• Do you have a tendency to exaggerate or embellish the truth, especially at parties?

  • Counsellor Miriam Christie explores how insecurity, social pressure and a touch of alcohol create the perfect conditions 

Do you find yourself wrestling with the urge to roll your eyes at boastful stories and overblown claims during the festive party period? Or perhaps Christmas parties bring out the storyteller in you and, before you know it, you’re two vinos into the story of how you bought your first yacht…A yacht that doesn’t really exist.

If you identify with one or both of those scenarios, you are not alone. It’s so common, in fact, that there is actual research into why we lie at parties. Research suggests that as many as one in ten of us exaggerate our salary, lie about qualifications, job titles, and even the value of our home.

What’s beneath the drive to tell lies about our lives?

The type of lies listed above might have already given you a good insight into the insecurities behind our drive to embellish. Social climbing, driven by imposter syndrome, a big splash of social anxiety and a shot of alcohol lie beneath the lies, according to 2018 data by Swoon.  

One in five of us blame our exaggerations on feeling nervous and the same number stretch the truth to impress a new crowd. One in ten people say they lie purely to keep up with the Jones’. The influence of alcohol is another factor, with 14 per cent of us prone to embellishing the truth after a few drinks.

Psychologists suggest that the tendency to show off is ingrained in human beings and is largely an unconscious effort to establish a pecking order. It is likened to the way animals do all sorts of things do make themselves look bigger and more impressive than they really are.

Other less ‘survival of the fittest’ style theories hinge more around the suggestion that many of us are over-compensating for the suspicion that we don’t measure up to the other people in our social circle.  

The why and wherefore of our behaviours will be shaped by our individual world views and socio-cultural influences of course, but perhaps we can take some comfort this party season from the knowledge that a good proportion of us are feeling as nervous as each other, but have shown up in good faith. And we might be able to muster up some empathy for the party bores. Perhaps the more boastful the tall-tale, the more deep-rooted their insecurity.

Miriam Christie is a verified Welldoing counsellor in South East London and online

Further reading

6 psychology-backed tips for successful lifestyle changes

What we want: how desire drives us

How to change the way you see yourself

The real reasons you are always late