My name is Sam and I'm a recovering liar. Wow I'm really back here again? S***. I'm sitting in the Balinese co-working space's café chowing down on some paprika-sprinkled fries, wondering how I've relapsed. For those of you just tuning into the ebb and flow that is my life, let me fill you in a little bit.
We all have stories. Stories that we tell new acquaintances. Stories that will tell our old friends. Stories that we save for job interviews or family gatherings. I'm a self-professed storytelling Queen. For years I've been running the conversations in social situations determining what version of Sam is coming out in that moment. Will it be over-achiever Sam, hopeless romantic Sam or some version of raw vulnerability Sam. I used to think I might be somewhere on the bipolar spectrum because I have so many versions of myself.
I love a good story, we all do. But there's a certain contract we enter into whenever we open our mouth. A good story needs a beginning, a middle and an end. A good story needs some kind of narrative hook to justify it's telling. And, most importantly, a story should be truthful. Otherwise a story becomes a lie. When I was younger I used to tell a lot of lies. Not big lies and normally nobody got hurt, but I felt the pressure to tell a 'good' story too much. So, truth was often thrown out the window. Who cares? A little number exaggeration here and a little 'fact' addition there. The story was what mattered. People laughed and they smiled and I smiled and the cycle was reinforced.
The real risk of weaving lies into your stories is that after a while you can't even remember what happened in the past. I read somewhere that every time we pull a story from our brain it changes slightly in it's re-telling. In other words, by recounting a tale we are permanently corrupting the file and blurring the lines of past/present. Experts will tell you that your brain is a powerful machine and that if you can believe something is true your brain doesn't know the difference. But when does the placebo effect start ruining the reality?
I guess what I'm trying to say is that my storytelling is a vehicle for my perfectionism. At a young age I figured out that reality doesn't matter because it's how you recount it afterwards that lingers. By lying my way into a perfect past I started forgetting that I was supposed to be the one pulling the strings. I was supposed to be in charge of controlling how others thought about my life, but soon I wasn't even sure what my real life was.
The lying started to catch up with me. Friends who spent too much time started to notice the details didn't add up, I couldn't keep my lies consistent and the holes in my stories were becoming obvious. So, I stopped sharing most of the time. I didn't dare open my mouth for fear of what would come out in order to try and impress the ears listening back at me. Awkward social situations were the worst for this. Meeting people for the first time the old lies would retch up to the surface and, as I lay in bed later in the evening, pangs of guilt would bubble up. What if they find out I lied? Why the f*** didn't I just tell the truth? Is there a way to do damage control now?
It was like an evil gobbling living inside me would sabotage me and alienate people in the process. The scary thing about this tendencies is that after a while you forget you even have a choice. I couldn't stop and soon the lies built up on top of each other. The stories foundations were ripping apart at the seams and I was labeled a dirty liar. Even my own family would refer to whatever came out of my mouth as 'Samantha facts'.
I remember the night my ex finally confronted me about the problem. We had been at a formal in college and I told a story that he was involved with and he knew wasn't true. Why did you lie back there? Freaking out I became defensive questioning his memory in a desperate attempt to salvage my integrity. It put a wedge between us. Finally, one night I felt vulnerable enough to share with him the truth. The truth about how I'd perfected my past and present through the lies I told. I told him about the barrier I'd built up against the outside world by embellishing the truth. I told him about my child self who wanted to be accepted by her peers and so claimed her fake designer bag was real and her New Look top was from TopShop. I told him about my fears that I'd lost the truth forever where the stories of my past were beyond repair. I told him I wanted to stop. I hated the guilt I felt and how it was like an out-of-body experience every time the lying goblin took over.
He was horrified. My trustworthiness started crumbling at his feet and I watched as his expression grew distant. As he mentally went through all the stories I'd ever told and whether any of it was true. This was exactly what I'd spent nights awake worrying about. Unfortunately, my ex was not worthy of my secret and rather than provide the much needed support I craved. Every time I spoke from then on he questioned it's validity until I didn't want to say anything anymore. It seemed as if no one in this world could love or accept me for my untruthful past.
Above all, I lost trust with myself. Lying in our society is a massive taboo. It makes sense because truth is important for the smooth running of governments, relationships and companies. We've signed a contract that the stories we tell are as true as they can be. I broke that contract when my perfectionism ran away with me and I don't know how to get it back. Perfectionism is a double edged sword because I can never be perfectly truthful again. Even writing this is making me feel sick. I never wanted to hurt anyone and Samantha's Wonderland has been the first place where I've felt able to share my full truth the good and the bad. Not having to look you in the eye as a show the dark-side of my soul somehow makes it easier to bring those barriers down. So, I'm hoping that I haven't taken this lurch towards honesty too far and you'll continue to help me passively recover.
I'd like to apologies to all the friends and family members I've lied to. I promise I'm getting better and please be understanding if I fess up that something I've said was untruthful. I really never wanted to hurt anybody.
All my love, Sam