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Lessons from a Former Liar: The Power of Owning Our Stories

Standing in the Sun

“I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” ~Brené Brown

I don’t know about you, but I used to lie. I used to lie a lot. I remember one particular instance when I lied about being a passenger in a drive-by.

I lied about my age, my weight, and the reason for the injuries on my body. Sure, I’d just bruised myself by walking into a table, but it made a much more seductive story if I told people that I’d fallen from the rooftop of a friend’s house and lived to tell the tale.

I reached the peak of lying around the age of 12, which was when I kept the infamous drive-by tale in circulation. At that point, everything that came out of my mouth was a complete fabrication and not a well-crafted one. After all, I was in grade seven and I didn’t really shoot people, nor did I know anyone who did, nor would I have known where to find them.

At that point, it was easy to keep lying because, after all, I had no friends. When you have no friends, you can lie about anything and everything. No one holds you accountable, because no one really knows anything about you.

When you have friends, you can’t really go around telling people that you were in a drive-by last Thursday. Your friend will call your bluff because, after all, you can’t be in a drive-by while having a cup of tea a few blocks away.

So, I got some friends and the preposterous-factor in my tales decreased. Still, I continued to exaggerate. I would say five when it was really two. I would say “everyone” when it was really just my mom. I would say it happened to me when it really happened on television.

When I was in acting school, I did some extra work for Degrassi. That’s when you get paid exactly minimum wage to sit in a room for ten hours and spend about an hour of that, off and on, walking around behind real actors who had speaking parts. Then, they blur you out. It wasn’t the worst job, but it certainly was not a major, regular part on a national television show.

The most interesting thing I detect, looking back on my blatant and not-so-blatant lies, was that I selected them by the emotions that they produced. Like a farmer picking her crop, I picked my stories by how well I thought they’d do in the market.

Every story I ever told would get one of three responses: “That is such a lie!”, nothing (which I assume now is a stand-in for “That is such a lie!”), and open-mouthed, wide-eyed shock and pity. The latter, I lived for.

I wasn’t sure why I wanted it so badly, but I did. I wanted it, needed it, craved it. I was like a moth to the flame of attention and everyone knew it. Yes, I was that girl, the one none of us want to be.

Recovering from my cluelessness was largely correlated to my forming close relationships with other human beings. The closer I got, the less I had to lie. These people, it seemed, liked me for just who I was and not this fabricated, nonsensical version of myself.

At some point, I got the courage to tell my story. My real story. The one with no drive-bys and no star television appearances. It was the real-live tale of what I’d been through.

I still remember the open-mouthed, wide-eyed shock and pity.

Then, I felt a combination of ravenous embarrassment and gleeful hope. Oh, I thought, this is much easier than keeping up with all those story lines. 

Looking back on my past, it was difficult, at first, not to judge that girl I used to be.

I would cringe thinking about how obvious my lies were and how horribly desperate I was for attention. That is, until I realized that I was hungry for something that we’re all hungry for—that feeling of being seen, really seen, and accepted.

The more I’ve told my story and the more I’ve helped others tell their stories, the more I’ve realized that the girl I used to be isn’t just an embarrassing part of my life that I can sweep under the carpet.

That sort of desperate hunger for love and acceptance runs silently and rampantly through our society destroying our courage and our relationships with one another.

If we’re ever going to be happy, we’ve got to come back to the truth about ourselves. That journey starts individually. It starts with accepting and sharing those parts of the human condition that we all know about, but we’re too afraid to share.

Those parts of our past that make us cringe are, paradoxically, the very parts of ourselves that we should be showing to people.

When I first set out to be an author, I tried to write about things in a distant, authoritative sort of tone. Here’s a top ten list of how you can be more authentic, I’d say.

At the end of the day, no one really wanted to read that. However, everyone wanted to hear the open-hearted, vulnerable pieces of my soul. Everyone wanted to see the courage that it takes to be true, honest, and authentic, because it gives them that courage as well.

If you’re struggling for authenticity, struggling to live a completely honest existence, I’ll share with you a secret: it gets easier.

It gets easier not just because of practice, but because the willingness to go out there and be yourself in a world that is constantly shoving into your face ready-made formulas for how to be someone else, that inspires people.

And, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my experiences as both a pathological liar and a completely authentic human being, it’s this: inspiring people is much more worthwhile than shocking them.

Photo by Matthias

Profile photo of Vironika Tugaleva

About Vironika Tugaleva

Vironika is an inspirational speaker, life coach, and author of the award-winning book The Love MindsetVironika helps people cultivate self-love, heal mental and emotional suffering, develop healthy self-care habits, build deeper relationships, and unleash their potential to change the world. Read more about Vironika here and get a free sneak preview of The Love Mindset.

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  • Sheena Vasani

    This is brave. I think many of us play around with the truth to appear more grandiose, even if some do not downright fabricate stories. It’s wonderful to read such truth here – you are very right that it is far more inspiring and incredible!

  • Anders Hasselstrøm

    Dear Vironika,

    Thanks for sharing your story. Inspiring to read on this community as usual.

    I have come to realize that if we are 100% honest in everything we do, we experience a sense of calmness and integrity. I suggest that we all stop telling those small lies and start doing the right thing every time. As someone smart once said: “Character is doing the right thing even when no one is looking”.

    Do it :o)

    Best,
    Anders Hasselstrøm
    Motivational speaker

  • Georgi Zhekov

    Thank you for being yourself and sharing your thoughts with us, Veronika.

    It requires some real strength to go deep inside your personality and to explore the darkest places there. And it is always worth it. Slowly you get to know yourself better and find out that you’ve been living someone else’s life.

    And then suddenly you wake up into a new reality, where your authentic “I” can be aligned with the world around you. And it’s just getting better and better 🙂

    I wish you all the best and keep enjoying every moment of the journey called “Life” 🙂

    Georgi

  • DeanaLouise

    Simply beautiful. Loved this!

  • Estela

    OMG thanks for sharing. A very important person in my life used to lie to me all the time, the most elaborate hard to believe stories, and when I finalllynconfronted him I thought he was going to step up an own his truth , but he sticks to it. At start it made me angry, now Im just sad for him, because I knew this had to be some sort of hurting inside issue, and your article made me think about it from his perspective. Thanks for sharing and share some more, its an important subject, and rarely talked about.

  • Vironika Tugaleva

    That’s beautiful, Estela. I’m glad your anger has turned to compassion. I think anger is usually a result of misunderstanding. When we see the part of ourselves that could be pushed to being a liar, a cheat, a killer… then we can be compassionate. Then we can forgive. Accepting our own capacity for awful things as a result of awful trauma is the key to loving people. 🙂

  • Vironika Tugaleva

    It certainly is getting better and better, Georgi. I often warn people to stay away from anyone that gives you a different formula for healing and for growing. What it takes to heal is what it takes to grow. Just pure love. One breath at a time. 🙂

  • Georgi Zhekov

    It definitely is, Vironika 🙂
    There is one thing I realized with years of advising, and it is that no matter our warnings, people will anyway go trough whatever they have designed for themselves as an experience in the linear 🙂 The good news is, they will know what we’ve been telling them at one certain point. The path leads right there 🙂 Thank you! 🙂

    Lots of love and positive energy on your way 🙂

  • Jeremy

    Oh, what a lie.

  • Matt Schmidt

    Winston Churchill stated We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.

  • Guest

    Thank you for such wise words! For myself and my loved ones the advice is always be true to yourself. However, do take care that honesty/open and warm-heartedness does not make you vulnerable. Pathological liars often seek out and prey on the vulnerable in our society and being honest/good hearted folk can sometimes leave you vulnerable to such people. Just a thought…

  • Tater Gumfries

    Bet that ain’t your real name.

  • Bethany @ Journey to Ithaca

    We all want attention, because we all want to be loved by someone and we all want to matter. Some of us lie, some of us create drama, some of us try to gain attention through achievement.

    There is no shame in what you went through–you were trying to meet a need that you didn’t fully understand, and you did the best you could, with what you had at the time.

  • Luca Samson

    That is a very important truth, everyone wants attention, it is just to different degrees.

  • Vironika Tugaleva

    Ah, but when you are vulnerable, they cannot hurt you. They can only accept your compassion and wonder at your stillness.

  • Interesting article

  • oh my god. this is perfect. i could have written most of it.

    i’m grateful for your encouragement that it gets easier.