworker’s outfit even though you dislike it to make them feel nice.

Getting rid of an annoying colleague by intentionally sending the wrong address of a party’s location.

If you’d like to learn how to stop being a compulsive liar, it’s essential to spend some time reflecting on the motives behind your habit. After all, telling lies that are supposed to protect someone else’s feelings don’t compare to those that involve intentionally misleading, disrespecting and taking advantage of others for your selfish gains. While the former might help us as a society, the latter cuts much deeper, alienating you from others [3].

How Inability to Stop Lying Can Impact Your Relationships

A man and a woman in a relationship struggle due to compulsive lying

Did you know that it’s been proven how lying less and being honest more often boost relationship satisfaction, simultaneously supporting your physical and mental health, and overall well-being [1]?

Yet, the experience of a romantic relationship can be quite different with a partner who tends to excessive lying. Just imagine being with someone who sprinkles a little white lie here and there about their location, meetings, friends or other commitments. While seemingly harmless at first, you can observe these lies piling up and your trust issues arising. After a while, the person you chose to be in a relationship with seems so lost in their lies that you decide to leave them as you can’t see a healthy future with them in your life anymore. 

Pathological lying erode our relationships. While you might believe you can easily spot a liar, the opposite is true. Statistically, we can accurately detect around 54% of the lies we hear [4]. You might’ve been able to outsmart others or avoid the truth coming out, but make no mistake: you are not invincible. When the people in your life realise they’ve been lied to, they might:

  • feel shocked, hurt, used, betrayed or manipulated,

  • lose their trust in you, and rebuilding it can be highly challenging,

  • cut ties with you and keep you out of their lives.

How to Stop Being a Pathological Liar and Cultivate Trust in Relationships?

Find Healthy Alternatives

Change takes time and effort, so starting small is a good idea. Consider:

a)    reflecting on the circumstances in which you’re most compelled to lie,

b)    creating honesty-anchored responses to these situations

c)     staying genuine by:

  • changing the subject, i.e.:

“Let’s not discuss my romantic life now. I’d love to know how your DIY project’s going.”

  • giving tactful, prosocial feedback, i.e.:

“I appreciate you sharing this music with me. I don’t think it’s my cup of tea, though.”

Take Accountability

The process of change also involves some hiccups. Understandably, old habits die hard, and if you give into the old habit of lying, own up to it. Whoever you lied to, they deserve the truth and an apology. They may feel hurt, betrayed, require space to think, or they might forgive you immediately. Regardless, taking accountability for your actions and experiencing the consequences of being caught lying first-hand is crucial.

Set Healthy Boundaries 

Trying to live up to unrealistic expectations or self-inflicted pressure might lead to compulsive lying. Perhaps you:

  • don’t want to hurt the feelings of your partner,

  • prefer avoiding their anger,

  • feel scared of getting vulnerable.

If so, communicate openly and set healthy boundaries. It doesn’t make you annoying or high-maintenance – it shows your commitment to investing in the relationship. Try using phrases like:

  • I’d rather keep this information private,”

  • “I’ve been lying because I’m afraid of losing you. Can we talk about this more?” This healthy communication could help build a foundation of trust. 

The Role of Mindfulness and Self-Awareness

Mindfulness and self-awareness can be very helpful in overcoming pathological lying. Mindfulness, by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, can help you become more attuned to your thoughts, feelings, and actions, making it easier for you to catch yourself before a lie slips out.

Self-awareness goes hand in hand with mindfulness. Gaining a deeper understanding of yourself, your patterns, and your motivations, means you can start to identify and anticipate the situations where you’re more likely to lie and the emotions at the basis of the lies.

You can practice techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or mindfulness exercises to enhance your self-awareness and mindfulness skills. This way you’ll have a better chance to slow down your thought process, consider your actions more carefully, and choose honesty over deception. It’s all about creating a little window of space between what your thinking and feeling, and what you’ll decide to do next.

Incorporating mindfulness and self-awareness into your daily routine can make a difference on your journey to honesty. It can help you break the cycle of compulsive and habitual lying, and pave the way for a more truthful, authentic life.

Incorporating Honesty into Your Everyday Interactions

Here are some advanced strategies for maintaining honesty in everyday contexts, some of which may prove challenging:

  1. Handling Professional Ethics:

    • Scenario: When you disagree with a business practice or decision.

    • Approach: Express your concerns respectfully, highlighting your commitment to ethical standards. For instance: “I understand the rationale behind this decision, but I’m concerned about its ethical implications. Could we consider some alternative approaches?”

  2. Navigating Family Dynamics:

    • Scenario: Addressing uncomfortable family truths or histories.

    • Approach: Choose the right time and setting for these chats, and approach them with sensitivity and openness. For example: “I’ve been thinking about our family history, and I believe it’s important for us to discuss some aspects that have been overlooked.”

  3. Personal Relationships:

    • Scenario: Being honest about your feelings in a romantic relationship.

    • Approach: Communicate your feelings clearly without blame or judgment. Here’s an idea: “I feel we need to talk about where our relationship is heading. Honesty is important to me, and want us to share our true feelings.

A couple cultivating their relationship with trust and tuthHow to Stop Compulsive Lying: Practical Techniques For an Honest and Authentic Life

Stop Justifying Your Lies

As a kid, your parents probably told you to thank a relative for a gift they gave you even if you hated it to make them feel better. Right then and there, you learned that some lies are excusable.

Yet, if you feel like you can’t stop lying to your partner, lying to yourself or telling white lies but want to introduce a long-lasting change, it’s imperative that as an adult you recognise how unhelpful justifying your lies is and decide to break this bad habit instead of using it as an excuse.

So the next time you feel urged to lie, stop for a moment to ask yourself:

  • What is my reason for lying here?

  • How is this helpful?

Then, push yourself to find an honest alternative instead.

Accept and Fulfill Your Emotional Needs

We often avoid facing a difficult situation or complex feelings by choosing dishonesty. Why? “We lie when the truth surpasses our comfort zone”, explains Kim Egel, a licensed therapist.

However, genuine growth requires accepting your reality, not running away from it. Try to open up through journaling. Consider writing down your thoughts and emotions linked to lying, and feel free to process your experience and explore any needs you might have been trying to fulfil through lies.

Let’s say you struggle with low self-esteem, so you seek external validation by telling exaggerated stories about your past.

What if you counteract that by setting positive goals for yourself? Engage in your childhood hobby, catch up with an old friend, create a new morning routine. Whatever it might be, choose something easy, tangible and small.

Practice Authenticity and Patience

Fear of rejection might push you to hide your true self behind a facade built with more lies within. By doing so, you put a wall preventing your loved ones from connecting with the real you.

Self-disclosure requires a lot of vulnerability, which can be scary. Simultaneously, it helps strengthen intimacy in relationships and bring meaning and depth to your bond. Begin embracing the unknown by sharing an authentic story from your personal life without vamping it up.

Be patient and gentle with yourself. What can initially feel incredibly anxiety-inducing will become more bearable and pleasant with time. The journey toward honesty takes time, and you can get there one step after another.

A person at a crossroad between truth or lies and choosing the truth

Consider Therapy For Compulsive Lying

Changing deeply rooted habits, such as compulsive or pathological lying, can be daunting. While challenging, it’s definitely within your reach!

With the help of an experienced therapist, you can:

  • get to the underlying reasons and causes of your issue,

  • pinpoint unhelpful patterns of thinking or behaving,

  • process any difficult emotions in a safe space,

  • receive guidance on how to stop lying,

  • practice techniques of cultivating honesty.

Most of all, therapy can be an amazingly enriching tool to regain control of your life and embrace your authentic self. There are different types of therapies that can work for pathological lying.

Types of Compulsive Liar Treatment

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This is a common treatment choice for compulsive lying. CBT helps you identify and change negative thought patterns that lead to problematic behaviors, including lying. It provides practical strategies for managing stress and improving communication skills.

Psychodynamic Therapy: This type of therapy allows you to delve into past experiences and traumas that might be contributing to your lying behaviour. By addressing these underlying issues, you can start to understand your motivations for lying and work towards changing your behavior.

Mindfulness-Based Therapies: These therapies help you increase your self-awareness and control impulsivity, which are two very important factors in overcoming a compulsive lying problem.

Of course, each of us is unique, and what works for one person might not work for another. If you’d like to start working on your compulsive lying habit, at Therapy Central we have a team of professionals that will design a treatment around your unique needs and circumstances.

Don’t wait up and contact us for a free 15-minute consultation today!

Someone getting help from a therapist for compulsive lying

Looking Ahead: Building a Future Without Lies

Building a future without lies involves cultivating honesty as a core value in your life. It’s about making a conscious decision every day to choose truth over deceit.

In this guide, we’ve discussed the complexities and serious consequences of pathological lying and the importance of being truthful. Embracing honesty does not only strengthens relationships but also increases your self-esteem and general mental well-being. It’s a journey of self-discovery and commitment to authenticity.

Yet, this path can be challenging, and it’s okay to seek support. If you or someone you know is grappling with compulsive lying, consider therapy as a valuable resource. Our team is ready to provide the guidance and understanding necessary to overcome this difficulty.

Seeking help is a testament to your strength and commitment to truth. Begin your journey to a truthful, fulfilling life.

Contact us for a free consultation.

Contact Us Today, We're Here to Help

Further Reading:

  1. Counselling for Low Self-Esteem and Lack of Confidence
  2. Relationship Counselling
  3. Overcoming Trust Issues: How to Rebuild Your Relationship


[1] Guibert, S. (2012, August 6). Study: Telling fewer lies linked to better health and relationships. University of Notre Dame.

[2] Iñiguez, G., Govezensky, T., Dunbar, R., Kaski, K., & Barrio, R. A. (2014). Effects of deception in social networks. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2014.1195.

[3] DePaulo, B. M. (2004). The Many Faces of Lies. In A. G. Miller (Ed.), The Social Psychology of Good and Evil (pp. 303-326). New York: Guilford Press.

[4] Bond, C. F., & DePaulo, B. M. (2006). Accuracy of Deception Judgments. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10(3). https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327957pspr1003_2.

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