How much do we lie to ourselves

Sweet little lies: Why we lie to ourselves & others so often

Allegedly we humans lie around 200 times a day. No distinction is made between small, large or white lies. But what is the lie about? There is already deception in the animal world - is it simply a natural instinct that leads us to dishonesty? In what situations do we lie? And when would it be better to stick to the truth?

Lies to belong: an instinct for self-preservation?

Deceiving others is natural behavior for animals. Be it the chameleon that changes its color or the meerkat that pretends to be dead to protect itself from enemies. The instinct for self-preservation takes effect here automatically. The same applies if there is a risk of being expelled from the safe pack, herd or swarm - because that too would endanger the life of a pack animal.

For us humans it is less a matter of life or death in everyday life, but we too are dependent on belonging to a social group in accordance with the evolutionary principle of survival in togetherness. And so we fight, if need be, like wolves in a pack for belonging. So if we run the risk of being expelled from a group or circle of friends by telling the truth, then sometimes we prefer to risk a lie to save ourselves from it. Likewise, we are ready to hide an unpleasant truth in order to maintain peace in the group and to strengthen the sense of togetherness.

Oscar Wilde says:

“The liar's goal is simply to charm, delight, delight. It is the foundation of civilized society. "

Motives and alternatives to socially motivated lying


From the obligatory “Thank you, it was delicious!” After dinner with less talented friends to pretending to be happy about the kitschy birthday present from your aunt: The well-intentioned white lie, so as not to disappoint friends or family members, is probably everyone's has already passed our lips once. And who cares whether the nice phrase or the quick "like" heart on Instagram was really meant seriously? After all, the other person is happy about it - right?

The alternative: It is true that the “well-intentioned white lie” usually does no harm to anyone. However, we should also be aware that their commitment is usually not as unselfish as it seems: through the positive confirmation of our counterpart, we often aim at the same time to create a better picture of ourselves. If we were to speak the uncomfortable truth more often, contrary to conventions, we could irritate or even annoy our counterpart. Sometimes, however, this is exactly what characterizes a good relationship: Entrusting the other person with honest feedback and, if necessary, being able to endure unpleasant confrontations if you help him or her in the long term.


A social agreement also seems to exist to the effect that it is not appropriate to speak of itself in the highest tones. After all, “self-praise stinks” is still a firmly anchored belief in many people's minds. And so we often quickly decline or even contradict our counterpart when he or she pays us a nice compliment - even when we are actually proud of our performance.

The alternative: Put an end to the old beliefs - it is a shame to simply brush our own successes, talents and strengths under the table. Stand by them and calmly celebrate yourself when you've achieved something! Knowing what you can do has nothing to do with arrogance. Your friends will certainly not turn their backs on you, but will be happy and proud of you with you.

Optimal self-expression

The purpose of some lies is to present us to others in the best possible way - and to cover up small errors if necessary. Be it to the boss, who shouldn't notice that I was sloppy on the last project, or to the new friend, whom I assure to be absolutely tidy and organized. With a few clever, strategic statements, we convey the most flawless image possible, build good relationships and avoid conflicts - at least temporarily.

The alternative: Learn to stand by your mistakes and your natural imperfections. Those who have the courage to look at themselves in all their facets and to show themselves vulnerable are more tangible and approachable to others, generate trust and pave the way for open communication. This applies in the private as well as in the professional context. A bad error culture ultimately inhibits the development potential of employees and the innovation potential of companies.

You can read more about this topic in our blog posts “Fail harder!” Why it is worth making mistakes ”or“ Why better bosses show vulnerability ”.

Peer pressure

There are also situations in which we are obviously lying out of peer pressure. For example, if the entire circle of friends seems to agree on what “good music” is and which concert should be attended on the weekend, a “Sure, I like to be there too!” Quickly slips out - although the band is not that at all corresponds to your own taste.

The alternative: Try not to orient yourself so much outwards and instead listen more to yourself. Due to the constant comparison and the attempt to adapt to our “peer group”, our real, authentic self sometimes fades into the background. You should therefore take your time more often for an “inside look” and the question: What do I actually want myself? This will not only save you from bad concerts in the future, but will also make you happier and more satisfied in the long term.

Lying to Protect Ourself: Defense Mechanisms

In addition to maintaining a sense of belonging within a group, another main purpose of lying is to maintain our mental stability. This is where so-called defense mechanisms often come into play: psychological processes that serve to protect our ego and to maintain our own image of ourselves and the world. They help us to cope with conscious or repressed conflicts and fears by creating an inner distance from them. There are many different types of defense mechanisms. Three examples are repression, denial, and rationalization:


In the case of repression - to put it simply - a previously conscious thought, feeling or memory is shifted out of our consciousness and shifted into the unconscious. Be it the appointment with the annoying guy from the neighborhood or the painful memory from childhood, which was characterized by violence and humiliation: Through the repression mechanism we banish unpleasant things in order to make reality more bearable for us and to protect our psyche.


Denial is also a spontaneous protective reaction of the psyche. “No, that can't be!” Is a typical exclamation when we have just received bad news. Whoever denies something does not want to or cannot perceive a reality, although he perceives it with his senses. He sees, hears and feels reality - and yet ignores it. Further examples can be that we do not want to admit the infidelity of our partner, although it seems obvious to outsiders, or deny the first signs of an illness and therefore refuse to go to the doctor.


With the help of rationalization, we try to justify behaviors, thoughts and feelings, the true motives of which we do not internally recognize, with a supposedly more acceptable explanation. An example: It corresponds to my ideal of being a sporty person - realistically, however, I can do sport no more than once a month. Instead of admitting to myself that it is simply comfort that prevents me from changing something, I justify my behavior with the explanation: "I just work a lot and am so busy with my large circle of friends that no more capacities are available for sport are."

The alternative: Defense mechanisms are fundamentally indispensable for us. Especially when it comes to things that we cannot influence anyway. After all, our psyche would not be able to deal with all the unhappiness in the world all the time. However, if we flee too carelessly into the defense - with things that we could and should influence ourselves - we deny ourselves further development. The repressed will always find a way to the surface: for example through dreams, failures or conflicts. In order to get ahead in life, we should therefore reflect precisely which defense mechanisms we use ourselves and learn to also allow the unpleasant and painful. This is the only way we can practice dealing well with stress and develop an undistorted view of reality.

More love for the truth

We lie in order to maintain harmony and to belong, in order to look better and not appear arrogant, in order not to be vulnerable and to protect our self-image. It feels like it is often easier to lie to yourself and to others than to just be "yourself". But do we really “enchant, delight and delight” others with our lies - and do we lastingly? Or shouldn't the “foundation of civilized society” be more about rediscovering our love for the truth? Because that is exactly what characterizes true relationships: being able to openly show one's vulnerability, support one another and overlook mistakes.

The most important basis for professional success and personal satisfaction is a lifestyle that is in harmony with your personality. Knowing them is the first step. With our free Trial test we offer you the opportunity to walk it and get a first glimpse of yourself.