How the mainstream culture of pretending makes our humanity suffer


Pretending in our modern society is so banalised that we consider it to be normal to a large extent. You get to know someone you like? You rather pretend to show off your best side. Your new job isn’t exactly what you expected? You better pretend you love it. Your recent vacation? Better post a few pictures on Instagram to show everyone you really had the time of your life. Everyone does it, no? So why not me?

Why do we pretend?

We pretend to reassure ourselves of our own value and to show others that we are likeable people. What does this mean? Pretending gives us a sense of belonging in a society where we feel that everyone does and therefore we have to make sure our achievements are shared with the largest number. On a more subtle basis, if we feel that we have to pretend to be valued, it means that we believe that we are not loveable enough if we just appear as we really are. In this sense, we pretend because we feel that it makes us loveable as human beings, but in reality, what really happens is that pretending creates emotional separation and pain. And here’s why:

Pretending has the exact opposite effect of what it is supposed to achieve

The problem with pretending is that it maintains an illusion about ourselves and the world we live in. Pretending is the exact opposite of simply assuming who we are, with all our qualities and imperfections. It creates the collective belief that we are best or that our actions are only worth being mentioned and shared with the world when we are not really ourselves, when we only show off in overemphasising one of our qualities or life situations.

However, what about the everyday life reality which is often much less glorious? Yes, we’d better hide that part, because there is nothing special about it. But isn’t that an integral part of who we really are, including our doubts, fears, errors and misbehavings? Are we really supposed to hide this?

Links with others are created by sharing our true selves

Here is the thing: I profoundly believe that we can relate to others on a much deeper level by sharing not so much our achievements and qualities, but mostly our fears, doubts and struggles. Pretending does not create connection between people, because on a more subtle human basis, deep down we know it’s fake and superficial. It does not inspire trust. However, human connection is based on a single thing – trust.

Pretending creates emotional separation and violence. It generates emotional detachment from ourselves and other people. When we are constantly thinking of how to adapt and how to present ourselves in a distorted way within a given context, we lose foot with who we really are. It generates an implicit pressure where one has to outperform and always show one’s best side to be valued and accepted. This is a major form of violence we inflict on ourselves and others. It is a vicious dynamic. It creates division instead of bringing people together. So what solution is there?

Emotional bonding is the solution

Emotional bonding consists in connection with ourselves and others. It happens when we stop pretending and simply reveal ourselves to others with our strengths and weaknesses. It also implies simply accepting that our life isn’t always a glorious Hollywood movie and not having to pretend it is because we feel bad that it isn’t. In reality, it can’t be and doesn’t have to be. It means sharing our doubts and fears with other people and therefore relating on a deeper level with the people that are closest to us. It means embracing our whole self and using this deeper knowledge to try to give up the temptation of constant pretention. This is the path we can choose for connection and a better relationship with ourselves and others. Are we ready to live up to it?


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