There is something to be said for genuine honesty, that raw emotion that can sometimes catch you off guard and even leave you a little shocked. As adults we are conditioned to present the best versions of things to protect ourselves and other people’s feelings. Compulsive liars aside, most of us try to lead pretty honest lives, but the reality is we do lie and often tend to use ‘white lies’ or omit parts of the truth to make our lives easier. As a society, we value telling the truth but anyone under enough pressure or given enough incentive will in most cases lie.
To understand just how much adults lie every day, we only need to spend a few days with a child. Children have a unique way of saying exactly what’s on their minds without any filters, without caution for how it might make them look, or how it might affect others. They have an unapologetic way of expressing honest truth, without analysing or processing it first. A child’s glaringly honest portrayal of the world is cute when they’re little, but an adult telling another adult exactly what they think might not go down so well. As we get older we tend to lose a bit of this brutal honesty (which is usually for good reason) but just how can telling lies affect our mental health?
Psychologist, Elyse McNeil from Lysn, online mental healthcare platform explains:
“The act of lying creates cognitive dissonance in our brains, which is the discomfort you feel when you have two or more conflicting thoughts. Our brains like consistency, and are wired to hold all our attitudes and beliefs in harmony and minimise disharmony (dissonance). Dissonance is a major factor when you lie and can cause significant stress for people. This stress can contribute to anxiety and even depression along with a host of other health issues.”
“Lying is an important behaviour to address and minimise because of the internal and interpersonal issues it creates. Lying interferes with our connection with others and can negatively impact our relationships, particularly if those we love become aware of our lies as respect and trust are cornerstones of relationships.”
“Telling the truth is a worthy goal that requires effort and intention. It’s important that the purpose of the truth-telling occurs within the context of kindness and compassion for others and that being honest doesn’t become an excuse for being hurtful. Considering your motive is vital—white lies can actually be a means of avoiding a difficult conversation that in itself, causes longer term distress, and aren’t always about sparing the feelings of another.”
Whilst it’s clear telling lies has a mental and physical effect on humans, eradicating all lies from our lives, straight away, is nearly impossible. Some people might consider the world a better place without lies, but the reality is, there can be a lot of negative ramifications in always telling the absolute truth if one’s motivation for this is not kept in check. Cutting back on unnecessary lies is always a good place to start, while building communication and emotional intelligence skills to be able to more honestly communicate with others.