A religious man said to a whore, ‘You’re drunk,
caught every moment in a different snare.’
She replied, ‘Oh Shaikh, I am what you say,
are you what you seem?’
~Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám
Almost everyone is pretending to be someone else. Almost everyone is wearing a persona to hide his or her true thoughts and feelings from others.
From the time we were young children we have been taught that we are not enough as we are. People would not accept us the way we are. They wanted us to think, look and behave in different ways than we did. And since it is natural for humans to desire social relationships, most of us chose to compromise, afraid that we would otherwise be left alone and experience helplessness.
So we had to find ways to convince those around us that we are worth their friendship. We had to act in certain ways to please others: our parents, our teachers, our friends, our colleagues, and just about everyone we knew. In other words, we had to pretend.
By and by we learned to cover ourselves well under the veil of pretense. Now, as adults, we always have a dozen of masks ready at hand, so that we can easily choose which one to wear, according to the situation we find ourselves in.
Many of us have been so great hypocrites that we’ve even convinced ourselves of our lies. Trying to please others for such a long time, we have forgotten who we are and what is truly important to us. We have forgotten how to express ourselves, be spontaneous, and do what we truly enjoy doing.
Think about your life: are your relationships genuine? Do you feel confident? Do you feel you secure? Are you relaxed? For most people, the answer to all these questions is bound to be ‘no.”
If you are used to pretending, then this is a clear sign that there is something wrong with the way you live. Behind every mask lies a deep-rooted fear: the fear to express yourself and reveal to others who you truly are.
We pretend because deep down we feel empty and lonely. We pretend because we don’t feel enough as we are. Many of us even wish we were different persons because we have not yet learned to accept and appreciate ourselves.
But when even you don’t appreciate yourself, how can you expect others to appreciate you?
Although the main reason why we pretend is to build social relationships, in reality pretending makes us even more alienated. When we pretend, our relationships can’t be genuine–they are shallow and empty. There cannot be any sincere communication between people in relationships built around pretense. By pretending to be someone else, others cannot reach your soul, they cannot understand you. Hence, all intimacy is lost.
We have been trying to cover our needs with substitutes that don’t leave us fulfilled. In fact, so much of our energy is used up in this play of pretense that we feel drained and exhausted. Imagine putting all this energy into cultivating ourselves, into creating something better of our being, into searching for inner fulfillment. Imagine dropping our pretenses to build honest healthy relationships. Wouldn’t life be totally different?
Ways to Reveal Your True Self
So how to stop pretending? To do so is not an easy thing. In fact, it is perhaps the most difficult thing one can do. We have been so used to pretending that our whole life is based on it. Hence to stop pretending would shake our life from its very foundations, and only few people are courageous enough to do that. If you are one of those rare individuals, here is a practical guide on how to stop pretending and start revealing your true self to yourself and the world:
- Learn to say “no.” To say “yes” is not a bad thing, but to say “yes” when your heart feels like saying “no” is certainly not a good thing. Never be afraid to express your true thoughts and feelings, even if they oppose those of others. Stop trying to please others if you don’t feel like it (Remember: helping is one thing, sacrificing yourself is another).
- Don’t imitate. Everyone is different so everyone should live his or her own way. To copy another’s way of life simply means to suppress yourself. So create your own path and walk on it.
- Speak the truth. Be honest first with yourself and then with those you come in contact. To lie means to constantly experience anxiety because each lie must be covered up by another lie, and so on ad infinitum. Being honest is the best way to be at peace with yourself and others.
- Dare to be alone. It is better to be alone and yet true to yourself and confident for who you are, than to be in the company of others by lying out of fear. Only once you have overridden the fear of being alone, will you be able to let go of the need for social approval. This, in turn, will allow you to build genuine relationships.
- Do what you love. No matter what others expect from you, don’t compromise your way of life. Whatever you enjoy doing, keep on doing, whether others like it or not. This will keep you tuned into your inner voice.
‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.’ ~Oscar Wilde