Narcissists frequently accuse their victims of lying. These accusations can be quite destabilizing for victims of narcissistic abuse because they are often unfounded and delusional. Unfortunately, they are made in such a convincing manner that victims of narcissistic abuse are often manipulated into doubting their own perception of reality and left wondering whether they are going crazy.
A narcissist accuses you of lying for five main reasons:
- First, they need to project their own lies onto you.
- Second, they want to confuse and manipulate you.
- Third, they feel insecure, exposed, and vulnerable, so they accuse you of lying to vilify you in their own mind.
- Fourth, they cannot accept any personal responsibility or accountability for their actions, so they have to find a way to blame you.
- Fifth, they are trying to portray you in a negative light.
This article will provide a thorough exploration of the different reasons that narcissists accuse you of lying. We’ve also created a short video (see below) that guides you through the five different types of gaslighting; narcissists often use gaslighting as a way to indirectly accuse you of lying.
A Short Video Explaining the Five Types of Gaslighting
Narcissists Accuse You of Lying to Project Their Own Lies Onto You
Projection is a defense mechanism that people use when they take aspects of their identity that they find unacceptable and place them onto others. A simple example of this would be a cheating boyfriend accusing his girlfriend of cheating, instead of taking responsibility for his own behavior.
Projection is a fundamental requirement for the emotional stability of a narcissist. They have a false sense of self that they use to regulate an extraordinary amount of negative emotions, such as a sense of inadequacy, shame, fear of abandonment, and self-hate. The problem is that their sense of self is extremely fragile, so their emotional stability is being compromised on a daily basis.
Projection protects a narcissist’s emotional stability by allowing them to place contradictions to their fragile sense of self onto others. It is possible that a narcissist is accusing you of lying because they themselves have lied about something that, if revealed, would contradict their false sense of self hate they have created, and trigger all of their suppressed self-loathing.
A simple example of this would be if the narcissist told you that they are very good at fixing things around the house, even though they aren’t. They told you this just to make themselves look better.
If you were to ask them to fix something in your house a few weeks later because they told you they were handy (e.g. “Hey, since you’re good at fixing things, could you please take a look at my leaky tap?”), they could accuse you of lying by saying that they never told you that they were handy, or they could accuse you of lying about something else just to redirect the attention away from their own lies.
When a narcissist accuses you of lying to project their own lies onto you, it allows them to protect their false sense of self from being compromised. This is important for them because if their false sense of self is compromised, it jeopardizes their emotional stability and they are too emotionally stunted and immature to use healthy forms of emotional regulation to restabilize.
Narcissists Accuse You of Lying to Confuse and Manipulate You
It is common for a narcissist to accuse you of lying to try to confuse and manipulate you, and this is most commonly referred to as gaslighting. Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic that is frequently used by narcissists, whereby they completely deny reality and invent a new one.
Gaslighting is a very insidious and delusional behavior with devastating effects. Over time, victims of narcissistic abuse who are exposed to a pattern of gaslighting will question their own sanity and ability to conceptualize their own perception of reality.
This, combined with the other narcissistic behavior patterns that are used regularly, will manipulate victims into becoming dependent on the narcissist to construct a sense of self.
Five Common Phrases That Narcissists Will Say to Confuse and Manipulate You:
- I have never yelled at you/said that/did that. It is all in your head.
- You didn’t see me do anything. / That never happened.
- You’re putting words in my mouth.
- You don’t remember anything!
- You’re crazy / too emotional / over-reacting.
A quick disclaimer about those five phrases: it is important to remember that gaslighting is a pattern of denial of one’s reality. Meaning that just because you say one of the phrases above or one of the phrases in our article 119 of the Most Common Gaslighting Phrases, it doesn’t mean that you are gaslighting. This is important to know, because narcissists will often try to paint you as the narcissistic one who is gaslighting them (back to that projecting behavior).
It can be really hard for victims of narcissistic abuse to hold onto their reality in the face of gaslighting. This is because narcissistic relationships are often plagued with so much self-doubt, guilt, shame, and self-blame that victims of narcissistic abuse can’t be sure that they are experiencing abuse. This makes it easy for narcissists to accuse them of lying to confuse and manipulate them, as they are under their power and control.
Much like projection, gaslighting allows a narcissist to protect their emotional stability. Remember, narcissists need to maintain a falsified sense of self that portrays them as charming, admirable, desirable, loveable, and acceptable to the public view. But they also need to convince themselves of it as well, so that they don’t accidentally compromise their own sense of self and trigger all of their suppressed negative emotions about themselves.
This means that when a narcissist accuses you of lying to confuse and manipulate you, or gaslights you in some other way, they honestly believe what they are saying because they desperately need their reality to be true. So, accusing you of lying is one of the many ways that narcissists protect their fragile sense of self and their emotional stability, because portraying you as a liar validates their reality and false sense of self.
When a Narcissist Feels Vulnerable or Insecure, They Could Accuse You of Lying to Vilify You in Their Own Mind
When a narcissist feels vulnerable or insecure, it is very common for them to accuse you of lying to vilify or lower you in estimation or importance in their own mind, in order to regain their sense of superiority, power, and control. This is most commonly seen when narcissists are in an environment where they are expected to be emotionally close with someone else.
For example, if you were to tell a narcissist about how much you care about them, the emotional closeness that comes with caring about another human being could feel incredibly destabilizing for them, and they could respond by accusing you of lying about your feelings, so that they can portray you in a negative light in their own mind.
We spoke about this a lot in our articles Do Narcissists Enjoy Intimacy and Are Narcissists Afraid of Commitment, but narcissists are terrified of the thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs that come with being in healthy relationships. This is likely because an unhealthy/abusive childhood upbringing has left them feeling unlovable, inadequate, weak, and abandonable.
They are incapable of managing intense negative emotions like this because of their emotional immaturity, so they suppress them behind the false sense of self that they construct out of the validation, admiration, and reassurance that they receive from others.
When a narcissist experiences something that contradicts their false sense of self or triggers their suppressed negative emotions, such as emotional closeness, they panic because of how unstable their emotional state becomes, and their low emotional intelligence causes them to lash out at others to restabilize their emotional state.
It is very common for narcissists to accuse you of lying when you express any type of positive emotion towards them, because deep down they feel unloveable, inadequate, weak, and abandonable. Accusing you of lying to vilifying you is much easier than addressing their deeply rooted negative emotions that they have about themselves.
We highly recommend that you go read our article How Are Narcissists Made for more information on a narcissist’s upbringing and the problems that it causes for them in adulthood. It is by far one of the most important pieces of information that victims of narcissistic abuse should take the time to learn.
Narcissists Accuse You of Lying to Avoid Accepting Responsibility or Being Held Accountable for Their Actions
The reason that a narcissist will accuse you of lying to avoid accepting responsibility or being held accountable for their actions is because they are trying to protect their fragile sense of self. We mentioned this in all of the previous sections but narcissists have a lot of negative emotions suppressed within their psyche that they are too emotionally stunted and immature to manage.
These negative emotions are powerful ones like shame, fear of abandonment, sense of inadequacy, and self-loathing. With the help of defense mechanisms like projection and compartmentalization they are able to create a false sense of self to suppress these negative emotions.
The only problem is that to keep them suppressed, narcissists need a consistent flow of narcissistic supply, also known as validation, admiration, and reassurance. If you were to try to hold a narcissist accountable for their actions or put them in a position where they had to accept responsibility for something bad, it would contradict their sense of self, disrupt their narcissistic supply, and trigger all of their suppressed negative emotions.
This is one of the reasons that narcissists accuse you of lying. If they are able to invalidate your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs before you have a chance to hold them accountable to make them take responsibility for something by accusing you of lying, they won’t have their false sense of self contradicted. This will allow them to keep their negative emotions suppressed and emotional stability intact.
Narcissists Accuse You of Lying to Portray You In a Negative Light
Narcissists will accuse you of lying to bait you into a confrontation that they can victimize themselves by portraying you in a negative light. This is particularly true for narcissists with covert personality traits and characteristics.
You might be looking at those characteristics and thinking that they don’t apply to the narcissist in your life. This could very well be true, because there are four primary types of narcissistic personalities: grandiose/overt, vulnerable/covert, malignant, and communal.
However, narcissism exists on a continuum, meaning that narcissists who are considered to be extremely covert are quite distinguishable from narcissists who are considered to be extremely grandiose, malignant, or communal.
But more often than not, victims of narcissistic abuse are dealing with narcissists who are positioned more towards the center of the continuum. Narcissists can often oscillate between grandiose and covert behaviors, depending on the situation, so multiple characteristics from the various subtypes may be apparent.
This means that there is going to be some overlap among the characteristics and personality types of the different narcissistic personalities. So, the narcissist in your life could very well accuse you of lying to victimize themselves and portray you in a negative light, even though they may not perfectly fit the full criteria of a covert narcissist.
For example, imagine that you were to confront the narcissist in your life about something that you think they lied about. By confronting them, you are contradicting their false sense of self, so they are likely to become irritated, frantic, desperate, and aggressive very quickly.
To protect their emotional stability from being compromised even further, they could accuse you of lying in a desperate attempt to victimize themselves and portray you in a negative light. This is most commonly done through a manipulative and terribly confusing technique called word salad, a confused or unintelligible mixture of seemingly random words and phrases.
Narcissistic word salad is designed to confuse you as much as possible. It is very common for narcissists to accuse you of lying to bait you into a confrontation where they can victimize themselves and portray you in a negative light. It is just another way for them to invalidate and devalue your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and needs.
An Example of a Narcissist Using Word Salad to Accuse You of Lying
The Victim: Hey, I spoke to Sandy the other day and she told me that you never dropped off the money that I asked you to give her. I could have sworn that you told me that you did, can you explain what happened?
The Narcissist: Are you seriously going to sit there and accuse me of lying? You’re the one who lied about how much money you spent on the kids last year! You just want me to fail, that is why you won’t get me a new computer for work. And don’t even get me started on your parents. I see the way they talk about me behind my back.
Don’t even try to say that you don’t know what I am talking about, you liar. I hate you so much, you don’t even care about my feelings! You’re just a lying, manipulative, ungrateful b*itch! It is so hard to speak to you because you lie so much. I don’t know what is true and what isn’t true anymore.
What Should You Take Away From This Article?
A narcissist will accuse you of lying for these reasons in order to protect their fragile false sense of self.
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Holmes, David S. “Projection as a defense mechanism.” Psychological Bulletin 85.4 (1978): 677.
Sweet, Paige L. “The sociology of gaslighting.” American Sociological Review 84.5 (2019): 851-875.