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Believing Their Own Lies

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"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true."

A character, typically an antagonist, is known for making some outrageous claims. Either vicious attacks against their foes, claims of divinity or consistently twisting events so they look better.

In anyone else, these could be called out as Blatant Lies. But what sets this character apart is that, contrary to all evidence and the fact that they, by all rights, should know better, they honestly believe every word they're saying.


However sane they may have been when they started, they've gone off the deep end and are now Believing Their Own Lies.

Double Think is an extreme example where the said liar does know better but keeps believing his own lies simply because he can. Sister Trope to A God Am I, where there is frequently overlap. The key difference is that this trope is less specific and doesn't have to be a claim of Godhood. This trope also applies only when the character should know perfectly well they aren't a god, but have convinced themselves otherwise. Characters suffering from this trope are also prone to a Self-Serving Memory.

See also Becoming the Mask, in which a character assumes a fake identity he ultimately wishes to keep; and the Amnesiac Liar, who gets fed their own lies after memory loss. A Straw Hypocrite, who manipulates others by feigning to follow a cause, may get taken in by their own rhetoric this way. Compare Conspiracy Theorists, who think their outrageous claims are true from the get-go. With a little Obfuscating Stupidity, one can pretend to believe for as long as this gives an advantage.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Mr. Satan of Dragon Ball Z is a comical example. With all the people cheering for him, he has a tendency to get swept up in the moment and actually believe he can take on the likes of Cell before he remembers that no, he really can't.
  • In the anime/manga of The Heroic Legend of Arslan, Rajendra dramatically broke down in tears at his father's funeral. The scene appeared to be a bit too melodramatic to be not planned but Narsus believed the prince's tears are genuine. Rajendra had played the role of a loving son for so long, he ended up believing it.
  • The manga-only arc Onisarashi-hen from Higurashi: When They Cry has Natsumi stating to the police that her mother killed her grandmother, then, after hiding the body, stabbed her father in the back of the neck for being incompetent and useless, then killing herself by slashing her throat open with a knife that she tried to kill Natsumi with. In chapter 7, we find out that it was Natsumi who committed all of the murders; she killed her grandmother, then got her parents to help hide her, stabbed her father in the front of his neck, and then killed her mother after she called for help when Akira called the house.
  • One Piece:
    • God Eneru had serious A God Am I issues. While knowing that, in the Sky Islands, "God" is merely a title for an island's leader, Eneru's Lightning-based Rumble-Rumble Fruit powers combined with the near-omnipotence granted by his enhanced mind-reading Mantra ability convinced him that he truly was divine.
    • Buggy the Clown breaking a bunch of prisoners out of their cells in order to facilitate his escape from Impel Down caused him to start being referred to as "The Great Buggy-sama". This hit a critical mass when it emerged that he once served on the Pirate King's ship, alongside one of the current Four Emperors. As a result, he started thinking he had a chance of taking Whitebeard's head. To put that in perspective, Buggy is on the low end of One Piece's Sorting Algorithm of Evil, and Whitebeard is called World's Strongest Man with zero exaggeration.
    • Charlotte Pudding is one of Big Mom's top agents and children. This child is a master actor and able to sway both men and women into loving and respecting them. However, while they seem to be just as manipulative and cruel as their other siblings, this child was born with a Third Eye and was viciously bullied by their own siblings and called a failure by Big Mom for not activating the hidden power the third eye holds. When Pudding tries to kill Sanji, whom she was set up as a Honey Trap for, and fails, Sanji asks her simply if she herself was one of the people she deceived into thinking she was evil. This, plus Sanji's genuine loving compliment of her eye, causes a breakdown implying that, yes, Pudding did lie to herself.
  • Pluto: Dr. Tenma expresses the belief that this trope is the ultimate proof that an AI has attained sentience; by developing the ability to not only defy the Three Laws by lying but lie so thoroughly that they genuinely believe it, their thought processes become indistinguishable from that of humans. Case in point, the seemingly-human Big Bad is actually a shapeshifting robot who, in order to carry out its mission, pretended it really was the human it posed as. He truly believes his lie, and when he’s forced to face the reality of what he is, he has a mental breakdown.
  • In School-Live!, in Yuki's mind, everything she sees looks like a normal day in school, that there is no Zombie Apocalypse and except for the members of the School Life Club, she only sees the rest of the students are fine and not zombies. This is actually a defense mechanism developed by Yuki to cope with the world she is living in now.
  • A villain of the week from the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga was a fake psychic (who physically made his prophecies of doom come true.) In the end, he's in a tight spot where only manifesting actual psychokinesis can save him, and he believes so hard he actually hallucinates that it's working.

    Comic Books 
  • In an Archie Comics story, Veronica tells Archie and Reggie that whoever scores the most baskets in the next school game gets to take her out that weekend. Reggie attempts to sabotage Archie by telling him that the best way to improve his basket-shooting is to criticize himself constantly and harshly while practicing. This goes Reggie's way until Coach Clayton sets Archie straight, telling him that he should do the opposite while practicing and build up his confidence. Archie indeed goes on to score the most baskets, leading Reggie to wonder whether there was something to his "advice" after all. The story ends with Reggie practicing while berating himself and surrounding himself with demotivational posters.
  • The Flash: This played a crucial role during the "The Return of Barry Allen" arc, and is explained in full after the man everyone thinks is the revived Barry turns out to be Professor Zoom. As it turns out, following his Laser-Guided Amnesia from the trauma of time-travel and seeing a museum exhibit depicting his own death at Flash's handsnote , he mentally convinced himself that he was Barry, and this helped him to successfully pass the probing of Hal Jordan's ring, which would otherwise have outed him as a fraud right away if he hadn't honestly believed it to be true.
  • The Joker sometimes believes his Multiple-Choice Past, Depending on the Writer of course. One issue of The Robin Series had him actually in tears as he told the psychiatrist of his abusive childhood, only for the psychiatrist to coldly point out that it's the seventh story he's told now.
  • Depending on the Writer, sometimes Lex Luthor actually believes that he is fighting to protect humanity from Superman. Other more minor villains, like (the most recent version of) Sam Lane, may believe the same.
  • In the Avatar: The Last Airbender comic Rebound, Mai's father sincerely seems to have deluded himself into believing Fire Lord Zuko abandoned his daughter and kicked her out when it's common knowledge that Mai is the one who left Zuko.
  • Judas Traveller from Spider-Man was a guy with apparently limitless Reality Warping powers who claimed to be a near-godlike immortal sorcerer. It eventually turned out he was a former psychologist with a psychic ability to make people believe things ... himself included.
  • A recurring theme in IDW's Transformers comics:
    • Onyx Prime was initially a brave warrior and crusader who could bring the rest of the Thirteen Primes down from their storytelling and blind idealism. Then Alpha Trion pointed out to him how stories could be used to inspire people; Onyx decided to try that out and began making up stories about himself, the other Thirteen, and their allies. At some point he started believing his own propaganda and devolved into a total egomaniac, partly leading to the first major war on Cybertron.
    • Alpha Trion later argues that all of the Thirteen did this and he has a good point. We're shown that Nexus Prime died because when Galvatron came to kill him, he responded by spouting nonsense about how "only a Prime can kill a Prime". It was blatantly untrue, but Nexus seemed to genuinely think he was immortal, not bothering to defend himself or flee at all. Galvatron killed him with one shot.
    • Most of the Functionist Council enforce their oppressive worldview mainly to keep themselves in power, but Six-Of-Twelve eventually started buying into his own hype. He not only spouts Functionist rhetoric far more often and seriously than his comrades, but he continually claims to get visions from Primus (we never learn whether he's really having them or is just delusional) and fuses a fake Matrix into his body, utterly convinced that it's the real deal when even a casual observer like Drift can tell it's just a replica.
  • Unknown Soldier from DC Comics, one of the versions. He is there when America liberates a Nazi concentration camp. He kind of snaps. Now he believes that whatever America does is right, no matter how horrible, because they once fought against the horrible Nazis.

    Fan Works 
  • Blackened Skies has Teruteru's insistence that he's 'the kind of pervert everyone likes' despite all evidence to the contrary, with his peers expressing disgust at his crude commentary and making quite clear that they'd really prefer that he give it a rest. Complicating matters is that his off-color jokes are actually a coping mechanism; part of the reason he keeps making lewd remarks is that the stresses of the killing game have worn down his filter, leading to him digging himself deeper even when he's honestly trying to dial it back. Which feeds back into his wanting to believe that the others enjoy his wisecracks, as the alternative — that all the anger and threats to make him stop are entirely real — is a little too painful for him to accept.
  • BURN THE WITCH presents Lila Rossi as having a chronic case of this. More specifically, she buys into her own hype, convinced that she's the ultimate Bitch in Sheep's Clothing and a master manipulator who'll never face any consequences for her actions... even after her deception is completely exposed, spawning an akuma who reveals her crimes to all of Paris. She also believes that she's fundamentally irreplaceable to Hawkmoth, and that he'd never let her come to any real harm... until he finally delivers a Breaking Speech about how he no longer requires her services.
  • Equestria: A History RevealedL The Lemony Narrator straight-up reveals at one point that she's been making up most of the history as she goes along. That doesn't stop her from continuing to write her version of history and being outraged all the same though.
  • RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse: The paranoid nation of Zaldia believe it's their extensive armory of anti-alicorn weapons that kept Luna from expanding Equestria's borders further than she did (it wasn't), and that constant watch must be kept, lest she and Cadence just march right in and take over (they won't). Trixie tries pointing out to two of their State Sec that this is insane, and just gets the retort that they "see the truth".
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness Act III: Kuyou declares with complete conviction that he used to protect those at Yokai Academy and tried to guide them. Of course, everyone at Yokai Academy knows that he's nothing but a super-powered bully and human-hating Knight Templar who abused his authority as head of the Student Police to make everyone at the school miserable.
  • Seventh Horcrux: A Running Gag is Harry coming up with obvious rumors or lies For the Evulz, but then repeating them so often that even he starts believing them. The biggest is probably Ron being a werewolf—initially, he just tosses in a line about Ron being mauled by a werewolf during an adventure in the woods to liven up the telling, but decades later, even he is shocked when it turns out Ron isn't actually a werewolf.

  • Walter, ultimately in Big Eyes. He insists he's an artist and continues to do so until his death, even after Margaret uncovers signatures on his paintings that prove they were really just mass-produced tourist souvenirs from France.
  • Marcy seems genuinely surprised by the rashes she finds on her back, shortly after assuring Paul that she was perfectly healthy in Cabin Fever. Even after seeing the rashes, she seems to convince herself that they are just marks left from when he grabbed her.
  • In Dead Man Walking Matthew Poncelet has convinced himself that he didn't rape a girl and then brutally murder her and her boyfriend. He holds firm to this claim for a large part of the film. However, towards the end when he is pleading against his sentence to the death penalty he breaks down and admits that he did, in fact, commit the crime. While this could be seen as him admitting what he already knew, it is far more likely that he purposely suppressed those memories and began to believe his own lies. Thankfully he redeems himself at the end.
  • The Informant!: The Reveal of the film is that the main character is a Compulsive Liar with an extraordinary talent for self-deception.
  • John Kramer, better known as Jigsaw, takes people he considers unworthy or unappreciative of life and puts them into death traps as a means of rehabilitating them. Despite all evidence to the contrary, he's not only convinced that his methods are effective, but that he's not really a Serial Killer because he's never intentionally tried to kill anyone. To him, people who die in his traps lacked a survival instinct. In fact, John is so adamantly against murder that when someone built their own trap to kill a criminal and framed him for it, John personally kidnapped him to lecture him on his methods and try to convince him that his are more effective. At his core, his intentions really are noble.
  • In The Silver Chalice, Simon the Magician (Jack Palance) is a conman who gets rich by faking miracles. He convinces Caesar that he is able to fly, but eventually comes to believe in his own magic, jumps off a tower, and plummets to his death.

  • The Olivia Goldsmith novel The Bestseller has Daniel and Judith writing a crime novel (Judith actually doing most of the work as she's a far better writer) but, to sell it properly, Daniel takes on the identity of "Jude Daniel", the sole author. The plan is to wait until the book is published to reveal the truth but Daniel is soon seduced, first by his editor, then by the New York publishing lifestyle, loving the acclaim of a supposed bestseller, the big advance paydays, and parties. This takes its toll on his marriage to a pregnant Judith and during a huge fight, Judith realizes Daniel honestly has convinced himself that he alone wrote the book, she contributed barely anything and he'll fight her in court. It's all moot as the book turns into a massive bomb, Daniel gets the blame and his standing in New York plummets as he's already blown through most of the advance money and quit his job. The novel ends with Judith ready to publish a sure hit while Daniel is left drifting in a bad teaching job.
  • O.J. Berman from Breakfast at Tiffany's mentions that Holly is such a phony person that she actually believes her own lies.
  • In the Kurt Vonnegut novel Cat's Cradle, Bokonon and Earl McCabe, rulers of the fictional West Indian country San Lorenzo, create a new religion, Bokononism, in order to improve their subjects' lives. To increase the new religion's appeal to the masses, McCabe outlaws its practice upon pain of death (while practicing it in secret), whereupon Bokonon "flees" into the jungle, a "wanted" man. Over time, however, the two men become so habituated to their respective roles in the charade that they go insane and become enemies for real.
  • This is a key plot-point in The Dagger and the Coin: the priests of the spider goddess have the magic power to make anyone who hears their voices believe whatever they say. This includes themselves. As a result, they become completely certain that they are invincible and can conquer the whole world. At the same time, once they are divided in multiple temples in multiple cities, each group starts to become completely certain of its own particular version of the faith, and just as certain that the other temples are all heretics. As such, their empire begins to come apart.
  • Everything, Everything: It turns out that Madeline isn't actually sick; her mother simply decided she was and had to be kept in her house at all times, despite having three other doctors tell her that it wasn't true. Once the truth comes out, Madeline's mother keeps right on insisting Madeline is ill, and it's apparent that on some level, she believes it, despite the ever-growing evidence to the contrary. It's implied that this is a result of both fearing losing Madeline, and not wanting to face the fact that she essentially stole eighteen years of her daughter's life for nothing.
  • In James P. Hogan's Giant's Star, the leaders of a race of Transplanted Humans has been concocting false reports of a dangerously warlike Earth, in order to get permission (from the alien civilization that transplanted them) to neutralize the threat. The protagonists counter this by hacking into the schemers' central computer and making it think that Earth actually was militarized and ready to kick their asses. This left the enemy leaders in a state of befuddlement that escalated into panic as the reprogrammed computer insisted that it had been reporting about the danger for years and didn't understand why no adequate defenses had been prepared.
  • A minor character, Mrs. Luxmore, in the Hercule Poirot novel Cards on the Table. This led to Major Despard being part of Mr. Shaitana's collection of uncaught murderers because she'd convinced herself he'd killed for her. To elaborate: Mr. Luxmore was a botanist who hired Major Despard as a guide to a jungle tour. During the trip, Mrs. Luxmore made advances on Despard, who did not reciprocate. Mr. Luxmore suffered from a bout of fever and fell into delirium one night. Major Despard followed with his rifle, intending to merely take down the raving Luxmore without hurting him. Mrs. Luxmore surprised him and believed he was about to kill the botanist for her, so she tackled Despard, changing his nonlethal shot into a killing one.
  • Discussed in Liar (2009):
    Yet that's not the worst danger of being a liar. Oh no. Much worse than discovery, than their sense of betrayal, is when you start to believe your own lies.
    When it all blurs together.
    You lose track of what's real and what's not. You start to feel as if you make the world with your words. Your lies get stranger and weirder and denser, get bigger than words, turn into worlds, become real.
    You feel powerful, invincible.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Gollum really believes that the ring was supposed to be his birthday gift. However, the ring is shown to corrupt every being who bears it, given a long enough time period. A major element of this corruption is that all it takes is close proximity to the ring to make a being eventually come to believe that they deserve to have it; that it is right and true and fair that they possess and wield it.
  • Because of their tendency to lose their old memories to The Fog of Ages, the Marra of The Madness Season who live for too long under a particular cover story eventually wind up believing it, to the point that they actually think that they are mortal and can die.
  • Double Think from 1984, without which the entire system would collapse: The ability to consciously lie and tell propaganda, yet at the same time believe every word of it.
  • The Moomins: The Whomper in "A Tale of Terror" from Tales From Moomin Valley is more Mr. Imagination, but the fact he convinces himself his stories are true and then repeats them as fact means he comes across as a liar. When his parents tell him it's wrong to lie, he is completely bewildered; he knows that.
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • A rare positive example in the Lightweavers. For these people, Believing Their Own Lies really can make those lies truth.
    • Edgedancer: Nalan, Herald of Justice, has managed to convince himself that the next Desolation is not coming, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, including things he sees with his own eyes. Subverted as it turns out he has mounting doubts and is desperate to convince himself that the Desolation isn't real. Unfortunately for him, the lies don't take as well as he would wish them to.
  • David Weber:
    • Honor Harrington:
      • Cordelia Ransom is the head of the Office of Public Information for the People's Republic of Haven. She is the one who manages the PRH's propaganda, and in In Enemy Hands Citizen Admiral Thomas Theisman is horrified to realize that she seems to genuinely believe every word she broadcasts. We see that her fellow heads of state are very concerned that Ransom believes her own propaganda.
      • The Masadans also believe things happened in a way that can't possibly be true, all so that they can hold their women in less than slavery and continue to pursue their goal of destroying Grayson.
      • The Solarian League Navy is the most powerful, technologically advanced and well-led navy in the known galaxy. Any defeats it has suffered are the result of treason and trickery and not at all any fault of the ships or officers of the SLN, and if you say differently you are obviously guilty of defeatism.
    • Safehold:
      • The "Archangels", especially Langhorne and Bédard. They set up a Path of Inspiration specifically to keep humanity from developing technology again, in violation of the original plans for their mission, in part to satisfy their own megalomania. Pei Kau-yung grew concerned that they had actually come to believe they were angels.
      • This is, and is lampshaded as, the single creepiest attribute of Grand Inquisitor Zhaspahr Clyntahn. No matter what he does, he can come up with a justification for why it's the best course of action for everyone, and not just for him personally. This justification often requires blatant disregard of facts he knows and doesn't know everyone else knows, and sometimes even facts he knows they know. He seems to have compartmentalized his mind to such a degree that he can think himself innocent even as he knows he's guilty. There's a scene in the third book where he and his fellows debate the proper course of action in response to a murder apparently committed by the protagonists. As the meeting goes on, the others slowly realize one by one that Clyntahn paid the assassins, just so the protagonists would be blamed, but at any intimation the others make of this, he's as indignant as if his conscience was spotless.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Austin & Ally: Played humorously in the episode "MyTABs and My Pet". As one of the gang's attempts to get rid of the line, Dez disguises himself as an employee at the store and claims that there is a hidden golden horseshoe in the mall with the reward to whoever finds it being a free MyTAB. However, Dez genuinely believes that he works at the store so he literally hides a golden horseshoe which cost the final MyTAB.
  • Vince Gilligan says that the writers of Breaking Bad consider self-deception to be Walter White's greatest talent.
    We always say in the writers’ room, if Walter White has a true superpower, it’s not his knowledge of chemistry or his intellect, it’s his ability to lie to himself. He is the world’s greatest liar. He could lie to the pope. He could lie to Mother Teresa. He certainly could lie to his family, and he can lie to himself, and he can make these lies stick. He can make himself believe, in the face of all contrary evidence, that he is still a good man.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Joffrey seems to truly think of himself as a magnificent and heroic king who single-handedly protected King's Landing from Evil Overlord Stannis Baratheon and triumphed over the Starks, constantly boasting of crushing his enemies even though his faction's success is entirely founded on the competence of his uncle and grandfather, and in spite of Joffrey being a Dirty Coward whose Ax-Crazy nature turned his opposition from conspiratorial whispering into outright war in the first place.
    • Making honest feelings do dishonest work is one of Cersei's many gifts. Oberyn and Tyrion even discuss this after Cersei brings up her daughter in a blatant attempt to gain sympathy and turn Oberyn against Tyrion; Oberyn notes that she might have even been sincere or started believing it while she was lying.
  • This is a possible interpretation of Sue Sylvester from Glee, seeing as how she keeps up the crazy claims even in her own diary.
  • Oliver, the main character of Green Acres, is probably doing this to try to hold on to his sanity: He keeps insisting that anyone who claims that they can understand a pig is crazy, yet he clearly understands Arnold the Pig just as much as everyone else. Very often, he will catch himself answering the pig and stop mid-sentence, then say something along the lines of, "Why would anyone think they can talk to a pig?"
  • When Kamen Rider Double's Detective Jinno was a beat cop, he had the effect of inducing this in others by being so gullible that the delinquents lying to him to get out of trouble would end up Believing Their Own Lies. After repeatedly distracting Jinno with claims of a UFO, a young Shoutarou eventually ended up searching for UFOs with him. And when a girl in a group of teenage vigilantes lying about having given up fighting, but having to do so to save her friends. Jinno believed her so wholeheartedly that she genuinely did give up fighting after that.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit:
    • "Charisma" deals with a cult leader, Eugene Hoff, that believes himself to be the Biblical Abraham. The detectives find out he is a con artist that was arrested numerous times for fraud, identity theft, and other things, tried to create his own church just so that he could evade taxes and impregnated a little girl just to get access to her inheritance. Even with all these things in mind, he is shown to be deluded enough to believe the things he says to the point he declares himself bigger than God in the climax.
    • Another villain is an over-controlling mother who abandoned her oldest son and told her other boys that he was killed in the foster system. When said son walks in very much alive, she goes into an epic Freak Out while repeatedly claiming that her son is dead. It is, however, ambiguous as to whether she had come to believe her own lies or if she was just pissed that her fiction was unravelling.
  • On The Listener, the team is interrogating an expert con artist. Toby does his mind-reading on her but is thrown to find she's "remembering" a conversation she had with a mark that the team knows for a fact never happened. Toby realizes that the reason the woman is so good at cons is that she's able to convince herself this stuff really happened to the point she creates an entire memory for it.
  • Midsomer Murders has two guys running a spiritual center for years, only for one of them (the guru) to start believing in all his New Age-inspired nonsense, to the chagrin of his partner who wants to lead a different life.
  • One episode of NUMB3RS had a mob killer who wanted to make a confession, but while he passed the polygraph and even an MRI scan, the confession didn't match the facts. It turned out he'd been so horrified by the crime (which he hadn't even been able to commit) that he'd combined it in his head with a much cleaner kill from a different occasion, and genuinely believed that was what happened.
  • On Seinfeld, Jerry has to beat a lie-detector test and goes to the biggest Consummate Liar he knows for help: George, who gives him the advice "It's not a lie if you believe it".
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • The Goa'uld are such Large Hams that it's impossible to believe they don't actually think they're gods. Ba'al and Anubis stand out, and have the advantage, by being smart enough to remember they're not really gods. And even Anubis sometimes falls victim to this trope... and given that his half-ascended nature makes him more "god-like" than the rest, that shouldn't come as a surprise. Ba'al, however, doesn't even keep up the pretense of being a god when he's among characters who know the truth.
    • An early episode, "The First Commandment", featured the commander of a SGC team who fell into this trap himself and had to be put down by SG-1. In this case, though, the man had also likely gone insane from over-exposure to the planet's incredibly harsh UV radiation.
    • The Ori, being fully ascended beings who can enhance their already-immense power through prayer, likewise believe themselves to be gods. The problem is, they pretty much are (what with the immortality, non-corporeality, and nigh-omniscience and omnipotence), raising the issue of exactly what defines a "god" if the Ori don't qualify. The good guys don't ever really come up with a fully satisfactory answer, but they do sway a few of the Ori's followers by demonstrating that while the Ori have the power of gods, they certainly don't behave like the loving and benevolent overlords they claim to be.
  • The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "A Matter of Perspective" is told in "Rashomon"-Style. Riker is accused of murdering a scientist and attempting to assault his wife, and a holodeck simulation is rigged up for each of the witnesses. These scenes all drastically contradict each other (especially the part where the deceased scientist's wife accuses Riker of trying to rape her while Riker claims that he resisted her advances) but Deanna, the Enterprise counselor (and conveniently, also an empath), says that each person believes their story to be true so far as they remember it.
    • In "Skin Of Evil", Captain Picard says this of Armus when he's been stranded on a planet for so long because its former residents didn't want to have anything to do with him, having shed themselves of him (quite literally).
  • The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Valiant" had Jake Sisko and Nog meet up with the crew of the Defiant-class U.S.S. Valiant... or rather, the Starfleet Academy ace group Red Squad who have been on their own since the officers who were supervising them were killed in battle. The "captain", Tim Watters, believes that it is their destiny to make their mark on the Dominion War and seek to do so by attacking a prototype Jem'Hadar battleship and the crew follow along, believing him. This is despite the fact that they're just a group of cadets that had their training cruise interrupted by the start of the Dominion War and some of them would rather just go home. The attack fails; the Valiant is destroyed and Jake, Nog, and CPO Collins are the sole survivors.
  • The 1989 mini-series Twist of Fate has SS Colonel Helmut von Schrader on the run after taking part in a failed attempt to kill Hitler. In desperation, he has himself surgically altered and hides as Jewish prisoner Benjamin Grossman. Circumstances cause Grossman to eventually become a well-known hero in Israel and marrying a Jewish woman. 25 years after the war, a couple of his former SS buddies track him down in Argentina. They mention that Grossman's son, Danny, is doing a documentary that "perpetuates the Jewish Holocaust hoax." Grossman's face makes it clear he can't believe what's crazier: That the former Nazis are claiming the Holocaust never happened to each other; or that they're saying this to a man who was not only a prisoner of such a camp but helped run one himself.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted: Desus honestly believes his own Villain with Good Publicity reputation, because he's affected by the same mind-manipulating magic that forces everyone else to rationalize his horrible actions away.
  • Forgotten RealmsL Cyric, the God of Lies, guided a mortal author to write a book called the Cyrinishad which would make anyone who read it or hears it read aloud believe that Cyric was the greatest of all gods. He then read it himself, and fell victim to its enchantments, bringing his megalomania to new heights. For a time, he saw his enemies as too "insignificant" to care and even got Madness in his portfolio. Later it was discovered that the only way to get rid of this for a deity involves a drop in Divine Ranks.
  • Genius: The Transgression: The Phenomenologists can spend Mania to immediately achieve an Exceptional Success on any Subterfuge roll. This is because they literally never think they're lying — they always believe exactly what they're saying. And when they change their mind, they'll believe the new thought just as strongly.
  • In Nomine: The Balseraph demons essentially have this as the core aspect of their character. As fallen Angels of Truth, they become Demons of Deception, capable of weaving lies that others end up believing without question. But to do this, a Balseraph must first convince himself of the lie, warping his own personal truth to reflect the lie. For example, a Balseraph trying to convince a bar bouncer that he's a VIP must first convince himself that, "Yes, I'm a VIP, and I've been at this club dozens of times. Why isn't that bouncer letting me in already?"
  • Rifts: The Coalition States High Command likes to blame all the ills in the world on magic and non-humans. In the beginning, it was just a convenient Scapegoat Emperor Prosek and his advisers used in order to grab more power. However, they've been telling their people the Big Lie for so long that they now believe it themselves.
  • World Tree RPG: Bonstables are pathological liars and deceivers, but never say anything that they truly think is false. Rather, they constantly delude themselves into thinking that whatever ruse they're keeping up is the actual truth — when they take the shape of a Prime species, for instance, they convince themselves that they are actually a member of that species for all purposes — and when they inevitably change their minds and start another deception rationalize things to believe themselves to have always been correct and honest at any given time. This makes them very difficult to discover, since mind-reading magic can't generally penetrate their delusions and and lie detection reads them as perfectly honest and forthright.

    Video Games 
  • Asura's Wrath: The game's plot is kicked off with the other members of the Eight Guardian Generals assassinating Emperor Strada and framing Asura for it. Throughout the rest of the game, the Guardian Generals, now the Seven Deities, repeatedly call Asura a traitor without irony, indicating that they themselves have come to believe that Asura really did assassinate the Emperor over the millennia.
  • Zachary Comstock in Bioshock Infinite first used Rosalind Lutece's invention to look into alternate realities and predict the future so as to set himself up as God's prophet. Somewhere along the way, he began to buy into his own act. Besides the quote below, though, it's telling that even after it's revealed that his prophetic abilities are mostly derived from the Luteces' machine, he still refers to his visions as having come from an "Archangel".
    Rosalind Lutece: When I met Comstock, he was little more than a preacher, able to move both members of the flock or members of Congress with equal dexterity. He believed in my work, and his influence bought the funds I so needed. And if he wanted to use Tears to play prophet, that was his prerogative. But at some point, the man became incapable of distinguishing his performance from his person.
    • Taken Up to Eleven in the "Burial at Sea" DLC set in Rapture, where that dimension's Booker is revealed to be not a Booker after all, but a Comstock who, upon abducting baby Anna/Elizabeth as Comstocks tend to do, accidentally ended up killing her (instead of the Tear chopping off her finger like it usually does, it chopped off her head instead). He felt such immense guilt over this that he fled to another dimension's Rapture and regressed back into Booker in order to escape it. The deception was so thorough that he came to truly believe that he was always that world's Booker. As Rosalind Lutece puts it, Comstock was never one to own up to his own errors.
  • The demon lord Belial from the Diablo franchise is implied to be a victim of this. As the Lord of Lies, Belial's shtick is that he's a master of deception and manipulation, and is also known for his extreme arrogance in spite of being a Lesser Evil (in contrast to the 3 Prime Evils, a triumvirate of Demon Lords who rule over Hell). Some of the lore surrounding Belial suggests that he may have told himself he was the most powerful demon in existence one too many times and deceived himself into believing it.
  • Fallout:
    • Morpheus from Fallout is an agent of the Master who was appointed to run a Scam Religion known as the Children of the Cathedral. He was nothing but a former gang leader who was found suitable for the task, but he seems to have started buying his own schtick and genuinely sees himself as a vital part of the Master's plans. The Lieutenant remarks on this:
      "It's quite amusing. He thinks he's so much more than just a slug the Master recruited to head his Children of the Cathedral nonsense. Ah, well. He, too, will be dipped in the Vats and he'll probably die a horrible death... I hope."
    • Caesar from Fallout: New Vegas seems perfectly upfront with you that he's not a godlike messiah-emperor like the Legion believes and that he's just using that to control them for the greater good... but the grandiose ways he constantly talks about himself, his total refusal to acknowledge the opinions of others, and the horrific temper tantrum he throws if you disrespect him shows that he's really an egomaniacal Control Freak who's drinking his own Kool-Aid.
    • The Institute from Fallout 4 are especially bad about this. As the game goes on, it's obvious they're a bunch of incompetent mad scientists who have little real justification for what they're doing, but to the very end, they continue to insist that they're the good guys helping the Commonwealth and ensuring humanity's future. Their methods involve bizarre and destructive experiments like making Super Mutants, creating and abusing robot slaves, and doing everything in their power to undermine regional governments in the Commonwealth. If you call Father/Shaun out on all the awful, counterproductive things the Institute does, Father barely even acknowledges your criticisms; he just babbles on about how important the Institute is to everyone's survival. Tellingly, you can get all the other major factions to make peace with each other, but you can't ever get the Institute to do so because they refuse to even consider the idea that anyone else in the wasteland is doing something useful.
  • Sam briefly discusses this in Far Cry 3, after Jason sneaks into a privateer recruiting station and kills one of the recruits to steal his uniform. When Jason asks how "Foster" the privateer should act, Sam reminds him to "be gullible" and that Jason must believe the lie that he is Foster to get other people to believe it. Befitting one of the game's main themes, Jason soon starts believing it a little too much.
  • Hollow Knight: Zote the Mighty is a powerful warrior feared far and wide — that's what he says, despite getting beaten enough to prove he's more of a Damsel Scrappy. Despite being very wrong, he seems thoroughly deluded about his nonexistent prowess.
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us: After the Joker nukes Metropolis and uses the Scarecrow's fear gas to trick Regime Superman into killing Lois Lane, Regime Superman kills him with his bare hands and subsequently convinces himself that it was "one death to save millions of lives." Of course, anyone who saw it can tell right away that he was motivated by vengeance, not justice.
    • Then there is later in the game where he is planning to destroy several cities because they are starting to rebel against his totalitarian rule. He believes they reject his safety and are ungrateful so they don't deserve to live.
    • Supergirl herself calls Regime Superman out on this in Injustice 2:
      Supergirl: Diana said the Joker was executed. Were you the one who...?
      Regime Superman: I took one life to save millions.
      Supergirl: But it wasn't just one, Kal, was it? How many? How many?! Everywhere I go, people are afraid of this... Now I know why.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Referenced in the credits song for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. There's a part of the lyrics which states "Even men with the greatest intentions can end up believing their own lies." This illustrates a common theme in the context of the story where multiple characters are well-intentioned extremists who want to change the world through very drastic measures, including even the main protagonist Raiden who uses extreme violence to punish organizations, harshly and permanently, that he views to be evil. The dissonance comes from Raiden viewing himself to be an enforcer of justice while using arguably evil methods to reach those goals; how can a man claiming to uphold justice feel like a good person knee-deep in bodies?
    • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain: Huey seems to have deluded himself into believing that he really didn't know that the "nuclear inspection" he arranged for MSF during Ground Zeroes was actually a Trojan Horse operation run by XOF. Taken to ludicrous extremes when he continues to adamantly insist that Strangelove was Driven to Suicide even in the face of solid evidence that he locked her up in the Peace Walker A.I. pod to suffocate. Ocelot even lampshades this on a cassette tape, remarking that the hardest man to break is "the kind that's fooling himself."
  • Captain Martin Walker in Spec Ops: The Line believes his own lies regarding his bombing of a civilian camp with white phosphorus, because he cannot accept what he has done.
  • Sydney in Vagrant Story accuses Ashley Riot of this, claiming that Ashley murdered an innocent woman and her child in the course of his duties as a soldier, and was so ashamed of what he'd done that he re-imagined the incident as a family picnic with the woman as his wife, the child his son, and the murder being carried out by some random thugs. it's left ambiguous as to which of the two versions is correct.
  • In the online game, War Of Legends, most of the Paladins honestly believe they are gods and that the game couldn't have been even thought of without them. Adding to the fact, they believe they won battles they clearly lost and make up excuses to avoid having to claim defeat while not letting others use the exact same excuses.

    Visual Novels 
  • Celestia Ludenberg in Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, also known as 'Queen of Liars' and 'Ultimate Gambler', is capable of lying in a way that she could even believe own lies. Or so she claims. However, based on her free time events, we could probably guess that she probably also LIED on her identity and history, which are based on highly daring and impossible events you can only find in fictions, and her real name was a much more common 'Taeko Yasuhiro'. She got so over in her lies that she believed that she really is born as 'Celestia Ludenberg'.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Raven Branwen seems to have a tendency to try and justify her actions to herself using the same logic she uses to justify it to others, despite any misgivings she has. For example, Lionheart asks her who she's trying to convince when she's telling him that there's no shame or fear in working with Salem because she knows Salem can't be defeated. When Yang confronts her at the Vault about killing the previous Spring Maiden, she seems to be trying to convince herself it was truly a Mercy Kill as much as she is trying to convince Yang.

  • Immortals in El Goonish Shive are bound by their word. If they make a vow and knowingly break it, they're plagued by constant mental reminders of their oathbreaking until it's rectified. Loophole Abuse is one way around this, but only if the Immortal himself sincerely believes the loophole is not breaking their word. When an Immortal declares that the best thing he can do in the name of his vow to one of the protagonists is absolutely nothing, he waits to see if there's any effect before being glad he believes his own hype.
  • In Katamari, Ace is completely convinced that the Prince is a prideful, selfish Attention Whore who'll do whatever it takes to come out on top. In other words, he thinks the Prince is just like him.
  • In one of the Las Lindas side-stories, a young tribal girl tries to set up an outsider as a god so that she can leave her island. And then the gophers that Minos threw with his super-strength start falling from the sky. She ends up getting a job at Las Lindas a few months later to follow Idward.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • This was one of the critical flaws of Miko Miyazaki. She was fundamentally incapable of seeing herself in the wrong, and would frequently convince herself of whatever she had to in order to keep it that way even after the gods themselves strip her of all of her powers as a paladin in response to her killing of Lord Shojo.
    • Additionally, Ian Starshine (Haley's father) raised his little girl in a Wretched Hive and taught her to lie at every opportunity whenever asked about herself. He's so paranoid he's incapable of taking people at their word and will invent elaborate scenarios which justify his ridiculous position and seems to totally believe them.
  • In the furry comic, Tina's Story, Tina's stepfather, Stan, confesses to her that He is her biological father. The story Tina had been told her whole life - that her mother had been raped by a human - was a lie they told to cover the fact that Missy, Tina's mother, was underage when she became pregnant. Missy eventually started accepting that lie as truth and developed a deep hatred of humans as a result. Stan confesses this because Tina is engaged to and pregnant by a human male, and Stan didn't want that lie hanging over Tina's marriage or her children's lives.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: Martin, Finn's biological father, puts up a front of being a friendly and adventurous hero like Finn, but is actually a self-absorbed deadbeat and Con Man who will gladly abandon people to terrible fates if he thinks they're not worth the trouble of saving. Yet he seems to genuinely believe in his own cover identity as a hero, claiming to be a good guy even when directly confronted with evidence to the contrary and seeing good fortune as a personal reward from the gods for his bravery.
  • Master Shake of Aqua Teen Hunger Force is a Compulsive Liar and also has a loose grip on reality. Often he'll make up lies for his own benefit, then start acting as if they were true. In "Bus of the Undead", he completely makes up a story about how the school bus parked outside the Aqua Teen's house is "a reverse vampire" and "possessed by the ghost of Dracula," because he was watching Assisted Living Dracula at the time. Despite the fact that this is entirely his own invention, he proceeds to operate throughout the rest of the episode as if everything he made up was real, to the point where he runs screaming back into the house after a failed attempt to "drive this stake deep into the heart of the crankcase of the vampire bus."
  • BoJack Horseman: A psychologist could have a field day with Mr. Peanutbutter on this one.
    • He believes himself to be The Ace whose natural talent, charisma and good attitude earns him numerous gigs and scores in his business. Not only is he a complete covert cad with no idea of how to handle his PB Livin’ brand beyond obtaining rights for meaningless projects, funding asinine ideas and spending money without earning revenue; his idiocy and tactless behavior is what keeps him getting acting jobs since it’s fused with his fun-loving, clean side.
    • He picks up women who he thinks are just as free-thinking and cheerful as he is......ignoring the fact they’re way younger than him, making him a borderline Dirty Old Man, and his immaturity compared to them makes him the odd dog out when they outgrow and leave him. Furthermore, his assumption he just dates women with these features leaves him ignorant of his subconscious superficial nature by being unwilling to date someone his age.
    • He thinks he and BoJack are friends and he respects him very much. While this is just self-denial (BoJack is not subtle in his contempt), it speaks volumes of his self-delusion that he’s kept this belief for more than 20 years, and is genuinely hurt that BoJack isn't familiar with the show that made him famous. ("It's like you didn't even watch my show.")
    • He thinks believing in yourself and having a good disposition is all that's needed to be successful at life. Partly, yes, but this is only because that’s what has worked for him in a town like Hollywoo and he believes it's the same for everyone.
    • He insists he's a good boss even though he's willing to ignore their desires and needs if it inconveniences him.
    • In a more specific instance, in Season 1 he stole credit from BoJack for the Hollywoo Heist. By the next episode he seemed to genuinely believe he did it.
    • In Season 6, he becomes "the face of depression" across America when he claims to have depression after a public "incident" where Mr. Peanutbutter was supposedly Driven to Suicide. Though that was because Princess Carolyn pushed him in front of a moving car, which was going maybe five miles per hour. In any case, the driver saw Mr. Peanutbutter in plenty of time, and stopped before their car even touched him. After going on a long tour for depression, Mr. Peanutbutter seems to genuinely believe he's depressed, and that his happiness is just a mask. And it sort of is already, but not the way he thinks it is.
  • Trevor Belmont from Castlevania (2017) comes to this conclusion regarding the bishop of Gresit, who genuinely thinks getting rid of the Speakers will make Dracula's forces go away. Said bishop is the one responsible for the entire situation as he accused Dracula's human wife of being a witch and burned her at the stake.
  • Played for Laughs in the DuckTales (2017) episode "Whatever Happened to Donald Duck?!": Webby, trying to bluff her way into an office, creates a complicated backstory involving an attempt to save a summer camp, and one half of a locket. At a couple of points, she makes comments to Dewey that imply she now believes both the summer camp and the missing half of the locket are real.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy's Big Picture Show: While Eddy's older brother is in fact a sadistic bully who relentlessly tormented him, it's implied Eddy has been lying about what a Cool Big Bro he supposedly was for so long that he's actually convinced himself of it. It would certainly explain why he was so eager to find his brother's place to protect him from the other cul-de-sac kids that he seemingly never considered the possibility that his brother would simply beat him up instead.
  • In the Futurama episode "Fear of a Bot Planet", it has been so long since the Robot Elders actually encountered a human that they can no longer distinguish between actual facts about humans and the absurd anti-human propaganda they've made up to draw attention away from the planet's real problems (including the Elders' self-admitted incompetence). Fry and Leela use this to their advantage to terrify them with outrageous threats and escape.
    Robot Elder: Can they really breathe fire, or did we make that up?
    Robot Elder 2: Gee, I can't remember anymore. Though it might just be from that stupid movie.
  • Invader Zim has the titular Irken invader frequently fall into this, as his Small Name, Big Ego means that whenever something goes awry, he'll come up with some sort of excuse about how things are still going according to plan. And nine times out of ten, he'll end up forgetting that he was lying through his teeth and believe that he's just that brilliant.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Starlight Glimmer preached the idea that one didn't need their Cutie Mark to be happy. When she was exposed as a hypocrite, she still maintained her beliefs. The Freudian Excuse revealed at the end of Season Five would show why she had more than proper reasoning to believe this.
  • The Powerpuff Girls episode "Cootie Gras" had Mojo learning that the girls fear cooties and using their slovenly classmate Harry Pitts to scare them off so he can take over Townsville. The only problem is he starts to genuinely believe the cooties are real and uses the kid in a trap to defeat the girls. All it does it get them to realize the truth. The girls leave Harry Covered in Kisses and fly off to defeat Mojo.
  • Angelica of Rugrats usually torments the younger babies by lying to them about some mundane thing to make it seem terrifying. Correspondingly, her comeuppance often involves circumstances making her think she was right:
    • "Rhinoceritis!": After tricking Chuckie into thinking a disease she made up is turning him into a rhino, a horn-shaped bump on her head, along with gray-colored scabs on her legs, leads her to think that she has contracted "rhinoceritis".
    • "Chicken Pops": After all the babies come down with chickenpox, Angelica convinces them that they'll all turn into actual chickens. By the end of the episode, she herself has contracted the pox, and when an egg falls into her car seat, she freaks out and believes that she's turning into a chicken herself.
    • In the episode aptly titled "The Sky is Falling" She tried to convince the babies that the sky is falling, and ends up believing it herself after a stray tennis ball falls on her head.
    • "Hand Me Downs": Stu and Didi give Tommy's old toys to Dil, and Angelica tells Tommy that once his parents give all of his old stuff to Dil, he'll disappear. In the end, Susie explains that a person doesn't disappear from giving away hand-me-downs. Angelica expresses her thankfulness on being an only child, and thus gets to keep all of her stuff. But then Drew comes by and tells her that he and Charlotte have decided to give all of her old stuff to Tommy. This causes Angelica to scream in fear that she'll disappear once her parents give all of her old stuff to Tommy.
    • "Down the Drain": After an incident where Tommy accidentally loses one of his toys down the drain, Angelica scares Tommy and Chuckie by saying they could suffer the same fate. Throughout the episode, they try to find ways to get out of it, which includes flushing anything bath time related down the toilet. Ironically, she accidentally flushes her own doll, Cynthia, down the toilet. The plumber recovers it, but the doll is ruined.
      Angelica: It's true! It's true! You can get sucked down the drain!
    • In "Family Reunion", Angelica tells Tommy that at family reunions, the parents trade kids and don't trade them again until the next reunion. Later, one of the Pickles' relatives at the reunion tells Angelica "I'm gonna take you home with me!", resulting in Angelica thinking this to actually be true. She even lampshades this later on.
      Angelica: I thought I was making it up...
  • South Park:
    • An episode involves Jimmy coming up with a gay fish joke. Cartman was lying on the couch the entire time and at first, he claims both he and Jimmy made it up together. Eventually, he starts claiming he was the only one who wrote the joke while Jimmy was the one on the couch, and each time the story is told, he adds an increasingly outlandish event to it. It turns out he really does believe his own lies.
    • In "Jewpacabra", Cartman spreads vicious rumors about a Hebrew-based monster attacking at Easter. Somewhere along the way, Cartman starts to believe his own story, hiding in fear of being attacked.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: The episode "I'm With Stupid" has SpongeBob and Patrick come up with a plan to make Patrick's parents believe that SpongeBob is a complete idiot so that Patrick will look smarter by comparison. Unfortunately, Patrick takes it too seriously and soon ends up believing that he truly is a genius and SpongeBob really is dumb.
  • In an episode of Sonic Boom, Knuckles starts bragging that he defeated Eggman by himself, won over the girls, and was elected governor while Sonic cowardly ran away. When everyone points out that's not how it happened, he brushes them off and starts thinking up his acceptance speech as governor.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): Shredder's Never My Fault personality is due to the fact that he truly believes he has done nothing wrong and everything that happened to him (and Karai) is Splinter's fault and not his own. Taken to ludicrous extremes in "The Super Shredder," where he rants at Splinter for supposedly turning Karai against him and brainwashing her, which is exactly what Shredder has done her entire life, and in a more literal sense with brain worms a season before. He goes so far as to swear that he saw Splinter kill Tang Shen with his own eyes.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Believing Your Own Lies


I'm With Stupid

Patrick starts forgetting SpongeBob's plan to pretend he's dumb to impress his parents and begins believing he actually is dumb.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / BelievingTheirOwnLies

Media sources:

Main / BelievingTheirOwnLies