Many issues that trouble us most, whether individually or relationally, stem from a discrepancy between our internal emotional experience and our external expression of that experience. And this can lead to a lack of authenticity in the way we engage with others. We begin to feel like pretenders. The resulting double-life feeling becomes intolerable once the gap between the internal and external expression widens sufficiently.
The Pretender Trap
There are plenty of good reasons why we get caught in the pretender trap. Here are a few:
- We become pretenders when our instinct is to protect the people around us, rather than risk sharing our true self.
- We become pretenders when we’re afraid our true self is unlikable.
- We become pretenders when being honest in the past has resulted in people taking advantage of us.
- We become pretenders when we’ve been told repeatedly that who we are is unacceptable.
As good as these reasons are, they are never sufficient for choosing to let your true self be obliterated by obligations to social norms, family expectations, or cultural realities. More importantly, it’s impossible to experience true love and acceptance from anyone if we never let them know who we really are.
Closing the Gap
Consider for yourself whether you have such a gap and how wide it might be. How much do you keep hidden from others because of shame or fear. How consistent is your external expression with your internal emotional world? If you’re experiencing a lot of interpersonal issues or intimate relationship problems, it may well be that you’ve learned to be a pretender. Your goal will be to bring your inner world out and create greater congruence with your true self.