He dropped to one knee and pulled a ring out of his back pocket. She gasped, bringing her hands up to her face, she could barely conceal her excitement. He looked up, gazed into her eyes, and was just about to ask the question…
…When a man on a bike swerved around them, narrowly missing the couple.
“Ah! Didn’t get it, let’s try again,” said the photographer.
I stood 10 feet off to the side, which on the Brooklyn Bridge walkway is still in the way.
As I watched the dramatic proposal (re)enactment for the third and fourth time (the couple kept blocking the bike path and had to reset multiple times), I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
These people will live the rest of their lives telling a lie.
There was no perfect proposal. Only near collisions and frustrated pedestrians.
Uncovering fakeness probably requires an entire book
I dislike fake people. I understand that in our culture we tend to put on a smile to conceal the fiasco of our lives, but there are people out there who are so afraid of their authentic selves, that they end up presenting a polished shell of who they are.
At times it’s unsettling to see someone pretend to be someone they are not. Like the couple from my anecdote above, I couldn’t believe the level of fakeness unfolding before me that I spent a good 20 minutes fuming after.
Fake people are annoying.
It’s easy to spot someone who is fake. But how do you know if you’re being fake?
That question requires a separate book to answer (or a few therapy sessions), but I’ll try to answer with seven examples I’ve picked up from knowing a few fakes in my life.
1. You compare yourself to others
You can’t help it. You need to feel better about yourself so you find an easy target, someone who doesn’t have their life together, and compare yourself to them.
At least I’m not like them, you say to yourself. Ego restored, you scamper off looking for your next victim.
2. You share only the good stuff on social media (or at the very least a polished version)
Your social media feeds are a perfectly curated story of your life. And yet, it’s nothing like your life. You delete posts if they don’t reach a certain number of likes. You use every filter imaginable. You take hundreds of pictures, looking for the one that fits your “true” experience.
While we’re at it, you also feel the need to overshare because the attention you receive on social media fills the void of authentic human interaction. Something you lack, because others sense your fakeness.
3. You lie to yourself
When you look in the mirror, who do you see? Do you acknowledge your imperfections or bury them deep down, only choosing to see the lies you tell yourself?
If you are afraid to see the real authentic you then chances are you’re also hiding behind a facade of heavy makeup, false bravado, or cool new tech gadgets. As long as it detracts the eye, it’ll serve its purpose of deterring anyone from seeing the real you.
4. You’re afraid to challenge yourself
You quit too easily when things get tough. When you don’t see the results you want, you give up and move to the next thing.
Career, fitness, relationships — doesn’t matter — whenever a challenge comes along, you’d rather find something easier to tackle than commit yourself to experiencing real growth as a human being.
5. You feel the need to ‘brag’ to others
In social situations you dominate the conversation. Often, you brag or tell modified stories about yourself. No matter the topic, it always ends up back on you.
It’s always about you.
6. You don’t take criticism well
You can’t stand it. Hearing anything contrary to the fake image you’ve constructed of yourself pisses you off. Even when those close to you offer constructive feedback, you lash out in defense. Always on the defense.
Instead of listening and adjusting, you recoil further and further into your lie. A lie you’ve grown to believe.
7. You knock down others to feel better about yourself
Nobody is safe from your negative fire. When friends or family experience something good in their lives, you aren’t happy for them. Rather you pick a fight. You look for faults in others that aren’t there.
When people are around you, they feel worse about themselves.
I’m a fake, now what?
Chances are some of the signs above resonated with you. Number 5 was written completely from my own experience (I need to talk about myself less). If you were able to achieve some level of personal awareness, congratulations. What do you do now?
For one, stop taking yourself so seriously. Fakeness stems from a lack of confidence and fear that others will look down on you (again, based on my experiences). This means we play up our importance in front of others.
Let it go. As cheesy as it sounds, be yourself for once. There are 7.5 billion people in the world which means 99.9999997% of people don’t care about you. It’s sad, but true.
Obviously, this is a lot harder to put into practice than it is to say. So instead, start small:
- If you compare yourself to others, pause and say “This is another person, I am not this person.”
- If you share only the good stuff on social media, share something real, no filters. Or share nothing at all.
- If you lie to yourself, look in a mirror and say one honest thing about yourself.
- If you’re afraid of challenging yourself, pick one small goal and accomplish it by the end of the week.
- If you feel the need to brag to others, listen and ask questions instead.
- If you don’t take criticism well, ask a friend to give you some, and listen without reservation.
- If you knock down others to feel better about yourself, pause and say “This is another person, I am not this person.”
“To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, making you everybody else–means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” — E.E. Cummings