My sweet and sometimes sinister young mentee called this week, bursting to share the joy of her “healthiest relationship ever.” After ten years of hearing stories and mentoring her through fear and disempowerment, she sounded surprisingly solid. She went on to exclaim, “We tell each other everything now! We’ve gotten past that big hurdle. You know, the one everybody goes through when we don’t want to tell the other person who we really are and everything, because we’re afraid they’ll leave, and we don’t want it to end.”
Everybody does it
I don’t know about you, but as soon as I heard her say that “everybody” goes through this hiding and lying period in a relationship, I wondered how this ever seems like a good idea. Although I could ask, “What are people thinking?,” after many years of coaching people to be true to themselves and focus their willpower, my experience has been that we choose to pretend when we FEEL afraid, and think we are not enough. The less proud of ourself we are, the more we think we need to pretend in order to get by. Instead of admitting to someone that we are afraid, we lie.
Not quite my experience
My greatest pains have come from believing lies. Because I know the depth and breadth of this pain, I refuse to hurt myself or others by pretending. I am hoping that in time, I will heal and be rightfully at peace with letting go of my hyper-vigilant protection over my best self. I have and continue to want nothing more than to simply get to know people as they are—although many people do not know, or are nearly deathly-afraid to show me.
How the pretend game rolls
Let’s look at the logistics of what really happens when we pretend. For example, say that we really, really, really like someone (I feel like a teenager now). And let’s say we decide not to tell them who we are (because we decided that who we are isn’t good enough). So we lie and say we’re more, or something else. Or maybe we don’t lie. Maybe we just don’t say who we really are, and say whatever we think they want to hear. It might sound something like this, “I love you so much! I want to raise a garden with you, fold your underwear, dance under the stars naked and cook spaghetti for you at midnight! I want to ride horses and lick ice cream from your bottom lip (not at the same time)! And we can do whatever we want every day, because I own a bank!
Baloney and Cheesy
Now let’s say that the person we’re telling this to buys into our baloney—hook, line and sinker … and we bag the Big Buck. If the reality of who we are is the opposite of what we pretended, Mr. Buck is in for a big surprise. If we actually: love our ex, hate getting our hands dirty, don’t do laundry, are too shy to be naked anywhere but in the shower (and maybe there too), can’t cook for crayons and go to bed at nine every night, that Big Buck’s antlers are going to become weapons of mess destruction. And who can blame him? We, as we ARE, are not who we presented ourself to be. He didn’t agree to be in a relationship with us—he agreed to be in a relationship with our pretend self. Pretty cheesy of us to think that would work. (In case you’re interested, cheesy means blatantly inauthentic).
The big fat farce—that we’ll keep ‘em by pretending
As we get more comfortable in the relationship and begin sharing our deepest thoughts and feelings, they may not be anything like—or opposite of—what we pretended to be. When this happens, the person that we say that we love feels manipulated, hurt, afraid and angry, which usually drives them away. Wasn’t this exactly what we said we were trying to avoid? And doesn’t this sound exciting for everyone??! (sarcasm)
Whenever we pretend about who we are, at ANY level, we undermine our willpower. Pretending to be someone worthy of love (bigger than we are) automatically assumes that we are unworthy just as we are. When we believe that lie, we will feel an empty hole in our heart. And after our loved ones leave us, (and we shut Life/God out because we’re angry), all we have left to fill that great big hole of hurt is some form of mildly entertaining punishment called addiction.
What we really want is to keep ourself
In the deepest part of who we are, we want to truly know and love ourself–SO much so, that we can proudly speak our truth of who we are, what we want and what we believe. What we really want is to not lose our true self, whether we’re in or out of a relationship. And this connection with ourself requires truth.
True Power and Willpower
Living in an empowered way means knowing and “walking” in the confidence of who we are and what we want. It means not pretending.
Instead of freaking out, fess up
Why let our truth scare us? As the old passage goes, “ … the truth will set (us) free.” If you’re thinking about breaking free of—or bored with the passé life of pretending, here are two ways to fess up and be proud of who we are.
The easy way to ‘fess it
It’s easiest to fess up to new people. If they decide they don’t like the real us, it seems ‘easier’ to lose them. For example, let’s say we’re going on a blind date, and among a hundred stellar qualities, we’re also a not-so-wealthy-shopaholic. We know that we can only hide those 25 boxes of “had to have it” clearance Christmas ornaments for so long. The person we’re going on the date with is going to find out sooner or later. So, why not make it sooner? If they don’t like us, we can get it over with quick, like pulling a tooth. If we admit our shopaholic tendencies within the first three meetings, our date can make up their mind about whether they want us. Either way, we win. If they decide that we’re ‘the one,’ they cannot rightfully be disappointed when we buy all the clearance items on the shelf after Christmas (because they knew). And, if they decide that they don’t want us after three dates—that’s WAY easier than after three months (or whenever they find out). And, BONUS! If they don’t leave, we know they love us for who we are, and we won’t feel like a shophead for lying, hiding and pretending. Our self-worth will increase and we’ll feel better about ourself and our relationship. And, the longer we tell our truth and surround ourself with people who love us for who we are, we may not “need” the addiction(s) anymore. Fessing up is best. We have nothing to lose but people who don’t really love us.
The more challenging confession
Long-term pretending is the most challenging to confess. For example, I’ve worked with many people who were married, had children and were having affairs for years. Some were having affairs with the opposite sex, others—affairs with the same sex. Either way, the burden they carried of lying, hiding and pretending to their spouse and extended families also led them to believe that addictions would help them cope. Many of them drank a lot, some decided to have random meet-up sexual encounters, others turned to porn, drugs and work—just trying to feel accepted socially and feel ‘ok’ about who they were, at least for a ‘little while.’
It can be much more difficult to tell someone our truth when we have been lying and pretending for a long time. We start to feel responsible for continuing to lie so we “don’t hurt them.” The ‘funny” thing is, we’ve already hurt them, just by being who we are and making the choices that we made. In truth, fessing up doesn’t hurt them … it hurts us. It hurts to admit we’ve been lying and it hurts to know we’ve hurt other people and to receive their anger—even when it’s warranted.
Have you “had it” with the pressures of pretending? Are you ready to take a step towards living your truth? If so give one or many of these eight steps a go,
1. Take a good look at ourselves and say our truth out loud—whether in the privacy of our car, the park, our office, a bathroom stall or a counselor’s office. It might sound like this, “I have been pretending to be _______ (monogamous). I have been lying to someone that I say that I love.” Then, feel that truth. Feel how it feels, without running to our lover, drink, drug or distraction of choice. When we feel instead of run, we process the experience and rarely repeat it. Feelings are like the weather … it doesn’t last forever.
2. Ask ourselves—are we satisfied with a pretend life? If we are, keep on keeping on. If we’re haunted, hurt, dissatisfied, disgusted, in pain, angry, addicted, incapacitated, jealous or any number of feelings that accompany the lying lifestyle, here are some options, options, options:
3. Accept that things are going to change when we fess up. (But life IS change, anyway.) We will ‘win’ some people and ‘lose’ some people. We can be OK with this and let them be who they are and make their own decisions about us and our truth. We can be courageous and kind enough to stop manipulating the people we “love” out of fear of losing them.
4. Have faith that Life supports us, that there are billions of people in this world and that some of them will love us “as is.”
5. Be strong enough to admit it if we want to change partners or release an addiction, and take action.
6. Start small—tell the person we love that:
• we’ve been feeling afraid lately, and that it would really mean a lot to us if we could share some thoughts and feelings in the next (day or two or whenever it’s good for them).
• we’re afraid that we’ve made some choices that may jeopardize the relationship
• we did what we did
7. Apologize if necessary. Explain how we intend to “fix” or make amends. Prepare to not do it again.
8. If we’re ready for bold action, another option is to make a clean sweep. Some people who were involved in long-term pretending chose to get groups of affected people together. People were invited to gather in a ‘safe’ place with a ‘safe’ person, counselor or guide and the person who was pretending. The truth is admitted to everyone at once. It’s like an intervention, only self-imposed. Although anticipation of this event can be more than nerve-wrecking, once over, the relief is generally so freeing that it far outshines the fear.
So, what’s up with you?
Are you in a relationship with someone who is pretending to be someone they aren’t? Are you currently pretending in your relationship, and don’t know how to get out of it? Are you debating about whether or not to pretend on your next date? Please share, so we may grow in courage and willpower together …
Always with Love,