How I Became a Pathological Liar

A writer who grew up in poverty describes how lying, at first a means of survival, transformed into something deeper and darker:

I spun lies from truth with such skill that I sometimes lost track of which was which. Living with lies is much easier if you can manage to keep them simple. Selling them, on the other hand, requires an ability to conjure the details that make real experiences memorable: Even the most skeptical friend will believe you saw the hottest concert of the summer if your story focuses on the misery of spending the day crushed against a security barricade. No lie was too big or too small, so long as it helped me project an aura of ordinariness.

Lying as a means of coping with poverty had given way to something more pathological. Instead of easing my passage through reality, lying had become a way of denying it altogether. To the extent that lying can become a game, its goals have something in common with gambling: It escalates not because people are hard to fool but because they are so easily fooled that experienced liars grow bored with their habit. The stakes of the gamble, eventually, become life and death; once caught, the person you created evaporates, leaving behind a vapor trail to vex those who thought they knew you. The end game, and perhaps the impulse itself, is as much about self-destruction as self-delusion.

Published: Jul 13, 2022
Length: 8 minutes (2,100 words)
Read the story