By Heang Sokuntheary
© Theodore Palser / CC0 Public Domain
Do you realize that you are lying, every day, even several times a day? I am a liar, and you all are liars too. You tell a lot of lies every day, to yourself and other people. Robert Feldman, the author of the book ‘The Liar in Your Life: The Way to Truthful Relationships’ found that young people lie about their information 3 times on average of 10-minute conversation with strangers. However, other researchers also comment that if we count body language, behavior, or facial expression as lying, then the number of times we lie would be even higher.
This statistic alone is overwhelming. But what if those findings are true? What if we are keeping ourselves at the edge of the truth and fall into lies every day? What if we tell lies without even being aware that we do it?
Yes, I say we are liars. The minute we start talking, we are ready to tell a lie. Don’t believe me? Let me ask you this: Have you ever pretended to be so interested in what your friend is talking about when you actually feel bored as hell? Or have you ever said ‘Yes’, when actually you wanted to say ‘NO’? Or have you ever got a gift from your loved one that you don’t like, but you have to pretend that you love it? Or have you had a terrible day at school, but when people asked, you said, ‘I’m fine’? Do you think we are experts at lying now?
People lie, but not all lies are the same. One main type of lie is the excuse. In everyday life, we make excuses, to ourselves and others. We might tell our teacher or our boss that we came late because the traffic was terrible, but actually we just woke up late, or took a longer time to prepare. Some other time, we may make this common excuse to yourself, saying “Just skip this task today and I will get back to it tomorrow”.
Another type of lie that we often tell is the white lie. It is the small sugar-coated lie we tell each other to raise and protect our self-esteem. Studies show that people can’t stand negative comments about themselves, and that’s why white lies are so common. We say things like, “You look good today”, or “Yes, that’s a nice dress you’ve got”, or “You’re a wonderful cook”, etc. (Of course, you wouldn’t tell your mum she is a lousy cook because it will make her very upset).
But why do we lie? The same book from Robert Feldman suggests that people tell lies because they want to avoid telling people about their own faults. Other than that, they simply want to be shielded from unpleasant information about themselves. For instance, people tell white lies because they want to make others and themselves feel good. Come to think of it, people tell white lies mainly to maintain their relationship or friendship.
But the shocking fact about lying is that sometimes we lie to impress or please others, and that’s because we want to be accepted and loved. We keep pretending to appear and be cool because we want people to feel pleased with us and accept us. It happens when we say yes to something when we actually want to say no. Or when you hate something, but pretend you like it so you would feel part of the group. It happens when you are afraid of being rejected. But we all know that nobody’s perfect, right? Then why are we still trying to please other people? In order to be accepted and loved?
“We LIE to impress or please others, in order to be accepted and loved”
You might say that even if nobody’s perfect, but at least you want to be as close to perfect as possible. But you may be putting yourself under intense pressure trying to be perfect. Isn’t it tiring always trying to please people? I hear you all screaming, “Yes!” It is exhausting.
The truth is, lying is not good for your health. Saundra Dalton-Smith, the author of ‘Set Free to Live Free: Breaking Through the 7 lies Women Tell Themselves’, says that lying increases the stress hormones, causing the heart rate and breathing to increase as well. Overtime, this long-term stress can lead to illnesses such as heart disease and stroke. Therefore, it means that if someone keeps lying more often or have been keeping secrets for many years, it might have a negative health impact on them.
Other than the impact on physical health, lying obviously affects mental health too. Making excuses can create a harmful habit. And imagine when people are more aware of white lies and start to feel insecure, doubting what people around them would say. They could no longer trust the words people tell them because they would simply think it’s a white lie. Other than just feeling guilty, anxious or stressed, those people who lie or are lied to could fall into a world of loneliness and depression. When you keep secrets, or lie to yourself, you actually isolate and cut yourself from the outside world. You are living in a nightmare, feeling the pressure to show others that you are what they think you are, instead of being yourself. And because you hold onto that idea, you somehow end up forgetting who you are too.
What I mean here is that, isn’t it better to be the real you other than the you that people think you are? Actually, in order to increase or maintain healthy relationships with people around you and your loved ones, sitting down and saying the truth is the most effective way. Studies show that people get even more connected when they share the truth or secrets with each other. By telling the truth, you also get more chances to explore who you are and time to be yourself. So, don’t you think cutting some lies from each day is a good idea to start with?
I know everybody has their own lies. And I’m not telling you to cut all of them at once, but you should know which ones you would be better off getting rid of. Start from yourself to reduce the lie we tell everyday. Just proudly say that “This is who I am, and I love this version of me”. As for white lies, if you are afraid to be honest and hurt others’ feelings, you can choose to keep silent if it’s not something necessary. By changing our habits bit by bit, the word LIE will be soon be out of your life’s vocabulary list.
Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.