I Am a Compulsive Liar
I hate liars. I hate lying. However I have come to the realization that I am a compulsive liar. I lie, constantly, with no goal or purpose in mind. I lie for the sake of lying. I lie to not tell the truth.
Most psychologists will break liars into two categories: pathological and compulsive. Pathological liars deceive systematically in order to manipulate. They are generally very cunning people whose lies get them some desired outcome. Pathological lying is considered harder to overcome, since those lies generally benefit the liar. Still, I would rather be pathological. At least that makes some sense.
I am what would be considered a compulsive liar. Compulsive liars deceive out of habit. Generally, compulsive liars aren’t particularly manipulative or cunning. Instead, they lie for the sake of lying.
I know why I lie and when it started. Most psychologists will tell you that compulsive liars begin in early childhood as a coping mechanism. Mine began in early high school. I grew up in an upper middle class family in the South where my father was an executive and my mother stayed at home. I was academically gifted and was placed in MAGNET schools to cultivate my talent for science and mathematics. We rode horses and played golf for recreation. Sounds pretty idyllic, doesn’t it?
As I entered middle school life became much more strained. My parents were incapable of getting along for any period of time. My father, who I have come to recognize as a pathological liar, was emotionally abusive to my sister and me. Without getting into ugly specifics, he would weave horrible and untrue stories about my mother to undermine her credibility and cause tension. He would lie about me to my mother to cause fights and distractions. I later learned why.
When I was in high school, I began to see how weird my home life was from other kids. It wasn’t just that my parents didn’t get along. Hell, most parents didn’t get along. It was strange stories that my parents would tell me that, when relayed in casual conversation elicited puzzled looks from my friends or their parents. I didn’t know how stupid what I was saying was. I was just saying what I was told. I sounded like a nut.
When I turned 16, my father promised me a BMW. Now, frankly, no 16 year old girl should be given a car like that. However, no 16-year old girl would turn it down! He had recently gotten a promotion at work to a very excellent salary, so it didn’t seem all that unrealistic. We went down to the dealership and I got to pick out my color (dark blue with a tan leather interior). Two days later, he came into my room with a purchase order that had a delivery date on it. It was supposed to come right to my house. He promised that it would arrive, and then asked to borrow $300. I had just gotten my first job and had the cash, so of course I didn’t mind. He left and told me not to tell anyone at school about the car.
Telling a 16-year old girl not to share a juicy tidbit like getting a sports car is an exercise in futility. The moment he left the room I was on the phone with my best friend telling her all about the car. The next day, everyone at school knew and I walked around beaming… excited that in just a few weeks it would be mine.
Delivery date came and went. Each day that passed included some new story about why the car wasn’t there, even though it was supposedly paid in full. First, they sent the wrong color. Then, delivery was delayed. Next, it was damaged coming off the truck. This continued for about two weeks. Now that I have purchased several cars, I realize the purchase order I was shown was not a purchase order at all. It was a homemade-computer generated deception to take $300 off of his teen-aged daughter. Don't misunderstand: I don't blame this incident for my lying. It just stands out to me as a significant turning point.
Weird stuff like that happened all the time. Then I started coming up with lies and excuses as to why everything I said turned out to be crap. I wasn’t very good at it. Lack of talent never stopped me though… I kept lying because it was easier than telling the truth.
In June, my father was arrested for multiple counts of fraud. Turns out I wasn’t the only one he made up fake documents to steal their money. When he was arrested he didn’t even tell us why. For weeks my mother thought that he had been falsely arrested stemming from a probation violation. (He had previously been arrested for DUI.) It wasn’t until July that we found out the real reasons.
My lying had only started a short while prior. It was after his arrest and conviction that it got out of control. I was afraid someone knew. Hell, it felt like everyone knew. I felt like everyone knew when they looked at me what I was, what my family was. It felt like I had the mark of Cain blazed across my forehead and people could size me up the moment they saw me. I started lying, constantly.
My family was still strained. My mother married my paternal uncle. Now years later I see their marriage as a good thing, however at the time I felt like Hamlet and saw my uncle as the devious, dastardly usurper of our family. My sister had a nervous breakdown from which she still hasn’t recovered. Me? I rebelled. When they all moved to another state, I stayed behind. I tried to support myself… largely by lying.
It was easy to justify at first. They were white lies. They weren’t hurting anyone. It wasn’t any of their business anyway. If stories made me happier and made me feel more comfortable, why not? Then, I got into sales. That was the breeding ground where inclination for lying was cultivated. Lying was the job. My favorite justification: everybody does it.
Since then I have gotten myself in a lot of trouble. I was in and out of a bad relationship with someone who was probably pathological. (His lies were always self-serving.) I married someone I didn’t even like because I felt like he was some kind of alibi for the lousy, rotten human being I had become. (He was a preacher at a church… and a damned good liar too.) I’ve been bankrupt. I’ve had more jobs than I care to remember. I’ve never been fired… I’ve always had the good sense to leave before my lies were exposed. (I almost overstayed my welcome… once. That’s another humiliating story I will spare myself from ever telling.)
Somehow, in all the mess I’ve made, a few good things have happened. I met and married a good man. He is probably the only person on Earth I have allowed to see the ‘real’ me in nearly a decade. I’ve made it through college and halfway through a Master’s degree. Hopefully in the next few weeks the job I have been pursuing will make me an offer.
I need to stop. I don’t have any real friends because I don’t even give people the opportunity. What started off as a defense mechanism has become a habit it doesn’t feel like I can control. I still feel like people know all the ugly truths of my past when they meet me. I am so uncomfortable in my own skin that I simply start blabbering when I start talking to someone. I just can’t stop.
It breaks my heart to say this. I don’t want to be a liar. I get nothing out of it, except broken friendships and hurt feelings. I believe I am a good person. I would never do anything I thought would hurt someone I cared about. Hell, I go out of my way to not hurt people I dislike. Yet this habit, this compulsion, has done just that. It overshadows all of my good qualities and turns me into a liar… an ugly, rotten, no good liar.