How To Stop Lying And Start Telling The Truth

Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti, M.Ed, LPC
Updated September 17, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

If you are frequently dishonest, know that you are not alone. Research shows that lying is common and that almost no one is completely truthful all the time. One study suggests that people lie between one and five times per day

Some people tell little white lies, while others tell bigger lies to get ahead. In any case, if you want to start telling the truth more often, it could be useful to get to the bottom of your habit of lying. In this article, we’ll discuss why some people lie and what you can do to curb this behavior to enjoy more fulfilling relationships.
iStock/SDI Productions
Is Compulsive Lying Affecting Your Relationships?

Types Of Lies

Have you ever found yourself telling a friend she looks great even when her new dress is not your style? Maybe you’ve told your partner that you love the meal they cooked, even though you didn’t like it. These are often considered “white lies,” which people normally tell to avoid hurting another person’s feelings. These types of small lies are generally forgiven and forgivable, even if the person never knows you lied. People tend to do this out of habit in daily life, preferring to offer a kind response over an unnecessary harsh truth to keep their relationships flourishing.

Then there are gray lies, which are not complete untruths but are subtle lies we tell most frequently to other people. Often, we look for ways to justify gray lies, which may make us feel better about telling them. Lying can also be a natural reaction to the fear of the unacceptance of the truth. Sometimes these lies can stem from feeling nervous, sad, upset, or angry and trying to express these emotions in a different way. If done often enough over a long period, this pattern may become habitual, especially if you grew up around people who were often deceptive or withheld facts from you. 

If you find yourself lying frequently, you may be engaging in compulsive or pathological lying. People who lie compulsively often do it to:

  • Make themselves look better

  • Gain some sort of personal benefit

  • Control someone else

  • Cover up their bad behavior or avoid serious consequences

  • Avoid losing loved ones and jobs when they are caught lying in the first place

  • Mask their true feelings about a scenario

How To Stop Lying Habitually

One of the first steps to overcoming a lying habit may be understanding where these actions might be stemming from. This is something a mental health professional may be able to help with. A therapist may be able to go through your past experiences and help you discover when and why you may have started compulsively lying.

The reasons for lying can vary from person to person. For example, low self-esteem may cause someone to use lies to gaslight others. Alternatively, if a person constantly puts themselves last, they may tell lies to spare someone’s feelings no matter what it costs them. They may become accustomed to lying and not know how to stop.

Why Not To Lie?

As you begin your journey toward telling the truth consistently, it may be helpful to keep the importance of honesty in mind and remember how damaging the effects of lies and dishonesty can be. Research has found that those who lie more tend to be less happy. In one study of college students published in Psychiatric Quarterly, an association between daily lying and worse academic performance, self-esteem, and quality of life was discovered. 

Below are some additional reasons you may want to form a new habit of being truthful:

Telling The Truth Can Be Simpler

Telling the truth can lead to fewer complications, even though you may feel tempted to lie. Keeping track of every single lie can be exhausting. When you lie out of habit, you must remember everything you said to someone. If you tell the truth, you don't have to struggle to remember how to cover the tracks of lying behavior with more lies. You can just relax and speak openly. Even more so, you won’t have to feel bad later for being dishonest. Lies often start as small or insignificant but could end up costing you or someone else in a way you didn't intend.

Omission Is The Same As Lying

If you fail to tell important information to someone, even when you know it's necessary, it's simply another form of lying. For example, if someone is looking for their phone and you know where it is but don't tell them, this is dishonest behavior. It may not seem as obvious as telling a lie outright, but if you're ready to practice some radical honesty, it can be important to also leave behind lies of omission.

The Truth Will Likely Come Out

You may have already experienced the consequences of lying, perhaps even more than once. If you're not telling the truth, sooner or later an unexpected social interaction is likely to expose your lies. The smallest lies can unravel quickly, even when no one is intending to prove you wrong, and you may be left with the consequences of the habit of lying. People may no longer trust you, and more than one relationship could be damaged as a result.

The Truth May Stop Being So Scary

Sometimes people lie to feel a sense of safety or to hide something about themselves they don't think others will like or accept. It can be hard to take a leap of faith that people will accept you as you are, not a person you fabricated or tried to make "better" in some way. Consider giving the people in your life a chance without lies, and you might be pleasantly surprised when you discover they accept you as you are.

Ilona Titova/EyeEm

Learning To Improve

It's not always an easy process to stop lying, but over time and with the right resources, you can create healthier habits for yourself that reduce your instinct to lie. Here are some considerations to think about when making a sincere attempt to avoid lying and make a change if you think you may have a lying problem:

Hold Yourself Accountable For Lies

Sometimes it can feel tempting to do things if we think we'll be able to get away with it or believe it isn’t a big deal. However, when it comes to lying, feelings of guilt or regret may catch up to you later. It can be crucial to stay accountable to yourself whenever you speak, ensuring you’re telling the truth, even if no one can find out you lied. Focus on being honest with yourself about why you're lying as well; what do you hope to accomplish? What is your end game? What is easier in this situation about lying versus telling the truth? Remember, with lying, there can be consequences more severe than the truth.

Start Small

Changing a habit from one day to the next can feel overwhelming, perhaps so much that you don’t want to attempt to make the change at all. Instead of putting all that pressure on yourself, start by telling people a few true things every day, or even try setting a goal for yourself. Avoid statements like, “I won't lie today," as this can be difficult to achieve at the beginning of the process and may only set you up for failure. Instead, set a specific goal of how many true things you'll say that day. Start small and work your way up from there. 

Decrease Stress

For some people, lying can be a stress reaction. Something may have been happening where you felt so overwhelmed that you could not think straight enough to feel like you could come up with a good answer, and the result ended up being a lie. Lying serves to take the pressure off in this way. Sometimes, people are genuinely not aware they're telling lies if lying is an almost automatic stress reaction. In these types of cases, someone else might be calling your attention to the reality that what you said was untrue. Learning some healthy methods to identify and cope with stress could be useful for avoiding this type of lying. Over time, the consequences of the habit of lying and not telling the truth can inevitably lead to more stress. So, anything that reduces your stress levels in a healthy way can be beneficial. 

A bearded man with short dark hair, galsses, and a blue collared shirt over a white tee smiles at his phone as he sits on a white sofa.
Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Is Compulsive Lying Affecting Your Relationships?

How An Online Therapist May Help You Stop Lying

If you have a habit of lying and would like to be more honest, therapy can support you in curbing your unwanted habits. If you don’t feel comfortable with in-office therapy, you may benefit from online therapy, which numerous studies have demonstrated to be just as effective as in-person therapy for a variety of mental health challenges. 

With online therapy, you can speak with a licensed therapist from the comfort of your home. You can communicate with your therapist by audio, video, or live chat. An online therapist may be able to offer suggestions for overcoming compulsive lying and give you tools and resources to develop healthier habits, which may help you maintain your relationships both at work and in your personal life. 

Read below for reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people experiencing similar concerns.

Therapist Reviews

“Douglas has helped me realize and find a way to break a pattern that I’ve been having for the last few weeks and probably lifelong. This is going to help me improve my relationships and my life will be more fulfilling. I’m glad I got to talk to Douglas, I can sense he is a great professional.”

“Nancy is one of the best counselors I’ve ever had, and I have had many. She’s very down to earth and in touch with me emotionally. Our sessions are always productive and thought-provoking. I highly recommend Nancy to anyone who wants a forthright, no-nonsense approach. If you don’t want to think and talk very honestly about yourself, find somebody else. Nancy is going for the truth to help.”


While everyone lies from time to time, compulsive or habitual lying can have negative effects on your relationships, both personally and professionally. Overcoming harmful habits can be challenging, but you don’t have to do it alone. With resources like online therapy, you can find tools and support to develop healthier ways of thinking and behaving. Experiencing personal growth through therapy may allow you to enjoy more fulfilling relationships. If you have questions about services offered, reach out to If you're wondering how to stop lying, take the first step toward getting support and reach out to BetterHelp today. 

Learn to strengthen your mental health

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started