How To Stop Lying And Start Telling The Truth

Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti, M.Ed, LPC
Updated March 18, 2024by 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, often to spare someone else’s feelings, while others tell bigger lies to get ahead or may even engage in pathological lying. In any case, if you’d like to know how to stop lying and 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 and a more honest life.
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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. While they may not be considered “good,” these types of small lies are generally forgiven and forgivable, even if the person never knows you lied because the underlying reasons for the lie are considered moral or good. People tend to tell white lies out of habit in daily life, preferring to offer a kind response over an unnecessary harsh truth to keep their relationships flourishing and maintain social harmony.

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 of lies 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. This kind of lying can often cause others to feel hurt, especially if the lies are discovered. People who lie compulsively often do it to:

  • Make themselves look better
  • Remain in their comfort zone
  • 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

Steps on how to stop a lying habit

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. Certain mental health issues that affect self-image can lead to the development of a lying habit. 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, potentially leading them to become a pathological liar. 

Why not 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 and stop lying, both to yourself and to other people:

Telling the truth can be simpler

Telling the truth surpasses many of the complications associated with lying. It can make life easier to tell the truth, even though you may feel tempted to lie. Having to pay attention and keep 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 can also be harmful

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 and can be considered a lie. 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.

Getting caught lying

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 of your lie. If you consistently tell the truth, you are more likely to have better relationships with stronger bonds.

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 by telling a lie. 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.

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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 and improve your well being. 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 a lying habit, feelings of guilt or regret about the lie 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, which may motivate you to stop lying. 

You may ask a close friend to hold you accountable for small lies, gently pointing them out if they happen. The social psychology behind peer pressure might actually work to your advantage here; if you know that someone else is paying attention, you may be less inclined to lie.

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 your 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 a lie. 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 and contribute to additional mental health concerns. So, anything that reduces your stress levels in a healthy way can be beneficial and lead to better health. 

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Is compulsive lying affecting your relationships?

How an online therapist may help you stop telling lies

If you have a habit of lying and would like to be more honest or stop completely, 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. 

Online therapy is often a more affordable option for those who are unable to pay the price of in-person therapy. In-person therapy typically ranges from $100-$200 per session, which can add up to $400-$800 a month. Online therapy, in contrast, typically costs between $65-$90 a week, totaling to $240-$360 a month, depending on where you live. Couples therapy is often even more expensive than individual therapy, with prices for in-person treatment ranging from $70-$250 a session (or $210-$1,000 a month). Cost is just one important factor that you should consider when deciding whether or not to begin online therapy.

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 and choosing to stop lying 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. 

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