Why Do Narcissists Lie? (26 Reasons)

Narcissism is a term we throw around, but what does it mean? At its core, it’s an intense self-focus, often paired with a lack of empathy. But here’s a twist: why do narcissists lie so often?

It’s not just to deceive you. It’s to build a perfect image of themselves, a shield against the world’s criticism and a mirror reflecting only their greatness.

Dive in to unravel the truth behind their falsehoods.

Self-Image and Ego Maintenance:

1. To Boost Their Importance

Narcissists have an inherent need to feel superior and special. Lying allows them to create a reality where they’re always at the center. By exaggerating their achievements or diminishing others’, they position themselves as more important.

Practical Example: A narcissist might claim to have been the top salesperson at their previous job when in fact they were somewhere in the middle.

2. To Avoid Shame

The narcissist’s ego is paradoxically fragile. They fear shame and criticism, so they lie to avoid facing these feelings. It’s a defense mechanism to protect their internal narrative of superiority.

3. To Manage Impressions

Managing impressions is all about controlling how others perceive them. Narcissists want to be seen in a certain light, often as flawless or infallible. Lying gives them the power to shape this image, even if it’s far from the truth.

4. To Seek Validation

Narcissists need constant validation to sustain their grandiose self-image. By lying, they can generate situations where they receive praise, admiration, or envy from others, reinforcing their distorted reality.

Tip: It's essential to recognize when you're being used for validation and set boundaries to prevent being caught in the narcissist's web of deceit.

5. To Hide Their Weaknesses

Narcissists often perceive their vulnerabilities as threats to their idealized self-image. In an effort to keep these perceived flaws hidden, they might lie or exaggerate the truth.

Practical Example: If a narcissist struggles at work, rather than admit they had a challenging day, they might claim they single-handedly saved a failing project.

6. To Preserve a False Self

A pivotal trait of narcissism is the presentation of an inflated, often fantastical self-image to the world. By lying, they bolster this false narrative, ensuring that others see them as they desire to be seen.

7. To Feed Their Delusion

Narcissists sometimes convince themselves of a distorted version of reality, where they are the constant hero or victim. Lying can be a mechanism to reinforce this skewed viewpoint, both for themselves and for those around them.

8. To Seek Comparative Advantage

For many narcissists, social interactions are competition. Lying provides them a comparative advantage by making them appear more knowledgeable, powerful, or desirable than they truly are.

Manipulative Tactics

9. To Manipulate

When narcissists lie, it’s often with a specific goal: to mold situations and people in ways that benefit them. This is a strategic move where the truth is bent or reshaped to fit their narrative.

Practical Example: A narcissist might exaggerate their involvement in a project to get credit and advance in a professional setting.

10. To Gaslight

Gaslighting is a sinister form of manipulation where narcissists cause individuals to question their sanity, memory, or reality. Doing this undermines the victim’s confidence and makes them more susceptible to control.

Practical Example: If a person remembers the narcissist saying something hurtful and confronts them, the narcissist might deny it ever happened, insisting the person is imagining things or being too sensitive.

11. To Attribute Their Negative Qualities Onto Others

Projection is a defense mechanism where individuals attribute characteristics they find unacceptable in themselves onto someone else. For narcissists, this can be a way to deflect blame and maintain their idealized self-image.

Did you know? The concept of projection stems from psychoanalytic theory that was conceptualized by Sigmund Freud.

12. To Triangulate

Triangulation is a strategy where the narcissist uses a third person to relay information or cause disruption between two others. This method allows the narcissist to control the narrative and play people off against one another.

Practical Example: Imagine Alice tells the narcissist something in confidence. The narcissist might share this information with Bob, adding their own twist, then sit back and watch the conflict unfold between Alice and Bob, all while appearing innocent.

13. To Play the Victim

A common tactic for narcissists is to position themselves as the victim. By doing so, they divert attention from their behavior, gain sympathy, and manipulate others to meet their needs.

Avoidance and Denial

14. To Avoid Accountability

Accountability and narcissism don’t mix well. Narcissists tend to see themselves as infallible, and accepting blame would shatter that illusion. As a result, they often twist truths, minimizing their roles in unfavorable situations.

Practical Example: If a project fails under a narcissist's leadership, rather than admitting any shortcomings, they might place the blame on team members, or external factors or even claim that the project's goals were flawed from the beginning.

15. To Rewrite History

A narcissist’s memory might seem selective, especially when recalling events that don’t align with their self-perception. To maintain a consistent and favorable self-image, they often “rewrite” the past to suit their present narrative.

16. To Strengthen Alibis

When narcissists engage in behavior they know to be wrong or questionable; they often weave intricate webs of lies to cover their tracks. These lies, crafted with precision, serve to shield them from blame or to keep others in the dark about their actions.

17. To Deceive Themselves

Perhaps the most puzzling lies narcissists tell are those they tell to themselves. They craft narratives that support their worldviews and beliefs, even if these narratives conflict with reality. By doing so, they protect their fragile ego and maintain the illusion of superiority.

Control and Power Over Others

18. To Control

For narcissists, being in control isn’t just preferable—it’s vital. To maintain the upper hand in interactions and relationships, they’ll manipulate the truth, ensuring events and narratives align with their desired perception.

19. To Exploit

Narcissists often view relationships transactionally. They’re constantly assessing how someone can benefit them. By lying, they can position themselves to extract maximum value from a relationship, be it in terms of resources, validation, or influence.

Did you know? Narcissistic exploitation isn't just emotional or psychological. It can also manifest in material ways, such as monetary gains or leveraging someone's skills or connections without giving due credit.

20. To Create Dependencies

One of the most insidious ways narcissists lie is by instilling a belief in others that they are indispensable. They position themselves as the linchpin, the savior, or the sole beacon of wisdom, ensuring their continued relevance and power.

21. To Hide Intentions

Narcissists, in their pursuit of control and dominance, might harbor intentions that, if revealed, would paint them in a negative light. To safeguard their image while progressing with their motives, they become adept at lying or obscuring the truth.

22. To Undermine Others

For a narcissist, the spotlight should always be on them, and they perceive others’ successes as threats to their superiority. To counteract this, they might spread lies or half-truths to undermine others, ensuring they remain on top.

Relationship Manipulation

23. To Seek Attention

At their core, narcissists are attention-seekers. They craft stories, exaggerate situations, or outright lie to ensure they’re the focal point, drawing what’s often termed as a “narcissistic supply” from those around them.

24. To Conceal Infidelities

Many narcissists struggle with commitment and fidelity. To juggle multiple relationships without getting caught, they’ll craft elaborate lies, ensuring that none of their partners catch wind of their deceptions.

Fact: Studies indicate that narcissism is positively associated with infidelity, largely driven by a need for attention and validation outside the primary relationship.

25. They Fear Rejection

Despite their outer facade of confidence, many narcissists harbor deep fears of rejection. They dread the idea of being unloved or abandoned, and as a protective mechanism, they might lie to paint a picture that ensures their acceptance and love.

26. To Hide Resources

A narcissist might view relationships as transactions, ensuring they remain in a favorable position. This could mean hiding resources, especially financial assets, to maintain control and power.


At the end of the day, narcissists lie as a tool—a paintbrush, if you will. They craft a world where they shine the brightest. It’s not just about fooling others; it’s about maintaining their own self-image. Remember, behind every tall tale is a person seeking validation.

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Brenda Calisaan is a psychology graduate who strongly desires to impact society positively. She aspires to spread awareness and knowledge about mental health, its importance, and its impact on individuals and society.

She also has a passion for working with children and hopes to dedicate her career to positively impacting their lives.

Outside of work, Brenda is an avid traveler and enjoys exploring new experiences. She is also a music enthusiast and loves to listen to a variety of genres. When she's not on the road or working, Brenda can often be found watching interesting YouTube videos, such as Ted-Ed content.