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Wednesday, October 8, 2014


What can be done about a friend (OK, acquaintance) who’s an inveterate fibber. Mind you, the lies he tells aren’t deceits uttered with hurtful intent. Nope these are stories and inaccuracies constructed and spewed for self-aggrandizement.

Bill’s in his late 50s, doesn’t have a fab or long list of accomplishments to his name. In fact, he’s been a fuck up all his life — never met a bad decision that didn’t appeal. Logical, strategic thinking and Bill aren’t exactly on speaking terms.

Nevertheless, he’s a very nice, likable guy. Truly, a sweet doofus.

Rather, he could be that if not for his radical insecurity. He wants to be seen as the authority on something (don't we all?). Bill wants so much to be seen/known as a great analytical brainiac.

Every few years, based on a job he’s briefly held or a few college classes he’s taken, he holds himself up as the expert on public health policy or workplace dynamics or management theory, etc., etc., zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

When he puts on his I’m-Clearly-The-Big-Authority hat, most of us who’ve known him for awhile, tune him out. He’s an innocuous blowhard. Except...except...he seems to always find new audiences, new employers, fresh groups who believe the myths and distortions he puts out about himself and his checkered past.

Frustration, confusion, anger, great disappointment, general madness, joblessness and defriending ensue.

I’d think that Bill would have learned to stick to reality by now but, sadly, no. That he continues to embellish and embroider his life, his history, experiences, abilities and qualifications, really makes me wonder. Is there something seriously amiss with his mind? Does he actually believe the fables and hype he puts out?

Mind you, Bill doesn’t claim degrees he doesn’t have (I don’t think he does anyway) but there’s a big fat difference between earning a bachelor’s degree in social work or human resources and having the skills and savvy to be a successful social worker, HR director or substance abuse counselor.

He’s been let go from every single responsible, professional position he’s ever held yet persists in seeing himself as endowed with a deep comprehension of human nature, the ability to fully grasp another person’s motivations and intentions, the talent for walking a mile in another’s Vans.

He doesn't know, understand or accept his own self — how could he possibly fathom someone else?

It occurs to me that Bill might truly believe every hyperbole laden statement and all the flat out chimrical versions he weaves of his knowledge and past exploits.

Is this a full fledged mental illness? Is there a way to help Bill or is he just a harmless old fraud to be humored? The damage he can cause with his delusional self-aggrandizement is relatively minimal so maybe it’s best not to interfere with his fairy tale renditions of reality?

How do I know Bill? He’s the brother of a dear friend. I rarely see or interact with him so the biggest effect he has on me is occasional annoyance. As long as I remember that much of his reminisces are distortions or fiction and refrain from counting on him to follow through with any pledge he’s made, I’m fine.

My friend worries deeply about her brother (of course!). She feels he’s constantly setting himself up to fail himself and others who’ve believed his hype and are relying on him.

I wish I could give her a potential solution. Any suggestions?


  1. You ask for solutions, but perhaps the better question is, what’s the problem? What I mean is that Bill doesn’t seem to be doing significant harm, even to himself. From what you say, he is blithely proceeding through life, probably wondering why he can’t hold down a job or a relationship for very long, but otherwise making his way. He’s in his 50s and this is his pattern. If he thought it was a problem, he would have recognized and fixed it by now (or started to). If I’m reading it right, it seems like this is more of a problem for everyone else than for Bill. People surrounding Bill just need to do what you do: filter everything he says through a salt mine and don’t rely on him to do what he says he’ll do. In other words, don’t make it your problem. If you or Bill’s sister or some other connection really feel like you want to do something, then sit him down and show him clearly what his behavior looks like, complete with a PowerPoint presentation of examples and pink slips. You do this once, then you let it go. After that, whether he chooses to understand and rectify is his decision. Whether or not you continue to be bothered by his behavior is yours.

    1. Thank you. Exactly!

      I guess I worry more about the folks who haven't yet come to understand Bill's deal — that he doesn't have the skills, talent or abilities he claims. I wish he came with a warning label so his lack of self knowledge couldn't hurt others who aren't on to him yet.

      He does seem happy in his self delusion, at present anyway. I suppose that'll last until he hits the next brick wall of reality. I'll pass on your thoughts to his sister.

      Again, thank you!