When is ok to pretend to be someone you're not?

I’m trying to reconcile two opposing views on this question. On one side, whenever someone asks for dating advice, the answer is frequently “be yourself.” On the other side, whenever someone feels like a fraud at a new job, a frequent response is “fake it until you make it.”

Both sides seem to have good points. Many great things started out as lies. America, for instance, started out by declaring that “all men are created equal.” The country faked equally until it achieved actual equality (or moved closer to it.) Dan Savage also talked about the benefits of lying about yourself on your first date. Eventually, you’ll try to live up to those lies and become a better person.

The dark side to pretending is that you might never become who you pretend to be, or people might rely on your fantasies. A guy who pretends he can hold down a steady job when he has a history of sporadic employment will only be hurting his future ex-girlfriend. A financial analyst pretending he can predict the stock market will only hurt investors.

Also, in your personal life, pretending can hurt your relationships with others. You can never be close to someone without opening up. If you pretend to be someone else, then every compliment and every act of compassion from your partner will be met with “she doesn’t really care because she doesn’t know the real me.” You might find a spouse and friends, but you’ll always feel alone because you’ll always believe that everyone loves the fake you and not the real you.

So who is right? When should I be myself, and when should I pretend to be someone else?

Life is a stage and we are all actors. You are who you present yourself to be and thus people perceive you as such. If you present yourself as someone who lies you will be known as a faker.

It is OK to role play during sex.

I think that you’d conflating the issue. In your examples “be yourself” and “fake it til you make it”, you still are essentially yourself. Your simply trying to fit the role as best you can.

If your lying straight and it causes problems then it’s probably not ok. However you define that is up to you.

I think that is mostly it. I learned a long time ago that the right to remain silent doesn’t just apply to police interrogations. It applies to most other situations as well. I don’t think you owe almost anyone a full disclosure of things that they might reflect negatively (or sometimes even positively) on you unless you have to because of specific requirements (a security clearance application for example). Most people disclose way too much information casually and that will eventually blow up in your face because there are always a minority of people around that are willing to back-stab you. There is no need to give them a weapon as a gift.

For instance, I went through horrific 6 year period that ended just a few years ago where everything that could go wrong did including the loss of a child and nearly my own life plus a divorce and a whole bunch of other stuff that was worse than some people ever experience. The problems ended as suddenly as they started and karma seemed to kick in in the opposite direction. I got offered a great job by answering the phone out of the blue one morning and I have been there 4 years. They love me and I do great work and I have never mentioned what happened before to any of them. There has also been some really positive developments in my family’s financial picture that includes me. I don’t mention that to anyone including family members that don’t have an interest in it IRL either except in the most vague ways and that is only when asked directly.

I have wondered about this seeming contradiction too and now I know there isn’t really one. Lies of omission are fine and even wise unless those omissions cause direct harm to another person. Active lies (like lying about a degree or your financial status) are almost always bad even if you never get caught. It creates cognitive dissonance and stress for you even if no one ever finds out.


The most brutally honest (but not necessarily helpful) dating advice I ever got came from a friend who advised me:

The only other honest dating advice I ever heard came from a certain commercial provider that I sometimes did business with:

When running for political office.

That sounds good for most people but it won’t work for everyone. I just want a constant stream of dates and I get them. I am not getting married again and my daughter’s aren’t ever getting a stepmother because I told them wouldn’t have one. A date has zero shot at any family money because it is all protected. You can’t put that on a dating site though. What I can do is give dream dates for as long as they want it and be a good friend afterwards. There is no other way around it as far as I can see. What are you supposed to do in that situation? I could abstain from dating but I think I give lots of people really memorable experiences and I never promised anything otherwise.

That is where the lies of omission come in. I never promise something I can’t deliver. If anyone reads more into in that in any circumstances, it is their fault and not my responsibility.

It’s OK to pretend to be someone you’re not when nobody gets hurt by the deception.

It’s OK to pretend to be someone you’re not when the alternative is worse than any damage that occurs as a result of the deception.

It’s OK to pretend to be someone you’re not when you’re a professional actor being paid to play a part.

You are confusing putting your best foot forward with deception.

What you were talking about here, I wouldn’t classify as a lie at all. I haven’t told anyone what I had for lunch three days ago. Certainly, I’m omitting that information, but no one gives a shit and no one wants or needs to know every. single. detail. of my life. I can’t even remember every single detail of my life. It’s not in any way dishonest (which is what a lie is) to stick to relevant and interesting topics.

Why the eff can’t you just be honest? I’m truly baffled by this. "I’m looking to have fun, but not for long-term commitment. What I can do is give dream dates for as long as you want it and be a good friend afterwards.

There are plenty of people out there looking for the same thing – to go out and have fun, but no commitments. You are best suited to be dating them, instead of people who are looking for LTRs – and the best way to find them is to state upfront what you want. I just… don’t understand why you’d want to sabotage yourself and mislead anyone else by not being upfront about this. What could you possibly even gain from that?

This here is a lie of omission. This is information they need to have to appropriately set their expectations of their interactions with you, and to decide for themselves if it’s worth their time and energy. You take that choice away from them by not being upfront, and that is dishonest.

Eh, most of it’s not paid, so I’d give a pass to unpaid acting gigs too. :wink:

As for “fake it til you make it,” this isn’t a lie, this is an end run around your own lack of confidence. You couldn’t “fake” social behavior convincingly if you weren’t actually doing it… and if you’re actually doing it, you’re not faking. The only thing that lags behind is your own personal belief that you can.

More to the point, there really isn’t any single “true self,” although many people like to hold that romantic notion. It also is the underlying assumption of the OP, and as such, begs the question from the onset.

Snipped and quoted for truth.

I used to be very shy and had zero self confidence. That wasn’t who I wanted to be, so I pretended to be outgoing and confident.

I do a lot of volunteer work, I would often be asked to go to total strangers and ask them for donations. That’s not as easy as it sounds. I did a LOT of pretending then.

Faking it got to be a habit and then somehow, I wasn’t faking it anymore. I am outgoing and confident. Now, I’m the first one to raise my hand when that sort of thing is discussed. I’m good at it and I get excellent results.

I’m also very good at doing security at biker events. That takes levels of self confidence that I couldn’t have imagined having before I started faking it.

Halloween party

I think if you’re not in theatre, pretending is typically a bad idea.