Fact vs. Fiction: Do Narcissists Really Believe Their Own Lies? 

Narcissists are no strangers to lying. If you’ve ever interacted with a narcissistic person, you’ve probably been a victim of their dishonesty. And, if you caught them in a lie, they likely reacted with rage.

You’re probably left wondering, “Does a narcissist believe their lies?” While we’d all probably like a straightforward answer, it’s not that simple.

Narcissists are complex creatures, and their behavior is both upsetting and quite perplexing. Whether they believe their lies depends upon the situation and the extent of the lie. 

In some cases, the narcissist might truly believe their lies. In other instances, they know they’re being dishonest, but they don’t care. We’ll explore this in further detail below. 

The Narcissistic Personality 

Before diving into the details of whether narcissists believe their own lies, it’s helpful to take a look at the intricacies of the narcissistic personality. Narcissists present a false self to the rest of the world to maintain their egos. This false self is overly confident, self-assured, and superior. 

To maintain this false self, the narcissist must dominate others. They take advantage of others to obtain their goals, making them feel powerful. They also tend to control conversations and spend much time talking about their own victories, which boosts their ego and makes them feel powerful.

The problem is that underneath this confident exterior is a weak ego. Internally, narcissist struggles with feelings of inferiority, and they worry that others will eventually find them out. They distort reality to avoid facing their weaknesses, which can sometimes lead to behavior that seems dishonest to others, but not to the narcissist.

On the other hand, the narcissist is willing to take advantage of others to get their needs met. This may require them to lie, or at least to distort the truth, to benefit themselves. In this case, the narcissist is willing to lie, and they don’t particularly care if it hurts you, because they lack empathy. 

So, the bottom line is that narcissists sometimes believe their own lies, but other times, they’re well aware that they’re fooling you. Whether they believe the lies they tell depends upon the specific scenario. 

Factors to Consider

Since there isn’t always a black and white answer to whether a narcissist believes their own lies, you’ll have to assess the situation. With some critical thinking, you can move closer to an understanding of what the narcissist actually believes.

Consider the factors below to get to the bottom of the narcissist’s dishonesty. 

Distortions in Reality

Narcissistic people tend to demonstrate several cognitive distortions, meaning their thinking patterns are illogical. For instance, they tend to engage in magical thinking, believing that they are incredibly special and possess special talents that others do not.

Narcissists also carry with them a strong sense of entitlement, believing that they should have all of their demands met. Furthermore, they often show evidence of black-and-white thinking, meaning something is either perfect or despicable. 

All of these thinking errors distort the narcissist’s reality, and they see the world much differently than the rest of us. In some cases, the narcissist may believe whatever lie or falsehood they’re offering, simply based on their own distorted views. 

Consider a sob story in which the narcissist presents themselves as the victim. While this may, on a rational level, seem to be a lie, the narcissist probably does believe they were victimized. Since they think they should always have their demands met, it’s easy for them to feel like the victim, even if they were the bad guy. 

Deficits in Empathy 

Empathy is quite a weak muscle for a narcissistic person. This means they have a hard time understanding the needs and feelings of others. They really only identify with their own needs, so they don’t really have time for yours.

Their lack of empathy makes narcissists entirely willing to lie to you, because they won’t struggle with any guilt or remorse. They don’t care about your feelings anyway, so lying is perfectly acceptable to them if it helps them get what they want.

Let’s say a narcissist gets you to lend them money. They might assure you that they’ll pay you back, even if they do no intend to. In this case, they’ve lied about their intentions but won’t feel guilty about it. 

Manipulative Tactics

Narcissists are willing to manipulate to get what they want. They believe they are entitled to meet all their demands, and they may exploit others to reach this goal.

In some cases, narcissists are fully aware that they’re being dishonest. They don’t believe the lies they’re telling; they know lying will get them what they want. 

If a narcissist lies to take advantage of you, chances are, they don’t believe their own lies. They do, however, feel entitled to lie to you if it serves them. To protect their ego, they will justify the lie rather than take accountability for being dishonest. 

Defense Mechanisms

Remember, narcissists struggle with insecurity beneath the surface. To avoid facing their underlying insecurities, they create a false persona in which they are perfect and superior to everyone around them.

To protect this false persona, the narcissist must use defense mechanisms to avoid facing their flaws and mistakes. So, if a narcissist has lied to you, they may truly believe the lie, based on their ego defenses. 

For example, narcissists use blame-shifting to avoid accountability. If confronted about a mistake, they will find a way to shift the blame to the person confronting them. In a case in which the narcissist has lied, they are likely to blame you while avoiding the fact that they’ve lied.

Alternatively, they might project their own bad behavior onto you. Rather than admitting to lying, they will accuse you of being a liar! Finally, they might resort to gaslighting, which occurs when they deny ever having lied. They will try to convince you that you’re crazy and are remembering things incorrectly. 

The point is that narcissists cannot accept accountability; it’s entirely too painful for them. They will go to great lengths to defend their egos from any admission of wrongdoing. When it comes to dishonesty, the narcissist might believe their own lies, because of defense mechanisms that prevent them from admitting to their flaws. 

The Bottom Line

Sometimes, narcissists truly believe their own lies. However, it doesn’t really matter whether they believe the dishonesty they spew.

At the end of the day, if they’re dishonest or distorting the truth, you end up hurt, regardless of what the narcissist believes. 

Recognize that dishonesty, deceit, and distorted thinking are all cornerstones of narcissistic behavior. The narcissist may not be fully aware of their behavior, but they’re still in the wrong. If they’re aware they’re lying, they will justify it, believing that you deserved the dishonesty. 

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