Let’s (NOT) Pretend: How Even Subtle Pretending Harms You and Others…and How to Stop It Now
Is your pretentious behavior destroying your life? It’s never too late to drop the act, rebuild your character, and find your true power. Authors Greg Miller, Aaron Hill, and Jack Skeen share the secrets to help you stop pretending today and discover the real you.
Hoboken, NJ (October 2017)—You’d like to believe you’re an honest, brilliant, and overall fantastic person, but can you really say you’re as upstanding and (dare we say it) as superior as you’re pretending to be? Probably not. Too many people put on a carefully constructed veneer of perfection and live life inside that false (glamorous, selfless, confident) persona. If you’re one of them, you may believe pretending helps you get ahead and makes people like and envy you. Not true, says Greg Miller: Even if you do manage to fool a few people, you’re only hurting yourself.
“The person you are is so much more powerful than the person you’re pretending to be,” says Miller, who along with Jack Skeen and Aaron Hill wrote The Circle Blueprint: Decoding the Conscious and Unconscious Factors that Determine Your Success (Wiley, October 2017, ISBN: 978-1-119-43485-6, $26.00, www.thecircleblueprint.com). “Pretentious behavior stifles your authentic self, both the bad and the good qualities. When you pretend to be smarter, stronger, or better than you are, it also squelches your talents and your ability to connect to others. It stops you from growing into your real potential.”
The authors describe pretentiousness as the need to appear more accomplished and successful than you really are. Those displaying pretentious behavior are preoccupied with how others view them and must always be seen in a favorable light. It manifests in many under-the-radar ways, but, ultimately, pretentious behavior prevents you from achieving independence.
Independence, by the way, is one of the four critical developmental areas discussed in The Circle Blueprint. The book is part of a larger self-improvement program called the Circle Blueprint System, which also includes workbooks and a confidential scientifically validated psychometric self-assessment. The self-assessment is free with purchase of the book. According to the authors, being independent means taking 100 percent responsibility for your life and the outcomes of your choices, living free from the self-talk and the torment of inner doubts and insecurities, staying in the present moment, and avoiding drama. Bottom line? You can’t be independent and stuck in a pattern of deceiving others.
“Pretending doesn’t have to be extreme—having a secret second family or practicing medicine when you never went to medical school—to be damaging,” says Skeen. “Even pretending in subtle ways sabotages your relationships and keeps you from ever finding your true source of strength and power.”
If you can break out from the habit of pretending, you’ll ultimately be happier, and others will finally get to see the real you. But first you must release the need to win others’ approval and find independence by dropping the pretense. Keep reading to learn what happens when you choose to pretend instead of being your real self (which could be pretty darn great if you would just let it shine through!). Then check out the authors’ guidelines to help you slay your pretentious behavior once and for all.
Red Flags That You Are Pretending Your Life Away
You get ahead by taking credit when you should not. Your success is due to the work of someone else or maybe even dumb luck. And when people think you’re responsible for the positive outcome, you don’t correct them.
You are secretive or dishonest with your partner. You may keep secrets from your spouse or partner. These could be small secrets, like sneaking candy bars and sodas even though you claim to be faithfully following your diet. Or you may be hiding bigger, more serious secrets or telling bigger lies. Either way, these deceits throw your relationship into a crisis of trust and stop any chances you may have of knowing each other.
You put undue pressure on your kids. If you have children, you may be affecting them with your pretentious behavior. Whether you pretend you were better at sports than you were, or to have received better grades, you are pretending in order to “earn” their respect and pressure them to be like you. But any respect this creates will dissolve when and if they discover the truth.
You can’t maintain real friendships. Friendships are important because your friends are your allies in life; they are people with resources that you can call on when you need help. But they can’t thrive when they’re not built upon trust and mutual respect. Thanks to your pretentiousness, your friendships are built on a weak foundation. It’s possible, even, that your friends see through your façade and therefore keep you at arm’s length.
You live with the fear of being discovered. Because you spend so much time pretending to be greater than you actually are, deep down you feel like a fake. This knowledge leads to a feeling of fear and anxiety of being “found out.” You may even feel the need to avoid certain people who know the truth about your life, or worry when the phone rings for fear of being exposed.
You have no foundation for discovering your power. By building a life on a foundation of deceit and pretense instead of substance, you’ve inhibited your ability to create a useful and powerful life. Because your successes, your reputation, and even your possessions came by way of dishonesty, you have no idea how to use your actual abilities and skills to chart your course.
You ruin your real confidence. An unintended consequence of pretending is, ironically, that you undermine your confidence in yourself. Because you know you have achieved your successes through dishonesty, you lose faith in your actual capabilities. In short, you have trusted a lie over the truth about yourself.
You lie frequently and have a reputation as a liar. Pretending is the same as lying. Every lie you tell makes it more difficult for you and the world around you to see your true value. Sometimes you may even lie when you have nothing to gain from it. Unfortunately, others can often see that you are a liar and may avoid spending time around or collaborating with you.
You lose yourself…your real self. The more you pretend, the less you become aware about your true identity and lose yourself completely. Eventually you come to believe your own lies and your uniqueness dissipates.
Quick Tips to Help You Stop Pretending and Find Your Real Power
Figure out when you first started pretending. Think back in your past, even to your childhood. Do you remember when you realized that the truth may not get you what you wanted or could cause you difficulty? At that moment, you lacked inner confidence and made the wrong decision. Realize that today you can develop the tools to build real confidence and stop hiding behind lies and deception.
Discover what you’re really afraid of. A big motivation of pretentiousness is fear—fear of an unwanted outcome of some kind. What are you trying to avoid by pretending? Are you trying to escape hard work, or dodge a sense of shame, or hide the fact that you feel unworthy? List all the fears or consequences you try to avoid by behaving pretentiously.
Assess the damage. Until you can identify your pretense, it’s almost impossible to give it up. So consider all the ways you have been pretending in your life. This may be tricky, because you’ve likely been pretending for so long that you almost believe your pretense is true. Figure out all the ways in which you lie by omission, cut corners, take credit unduly, or actively deceive. Vow to change the behavior today.
Accept yourself for who you are. Giving up pretending requires you to accept yourself for who you are. While it is certainly true that you aren’t good at everything and it may be true that you aren’t everything the people in your life want you to be, it is critical that you accept yourself for who you are—strong and weak, good and bad. Make a list of your true strengths and weaknesses and work on accepting that you are enough as you are.
Come clean. Review any area in your life where you are lying or deceiving others and come clean. Until you do, your integrity will be weak, and you will have difficulty expanding your life and being whole. Make a complete list and then summon your courage to have the difficult conversations you need to have. Start by admitting to others that you have not been telling the truth. Apologize and tell them what is true. Ask for their forgiveness. Promise not to deceive them in the future.
Embrace absolute honesty. In order to keep growing, you need to be completely honest in every word you speak. But this is something you’ll have to practice constantly. Notice when you are considering saying something that isn’t true. Catch yourself and speak truthfully instead. If you have a slip-up, go back and correct it. Practicing complete candor helps you leave pretending behind.
Make clear agreements. Clear agreements have a well-defined outcome and a specific date and time they will be completed. When you don’t have clear agreements, you leave room for misunderstanding. Focus on making your agreements crystal clear, so you are more able to keep them. When you realize you won’t be able to keep your agreement, immediately call the person with whom you have it and renegotiate it. When you do so, you maintain trust in the relationship.
Learn to say no. Saying no is a valuable skill to learn when you are working on developing honesty. When you make agreements to appease others, overcommit, or fail to think through your interest in whatever agreement you are making, you set yourself up to not follow through. How many items have been lingering on your to-do list for months or even years? Start by learning to say no. Say no to whatever you don’t want to do. Say no to whatever you know you won’t be able to do. Say no a lot.
Focus on “being” instead of “doing.” Many people seem to act as if the success in their life is about what they do. They are successful if they get a good job, make a lot of money, have a lot of power. But real success in life has more to do with who you are than with what you do. Therefore, “being” is far more important than “doing.” Weak people can create outward success but often struggle to maintain it, while strong people build a foundation on which a successful future can be built. To build this foundation, focus on “being” by noticing your character, acting with honor, and always speaking candidly. This is the key to earning others’ respect without pretending.
“When you finally stop pretending, you find your true power,” concludes Hill. “By becoming aware of all the ways pretending has strangled your well-being, you can take the steps to drop the façade and figure out how to reconnect with the real you. Glimmers of your genuine greatness are no doubt shining through and waiting to be released. Look for them today, and you’ll soon begin to remember who you really are.”
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About the Authors:
JACK SKEEN, PhD, is the founder of Skeen Leadership, an executive consulting firm. Skeen coaches successful leaders, addressing every imaginable leadership, business, and life issue with wisdom and professionalism.
GREG MILLER, PhD, is CEO of CrossCom, a technology services company. Miller has successfully led CrossCom to become a market leader through process efficiency, technology innovation, and rigorous execution.
AARON HILL, PhD, is the William S. Spears Chair in Business Administration at Oklahoma State University. He has authored a dozen articles appearing in the Financial Times Top 50 business journals.
About the Book:
The Circle Blueprint: Decoding the Conscious and Unconscious Factors that Determine Your Success (Wiley, October 2017, ISBN: 978-1-119-43485-6, $26.00, www.thecircleblueprint.com) is available at bookstores nationwide, from major online booksellers, and direct from the publisher by calling 800-225-5945. In Canada, call 800-567-4797. For more information, please visit the book’s page on www.wiley.com.
For more information, please visit www.thecircleblueprint.com.