The pain of pretending

Both my daughters studied violin in high school. They excelled, taking lessons at SMU and playing in the Dallas Youth Symphony. For one concert, they played in the Meyerson Concert Hall (one of the best musical venues in the world). Mary and I were seated in the middle of the hall, our attention focused on Lauren and Sarah. 

After the concert we went backstage to greet the girls. Sarah was crying. She held up her violin and said, “Dad, when we were tuning at the beginning of the concert, my E string broke. I didn’t know what to do; I was embarrassed and didn’t want to draw attention to myself; so the entire concert I pretended to play, but my bow never touched the strings.”

My heart was broken. I could only imagine the painful mix of emotions she endured: sadness, frustration, insecurity, embarrassment, hiding,   

I’m not sure what alternative she had—should she have walked off the stage and left an empty chair?—but I do know that for 45 minutes she experienced the pain and discomfort of pretending. 

I suppose all of us occasionally need to be temporarily inauthentic; social grace often mandates it (I dislike opera, but if I’m attending with a group of friends, I’m not going to leave at intermission). I’ve written a post titled Sometimes fake it in which I suggest that for professional reasons and for love, we often need to engage in counter-dispositional behavior.

But in general, don’t go through life denying or hiding your true self. Don’t pretend. Discover who you are, be who you are, and associate with people who accept you as you are.

Sadly, many people have never achieved a clear understanding of who their authentic self really is so pretending is their default mode. I’ve written a workbook—Signature Soulprint—that can help lead you in that discovery. 

Coach Don Meyer said, ”Be what you is. Because if you be what you ain’t, you ain’t what you is.” C.S. Lewis was more lyrical in saying, “Be weird. Be random. Be who you are. Because you never know who would love the person you hide.”

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8 thoughts on “The pain of pretending

  1. Don…Thank you for rescuing your earlier “Sometimes fake it” article…although you shared enough in the final comments of that to not need any rescuing. This was an exceptional article. Sarah faked it for the benefit of both herself and a host of others…at the expense of personal pain.

    How I wish more of us would fake it when our true character behavior might hurt someone else…a spouse, children or friends. Especially when it comes to strong opinions. Sometimes I need to fake it and pretend I’m open to another idea when I’m really not…for the benefit of both myself and a host of others…at the expense of personal discomfort (pain).

    I know that wasn’t the point of this article, but for me the illustration spoke louder than the sermon. But I agree, pretending should never be the default. Thanks.

    • Neil, I appreciate reading your thoughts. I particularly like “pretend I’m open to another idea when I’m really not.” What part of Texas do you live in?

  2. I spent a large part of my life trying to be someone I was not. When I realized that it’s okay to be me, it lifted a huge burden off my back. Thanks for the reminder.