The top lies women tell
4/13/2011 7:01:46 PM -
Our real weight
In a recent survey of iVillage readers, 97 percent of women admitted to telling a 'harmless' lie now and again, with nearly 60 percent of them doing it at least once a month. The most common topic they admitted lying about? You guessed it: their weight. More than half of those surveyed said they'd lied about the number on the scale. That doesn't surprise experts like Argie Allen, Ph.D., relationship therapist and director of clinical training at Drexel University.
What's behind the lie: 'We live in a culture that teaches us inappropriate messages about what our bodies should look like,' says Allen. 'We've internalized the idea that thin is the only acceptable body type, so we try to mask our true physical selves to feel better about who we are.'
How often we work out
In the survey of iVillage readers, about one in five women said she'd lied to a doctor about something. One common fib: how much we're exercising. That's one we tell ourselves, our friends, and, yes, sometimes our doctors too, say experts. (In fact, how much we work out was the second most popular thing women in the survey reported lying about.)
What's behind the lie: 'It's human nature to want approval,' says Robert Feldman, Ph.D., dean of the college of social and behavioral sciences and professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts. 'The irony [when you lie to a doctor] is that you're paying for someone to give you an expert opinion, but you're disguising reality. Your doctor would be better able to treat and diagnose you if she knew the truth.'
Our true age
There's such unrelenting pressure to stay young (or, at least, look that way) that saying to someone 'You look your age' can feel like an insult after a certain age. That might help explain why one in five iVillage readers in our poll admitted lying about their birthdates.
What's behind the lie: 'It's tough to identify yourself as getting older,' says Allen. Still, there are benefits to being honest about your age. '[Aging] is an inescapable part of the human condition. Embracing the process of getting older gives you a chance to become comfortable with the parts of yourself you haven't explored yet.'
What size we wear
Maybe we used to wear a size 8, but not after three kids or other weight loss saboteurs, like the stress of coping with an illness or a job loss. Still, it's hard to admit that we don't wear that size anymore -- especially if our friends do. That may be one reason why more than a quarter of iVillage readers surveyed said they'd lied about the size they wear.
What's behind the lie: 'There's a certain amount of competition among women. You don't want to be 'outdone' by a friend who wears a smaller size,' says Allen. 'And you may be embarrassed that you're not doing enough to maintain your weight. But, quite simply, women don't give themselves enough credit for everything that they are doing right.'
Our sexual history
Right or wrong, it's still seen as unacceptable in our society for women to have an extensive sexual history. That may help explain why nearly 30 percent of iVillage readers surveyed say they've lied about the number of sexual partners they've had.
What's behind the lie: 'A woman may try to minimize her past so a current romantic interest doesn't feel compared to dozens of others,' says Feldman. Or judge her harshly for having past sexual partners.
Our current sex life
Not being honest with your partner about your level of sexual satisfaction can damage a relationship in the long run, but 15 percent of iVillage survey respondents say they've lied about their current sex life.
What's behind the lie: It's tempting to lie to keep your partner from feeling bad about his performance in bed. But that may backfire. "Pretending everything's okay so you don't hurt anyone's feelings isn't healthy,' says Allen. 'It's imperative to consider your own needs and know your own body. You can say 'I like this' or 'this works better for me' without sounding like you're criticizing your partner.'
Our kids' accomplishments
Many of us see our kids as an extension of ourselves. So if they're not keeping up with the other kids, we may think it's due to something we've done or not done.
What's behind the lie: 'We don't want people to think we're bad parents,' says Feldman. 'We also want to present our kids in the best possible light so other people will like them.' But the lies can catch up with your child's confidence if you're pretending they're something they're not.
Our financial situation
In our culture, money is equated with success. Most people don't talk openly about how much they make, but they will live beyond their means as a way of proving how successful they are financially. So it's not surprising that more than 30 percent of iVillage readers who were surveyed said they've lied about their income and how much they owe.
What's behind the lie: 'We may buy more than we can afford because we want others to think highly of us,' says Allen. But, of course, this can end up putting us further behind financially. 'We get into financial straits if overspending becomes a habit.'
How much we paid for something
You may not want anyone to think you spent too much on something, especially if you have an agreement with your significant other about monthly spending. Nearly 4 in 10 iVillage readers surveyed said they have lied to their partner about how much they've spent on shoes, clothes or accessories.
What's behind the lie: Does excessive spending make you feel good? Beware. 'If you regularly feel like you have to hide how much you paid or what you bought, you need to find a healthier way to feel good about yourself other than spending money,' says Allen.
How happy we are as moms
Motherhood can be incredibly fulfilling and joyful -- but not all of the time. For those who find it's not always what they expected, there may be reluctance to share their feelings and doubts.
What's behind the lie: 'It can be difficult to say you're not enjoying parts of motherhood,' says Allen. 'But if you have the courage to speak up to your friends, doctor or therapist, you have an opportunity to get the support you need.'