The Scary Problem with Pretending to Be Somebody Else

Halloween is finally here, and that means it’s time to get dressed up for a night of tricks, treats, and fun with friends. Whether you’re going as a superhero, celebrity, or something a little spookier, there’s no denying that pretending is part of what makes Halloween so exciting. It can be fun to be someone else for a few hours. But it’s important to make sure that it’s just for a few hours. While masks, makeup, and crazy characters are perfect for Halloween, pretending to be someone you’re not can seriously hurt your social life.

From time to time, everyone does a little bit of pretending for the sake of being polite. That could mean laughing at a lame joke, or showing interest in a story your friend is telling, even if it’s boring. In these cases, you’re making a small sacrifice out of consideration for someone else’s feelings. That’s a good thing, and it can help keep your social life running smoothly. But you have to know where to draw the line.

Little sacrifices and compromises can keep a friendship going strong. But you should never feel like you have to sacrifice who you are for the sake of social relationships. Pretending to be someone you’re not means that you’re lying about things that are important to you. That could be your morals, hobbies, interests, or even your sense of humor. It could mean that you’re letting others treat you in a way that makes you unhappy or uncomfortable. Pretending to be someone you are not means you’re trying to fit in with the wrong people.

You can try your hardest to blend in, and still wind up feeling lonely. And there’s a reason for that. If you’re not being open with others about who you really are, then you can never expect to feel truly understood. No one is going to talk with you about your favorite TV shows or books, if they don’t actually know what you like. And no one is going to be able to appreciate the talents and strengths you’re most proud of, if you’re always hiding them. You’ll end up finding that you’re surrounded by others at the moments that make them happy, but that you don’t have anyone to share in your own happiness. And that’s not the only downside of pretending to be someone you’re not.

Have you ever noticed that someone around you seemed unhappy, even though they told you everything was fine? Have you ever spent time with someone who seemed like they wanted to be somewhere else instead? If you pay close attention, you can often tell when someone close to you is not being genuine. And other people can get that same sense about you. The result can put a major damper on a potential friendship. When you’re not honest with others, they tend to feel like they can’t be honest with you. And if you can’t open up to each other, it’s going to be pretty difficult to move past the surface-level, small talk phase, and strike up a genuine friendship. But that does not mean that you should work harder to make a lie more convincing. There is a much better option you should try instead: honesty.

To build a successful social life, honesty is key. Strong friendships often begin when two people find common ground. Shared interests make for great conversation topics. Shared hobbies can help you plan the perfect way to hang out. When you’re honest with your friends from the start, you never have to stress over keeping up appearances, or maintaining a lie. And you never have to feel bored or uncomfortable when you’re supposed to be having fun. You will simply be able to relax, and enjoy hanging out with someone who totally gets you, which is really the whole point of having friends in the first place.

Sometimes, it can be a little scary to start opening up to other people. You may be tempted to act as if you’re totally in to all the latest trends. You may be tempted to hide any opinions that may be seen as uncool. But if you do that, you might find yourself stuck with casual acquaintances who aren’t true friends. Worse, you could miss out on finding a friend who truly understands, supports and appreciates you for who you are. That might be the scariest possibility of all.


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Isa Marrs is the Founder and Executive Director of the Where I Can Be Me® social skills program. She is a board-certified speech-language pathologist who specializes in pragmatic language (social skills) disorders in children. Read More