How to be a Great Pretender
The gap between your aspirational-self and your actual-self means pretending is part of the journey. But pretending in the wrong way damages your future.
Beneficial pretending begins with your values. It builds your undeveloped-self.
Dangerous pretending is living to impress others.
The leader as the great pretender:
Pretending is a form of self-control that helps you bring your best self to challenges and opportunities.
#1. Fatigue makes you irritable, but you’re kind instead. Under normal circumstances you’re kind. But circumstances aren’t normal often enough.
#2. Fear makes you pull back, but you have the tough conversation anyway.
Pretending helps you face issues you’d rather avoid.
#3. Inexperience makes you nervous about public speaking, but you step to the microphone anyway. Pretending you’re a public speaker when you feel insecure is a way to gain experience.
Healthy pretending is one way to behave your way into feeling, rather than feel your way into behaving.
Do things that confident people do, if you want to feel confident.
Don’t wait for confidence to sneak up on you. The more you wait to feel confident, the less confident you feel.
Use undeveloped compassion as a platform for reaching higher. Perhaps you feel bitter but choose compassion instead.
Pretend you’re friendly, when you feel shy. You know how to be friendly in small ways. How might you use your current ability as a platform to reach a bit higher?
The dangers of pretending:
Don’t play-act your way into making a good impression.
You lose connection with yourself when pretending is a strategy for gaining approval from others.
Amy Morin offers sage advice for the great pretender, “Just make sure you’re interested in changing yourself on the inside, not simply trying to change other people’s perceptions of you.”
Pretending is useful when it brings your aspirational-self to life.
What’s dangerous about pretending you’re something you’re not?
How might leaders use pretending in a healthy way?
What’s dangerous about pretending you’re something you’re not?
Pretty much everything that requires you try to do the thinks you’ve pretended you can do for real, and then somebody drives a bulldozer through your credibility when you can’t.
Thanks Mitch. The only way to learn how to lead is to lead before you know you can do it. We gain competence as we step into incompetence. Imagination is part of the process.
Of course, one shouldn’t pretend they can do brain surgery in real life, unless they’ve practiced on dead people. The issue here is the extent of damage we could do.
What’s dangerous about pretending you’re something you’re not? Well your mind, body and heart know you are being false to what you really are and they will together find a way to tell you so and seek correction. Unfortunately those corrections typically are not fun.
Thanks Roger. Great point. I like to encourage people to live into their aspirational self… This self must align with their values. Living into your values helps protect you from being false.
I see a difference between lying and pretending. You might say, “I believe I can lead the next meeting,” even if you haven’t led a meeting before.
Everything that comes into existence first exists in the imagination.
What’s dangerous about pretending you’re something you’re not? Making a fool of oneself, “be all you can be”, don’t be something your not! Admitting one’s lack of expertise is better if we admit rather then to try to pull the wool over someone’s eyes.
Your life will be much happier when we a truthful, besides we have room to learn and grow.
Thanks Tim. I do some pretending. When I’m angry, sometimes I pretend I’m interested in you. That pretend reflects my values and protects me from doing something I’ll regret later.
What a great post Dan! You said “Pretending is a form of self-control that helps you bring your best self to challenges and opportunities.” Often Fear and the “voices of our past – parents, teachers, friends, spouse, etc.” hold us back from moving beyond our comfort zone – “you’re a girl, you can’t do that” or “don’t speak up – nothing will change”….) If we are working on Self-improvement as Amy Morin says then we need to muster up the courage to try new ways of being/doing to grow into our best self and be around people who will encourage us (teachers, therapists, friends, coworkers….) Going back to school as an adult at Alverno College was one of the best things I ever did to help me in this process of change and growth. They have a competence based learning process that helped us take small steps and then access our progress. Before this I had never spoken in front of a large group but I learned I could “pretend” to help move me to a new internal normal.
Thanks Aliceh. Congratulations on moving your life forward. It can be pretty scary to step out.
The idea of comfort zone is important to the use of imagination. We can imagine our way past our discomforts.
The research shows that visualizing is useful when done properly. Don’t visualize yourself at the end of the race with a trophy. Visualize the path it takes to get there. This is a useful expression of pretending.
Best wishes for the future.
Strivng for integrity, in crisis/under presure, is not pretending;
practicing humility when you don’t necessarily “feel” it is not pretense;
open acknowlegement that you don’t have full control of the circumstances is not failure of character;
And allowing a perception of desiring help is not a weakness.
Behaviour is only an indicator, not the measure of the self … the best behaviours are well considered, not “pretended.” IMHO.
Thanks Rurbane. I’m not sure of the difference between well considered and pretended? Perhaps the word imagination feels better or the expression “act as if” is more comfortable. In any case values are the difference between disingenuous pretense and acting in ways that express who we hope to be.
Great post! I never thought of pretending in this way because it always has a negative connotation. However, I guess the phrase “fake it until you make it” does make sense now
I was really impressed by how you broke down how we all pretend when trying to perfect our confidence, compassion, and connection. These are essential characteristics that are needed in leadership. However, pretending can be dangerous when it is dishonest or has ill will.
Additionally, you have to be true to yourself. You can pretend to be something, and people will be expecting you to be what presented. You can end up making yourself hole that you will have to dig out. Basically, you lied. No one likes liars, and it’s a great way to lose someone’s you trust which is hard to get back.
In regards to healthy pretending, I feel it’s sharpening skills such as empathy, public speaking, and compassion in difficult situations.