I’m an expert at some things that I wish I weren’t. Like acting, even when there’s no camera.
For instance, I know how to keep my facial expression the same when someone hurts my feelings. And I know how to conduct myself around someone who broke my heart or my trust.
How did I get there? As kids, we weren’t encouraged to express our disagreement; it was considered disrespectful. So, even when I disagreed with decisions or punishments, or was disappointed with an outcome, I pretended everything was okay. As a result, at an early age I became The Great Pretender.
Remember that old song by The Platters? That was me. I took that “pretending” into all my friendships and interactions. As I grew, my “pretender” grew. I didn’t require anyone to live up to my standards or requirements for friendship; I only wanted their presence. I performed again and again. Even after learning that being in a crowd wouldn’t fill the void, I performed. And had the nerve to be surprised when it never worked!
Thankfully, I ran across a few people who weren’t interested in my award-winning performances. They wanted to know the real me and be in a mutually beneficial, open and honest relationship. And if you’re a people-pleaser like I was, there are likely some folks who want to get to the real you, too. It takes work to share authentically. Here is the first step I took to embrace the discomfort and experience transformation:
I started to acknowledge and admit each time I lied.
This is tough; but once you develop the habit, it gets easier. Need an example? In conversation, I’d exaggerate a point, or my feelings. Rather than glossing over it, I called it out. Literally. For example, say a friend didn’t come through. I was known to say: Oh, it’s okay. Because once I calmed down and nothing could be done, I preferred to let it go.
When I started acknowledging it was okay now, but I had other feelings in the moment, it went something like: I’m lying. It wasn’t okay and I talked about you really bad in my head when I realized you forgot about me. But I know in the future to remind you or have a back-up. Adding dialogue that’s not inflamed by emotions helps both parties. They got to acknowledge and/or apologize and I got to truly forgive rather than swallowing those feelings.
Over time I didn’t have to say ‘I lied,’ because I learned to calmly acknowledge my feelings in the moment. Also, I know when something is too touchy for discussion and I hold it until I can express it well. Operation No More Pretending – in full effect.
Have you learned to overcome pretending in your relationships? I’ll share another step I took next week, but I’d love to hear your thoughts in the meantime. Share in the comments!