You may have heard this one before but it’s too late to stop me now. When you pen a column like this for so many years, and know so little, (Ah … Lads, please, …‘tis the season to be jolly!) it is likely that you will hear the same story more than once.
The story in question is one that has stuck in my mind, from a radio interview of many years ago. I think it was Gay Byrne who was interviewing a guy who had just written a book. The man was a retired concierge from a top London hotel and he had written about his forty years’ experience of dealing with people.
It is Gay’s last question, or more importantly, the author’s answer, which stuck with me. “What one thing about human behaviour surprised you most in the course of your career,” enquired the host. The man replied; “The most extraordinary thing about people is that those who have a lot of money pretend they haven’t and those with little, pretend they have lots!”
This story just goes to show that people will pretend ‘downwards’ as well as ‘upwards’. There are those who will pretend in order to avoid the limelight as well as the more plentiful who will pretend in order to seek some limelight.
Many imagine that pretending to be somebody you are not is a worthwhile strategy. It is not. It is a very foolish path to embark upon and will lead no further than ‘up the garden path.’ You should never have to pretend to be somebody or something you are not. Being comfortable in one’s own skin is a gift that should be practiced.
If you want to be better and do better – then do so, but pretending won’t get you there. Personally, if I find myself in company, or talking to someone where I get the slightest urge to pretend, I buzz off and talk to someone else.
Pretending to be someone else impacts you in at least two negative ways. First of all you can attract people you wouldn’t have a lot of time for, and secondly, you are missing out on people you would rather be around
There are different levels of pretending, and as many different reasons for it. You will come across those who will pretend to like you in order to curry favour, or to get something you can help them obtain. Or they may just see you as the key to a social circle they would like to be a part of.
As a general rule, you will see through this façade – and hopefully cop on before you end up being used or abused. Worse than that is the downright dishonest individual who makes an art out of pretending for their own benefit.
But sometimes we have to be compassionate and understanding in the midst of an acquaintance’s pretending. That is if the obvious pretending is caused by low self-esteem or self-worth. To praise that person’s good points is a nice thing to do – and remember, this category of pretending is usually harmless.
But isn’t it fair to say that most of us will ‘pretend; when it comes to showing, or hiding, out true feelings sometimes? Keeping the old poker face when hiding a deep hurt is a very understandable form of pretending. You know that song by the ‘Platters’: ‘The Great Pretender?’ I actually love that song.
“Oh-oh, yes I’m the great pretender: Pretending that I’m doing well. My need is such, I pretend too much. I’m lonely but no one can tell.”
That is not bad pretending, but in real life we should be able to tell someone how we feel.
The second-worst type of pretenders are those smooth-talking con-men who have perfected the art of deceit. But the worst of all are those who pretend to be a friend whilst knifing you in the back, sometimes anonymously. There is an old saying that; “an honest enemy is better than a false friend.” That’d be right!
So, the best advice is the simple message to just ‘be yourself.’ Grow in self-awareness and acceptance of the true you. Be the very best and only person that you can truly be.
One of the advantages for those of us of a certain age is that we don’t have to ever consider pretending anything. We are what we are; it took us a long time to get like this and we’re not going to change! We don’t give a damn anymore as to what other people might think and we realise that never pretending is a lovely place to be!
Actors are the only honest hypocrites.