The word “pretending” is paradoxical. A person who pretends to be someone else in order to hijack a bank account is fraudulent. A person pretending to be someone else in order to play a role in a movie or play is a highly esteemed, admired actor.
At some stages of our own lives we have pretense to camouflage ourselves, to engage in childhood play, or to imagine changing a personal situation. Some behaviorists say that pretending you are in a good mood will often lead to you actually being in a good mood.
I came across a quip on social media yesterday from writer/producer Diablo Cody that hit the spot. “There’s something magical about spending a Sunday night watching real people at a deli, then watching fake people pretending to be real on teevee, then engaging in (arguably) false interaction with (arguably) real people on the Internet. Never at any prior point in time has this been possible.”
It’s incredible that humans can do and be so many things through the act of pretending. There are politicians who pretend to stand up for the “little guy” but are actually in office to enrich themselves. Too often, gay people pretend to be straight in order in order to get social acceptance. How often do we hear about straight people pretending to be gay in order to be more socially acceptable? Then there are people we meet who pretend to be our friends but we later discover their intention is to betray us for some unsavory purpose.
Dr. Wayne Dyer, the self-help guru, confesses to having telephoned book stores, using different accents and intonations, pretending to be customers in order to increase orders for his first book. This rubs me the wrong way because it strikes me as unethical behavior. It makes me question the general validity of his advice.
Meantime, somebody who wants to present a persuasive speech is well-advised to “dress the part” and believe in your own abilities even if you are not yet fully confident in them. You pretend to speak in front of a crowd by practicing in front of a mirror. This works through the same principle as pretending to be happy causing us to be happy. There is nothing unethical about this.
Have you noticed that the people we most enjoy spending time with are the folks who are not pretentious but are openly themselves? They save the pretending for Halloween costume parties and games of charades. Each of us has only one life to live–why squander it by pretending to be someone else?
Life is complicated. Sometimes it pays to pretend, but usually, honesty is the best policy.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes entertainer David Letterman. “There’s only one requirement of any of us, and that is to be courageous. Because courage, as you might know, defines all other human behavior. And, I believe–because I’ve done a little of this myself–pretending to be courageous is just as good as the real thing.”