5 Things Fake People Do
What does it mean to be real?
Well, I can think of a few things being your real, true, authentic self doesn’t mean. For example, being real doesn’t mean:
- Letting everyone see and know everything. You can be a private person and still be real. In fact, part of being true to yourself is knowing where your boundaries lie.
- Refusing to adjust to others. As a human being, you are incredibly complex with a wide range of authentic behaviors and values. You can bend and flex for others and still be you.
- Being ruled by your emotions. Your emotions are real, but they are transitory. Your emotions are yours, but they are not you. Feel them, acknowledge them, and let them come and go. Base your behavior on something more enduring, such as your guiding principles.
- Rejecting change. All living things grow. You will change. It doesn’t mean you’ve lost yourself.
Truly being real means your whole self is fully present in your interactions (though you may not put it all out on display) without pretense or hiding. It means you live according to your values regardless of audience or situation. You adjust your behavior as appropriate in a way that aligns with who you are.
That’s a high standard to live by, which is why pretty much everyone is fake sometimes. I spent a good chunk of my childhood and teen years being fake. Slipping into phony behavior now and then isn’t the worst thing in the world, especially if you notice it and pull back out. When it becomes a way of life, though, you’re in trouble. Not only is it very hard to be happy, productive, or effective when you’re living a fake life, it’s not sustainable. You can’t live out of alignment with your true self for long before a crisis forces a reckoning.
Since everyone can fall into inauthenticity from time to time, it’s helpful to know the symptoms. Usually, when you’re being a little dishonest in how you present yourself, you land in one of two ditches: you’re either overly forceful or overly nice. You might find yourself doing some of these five things:
Part of being real means being honest with yourself about what is and is not your own responsibility. When you’re putting on a show and not being true to yourself, boundaries fly out the window. On the one hand, you might overstep boundaries and give others unsolicited advice, boss them around, or try to control them. Or you might fail to maintain your own boundaries and find yourself letting other people control you. Either way, you’re not living your life.
Fixating on Image
I’m all for making a good impression and being purposeful in how you present yourself, so long as it aligns with who you actually are—or at the very least, who you hope to become. But when “looking good” becomes a goal in itself, you lose touch with what makes you, you. You find yourself saying what you think people want to hear, whether that’s overstating your accomplishments or flattering others. Apologies become an issue: either you can’t ever say “I’m sorry” or you say it all the time. You don’t know yourself or what you want; you are overtaken by the role you’re playing.
Putting others down means you’re feeling small yourself. But instead of building yourself up by acknowledging your strengths, accomplishing things that make you feel good, and being kind and gracious to yourself, you puff yourself up and deflate others. You might be condescending and disdainful to people directly or you might gossip behind their backs. Either way, it’s a sign you’re hiding your own insecurity. Contempt never comes from your true self.
If you manipulate others or are easily manipulated yourself, then something other than your authentic self is guiding your life. There is nothing true, straightforward, or sincere about manipulation, guilt trips, intimidation, emotional blackmail, blaming others, denial, hyperbole, gaslighting, playing the victim, or threats. It’s all a routine designed to gain the upper hand. Even doing “good” is fake if it’s done to pressure or control others.
Denying Your Feelings
Everyone gets angry. Everyone feels sad. You feel more emotions than there are words to describe them. You can and do feel the full range of human experience. If you “never” get angry or are “always” angry (as an example), it’s a sign you’re pretending.
If you see these behaviors in yourself or others, do not despair. We’re all human, and therefore we do these things. No need to fret about it. Simply make some adjustments.
Whether you find yourself slipping into inauthentic behavior or you’re noticing it in others, do this: remind yourself of your values, your identity, and your boundaries.
- Take a deep breath.
- Think of something positive you know is true about yourself.
- If you’re in a place where you can do this without feeling awkward, put your hand over your chest to bring the thought and the breath down into your body.
- Stand up tall with your weight evenly distributed over both feet.
You can bring your own behavior back into alignment when you are clear on what guides you. And when you’re clear you will not be taken in or taken over by others, either.
You are a wonderful and marvelous being. Be you. Be real.