Sometimes, fake it

There are times when I am so unlike myself that I might be taken for someone else of an entirely opposite character. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Confessions, 1782

Recently, Mary and I hosted our neighborhood’s monthly dinner party. From 7:00 to 11:00 p.m. our home was filled to capacity with people.

I struggle at these events because I am the archetypal introvert. My idea of a good evening is to sequester myself in my study and read a book. I would rather chew on cut glass than have to be “on” for four hours at a social event.

But last night I played the part. I was a gregarious, talkative, engaging host.

Was I being disingenuous and hypocritical? I don’t think so, because sometimes we need to act like someone we’re not. Psychologists have a term for this: counter-dispositional behavior.

I learned this lesson from psychology professor Brian Little’s book titled Me, Myself, and Us: The Personality and the Art of Well-Being. Little teaches a large, popular psychology course at Harvard. Though he is an introvert, his teaching style is very animated and energetic, so much so that his students are always surprised to hear him admit that when he’s teaching, he’s also acting. Little explains and defends his behavior in chapter three of his book: Free Traits: On Acting Out of Character.

I’m a big proponent of authenticity; we all need to discover how we are unique, accept the distinctions, and live authentically. Be your true self because therein lies deep satisfaction. Long term, you cannot sustain inauthentic behavior. But in the short term you can, and sometimes should, fake it.

Dr. Little says there are two main reasons why counter-dispositional behavior is often necessary — for professional reasons and for love.

If certain aspects of your work require you to be someone you’re not, have the emotional fortitude to play the part. For instance, if you’re a salesperson you may need to be more animated than your real self would normally be. Likewise, if for the love of family and friends you need to put aside your true self and temporarily assume a new persona, do so.

Last night I was an extroverted host. I did it because I love my neighbors and wanted them to feel welcomed and affirmed during their brief stay in our home. I couldn’t maintain that image 24/7, but I did for 247 minutes. Granted, it was exhausting, and when the last guest left, I went to my study, pulled out a book, and resumed my normal identity.

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14 thoughts on “Sometimes, fake it

  1. Interesting how many great actors & actresses through the years have been introverts! And how often the director has to verbally extract from the actor the full, emotional, volitional, cerebral response that he or she envisions for the character. As Richard Edwardes (and Shakespeare in his own way) said, “Pythagoras said that this world was like a stage whereon many play their parts; the lookers-on, the sage.” Even the beloved President Ronald Reagan said he did not know how anyone could be president without being an actor. Great article Don!

    • Thanks, Rick. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your thoughts. Another example – Johnny Carson was an extreme introvert; he played the part every night. Take care.

  2. Thank you for your ministry Don. May God bless you and yours in the new year to come!

    Yes, the “fake it ’till you make it” trait has been one of my greatest assets. It has helped me to overcome fear of failure, fear of speaking publicly, etc.. Sometimes you have to push outside of your shell in order to achieve your next level of growth. Maybe a hermit crab analogy could work here?

    • Shawn, thanks for kind words and for your transparency. I like the hermit crab analogy you mentioned. Have a good new year.

  3. Love is not rude. Being a recluse when you have company is rude. Therefore, you set your desires aside for the sake of others. Nothing wrong with that. Everything, in fact, is right about that.

  4. I have been getting your articles for a few months now, and though I don’t know how you got my email address, I have found that the content of what you’ve shared has been very timely for this season of my life. I was just appointed as the new Women’s Ministry leader at my church and your articles have been very relevant and encouraging to me.

    I too, am an introvert, but have found that God gives me the strength and grace to exhibit that counter-dispositional behavior for the benefit others. I am grateful for that, and I am thankful that I am receiving your posts. Please continue to send them!

    God bless you!

    • Glynes, thanks for taking the time to write. Congratulations on your new position. 3/4 of all people are introverts, so you and I are in the majority 🙂
      Because of your new leadership position, consider attending the two day workshop I teach – Lead Well. More information is available at

  5. You are right! My career was teaching public school music, and for 23 years serving as the Children’s Choir Coordinator in a mega church (18 children’s choirs.) I was always “in charge” of activities and groups. But that was my “job.” When my husband and I took a personality test at the end of our Preparation for Marriage Class, I registered as very submissive with the desire for someone else to be the leader. My pastor could hardly believe it when he saw the test. But in God’s wisdom and goodness, He gave me a husband who is a strong leader — and I can enjoy encouraging him and helping in ways that only God knew from the beginning.

    • Lois Ann,
      Thanks for taking the time to write and share your some of your life story. You were the very best at leading a children’s choir ministry. You should be proud of that.
      I value my friendship with you two.

  6. So well put, and so very true. Reminds me of something: I was fortunate to spend years on overnight steamboats. Our Mississippi Queen carried a staff of 19 Entertainers, who presented some excellent shows and individual performances. Their saying was, “The most important part of being an entertainer is sincerity. And once you’ve learned the fake that, you’ve got it made.” Sounds cynical, I admit…but meant more in humor and recognizing what Don so ably propounds here. I have always been a bookish introvert, much like Don, but spent over 35 years in Hospitality. BTW, re his comment about Pastor Chuck, with which I fully agree, Don is by far the greatest church Music Minister and leader thereof whom I have ever known. I fervently hope someday to return to the very special and talented group that is our Sanctuary Choir.