On fake people

Fake“Brady, I can’t stand fake people! I get so annoyed by them, pretending to be nice, pretending to be something they’re not, and all the lying. What’re some good ways to shut them down, call them out, or, I don’t know, get them to stop being so fake? You’re mean, so I want to be too.”

Admittedly, you probably won’t like what I’m about to write.

For those gentle readers who are unaware, that bastion of contemporary catchphrases, if clichés, Urban Dictionary, would say: A fake person is someone who is not genuine and will do whatever it takes to make themself look good. They will take credit for other’s work or down play the good of others to illuminate oneself. Fake people take part in hypocrisy [sic], lies, and will turn on friendship the moment it no longer is a benefit for them. They will change thier personality to fit in to a certain group.

Truthfully, I can hear [read] a lot of frustration in your words, and a tremendous amount of built up anger and relational problems. My imagination is painting a picture of deception, betrayal, and a long storied experience of such. You might have an altruistic agenda and want to confront them, whoever they are, and change them for the better. Or maybe you simply want to be mean for the sake of meanness and confront the lies and deception to relish in the ensuing tears. Since I don’t have any specifics to go on, and I’m not entirely certain of your agenda, I’ll try to be as specific-ish as I can be.

Devising strategies for what is real and what is fake hinges upon an idea that there are measures and standards for ontologically determining what that “what” is. In so many ways, the standard is what each person has made it to be. And those standards are made up. Faked up, if you will.
On a whole, I would say that we concoct these elaborate litmus tests of what is real, I think, because we crave certainty and absolutes in life, but even more so in our anxiety inducing relationships and with the incomprehensibility of other people. Allow me to demonstrate: to be a real man is to not act, behave, sound, dress, anything in any possible way like a woman. To be a real blond is to never chemically enhance, tone, lighten, or modify your changing hair color. To be a real friend is to only give compliments, always show up to events, never miss a time together, and have coffee/tea at least once a week. To be a real Christian is to have one particular interpretation of the Christian bible, denouncing all other interpretations as interpretations but your interpretation as fact. To be a real colleague is to never vocalize complaints about someone to other people, to be a team player, and to prioritize others’ ideas and not your own ideas. To be a real spouse is to be able to read another’s mind, satisfy all their wants and needs, and never disagree. To be real in love is to only ever feel it directed towards one person, ever, in the entirety of your life.

Well, I could keep going on with more examples, but I think my arbitrary points stand, even with other arbitrary measures of realness. Devising strategies for what is real and what is fake hinges upon an idea that there are measures and standards for ontologically determining what that “what” is. In so many ways, the standard is what each person has made it to be. And those standards are made up. Faked up, if you will.

To move away from a philosophy discussion and back to the unquiet psychological idea, what you perceive to be fake or real as a person’s character, and what I perceive to be fake or real about another person’s character, in many ways may have nothing to do with the other person’s actions or intentions. It is simply our own impositions of controlling and policing behavior coming out onto another person. I may want to declare, with certainty, and perhaps a little more than a sprinkling of self-regard, that my own beliefs and standards of what is fake or real are not mine, but what is universally, unquestionably, certain. They aren’t.

So what can you do?

What you can work on, and what is within your ability, is your choosing to see what is genuine and true about others. Your own limitations, biases, and psychological makeup will make it difficult to see what is true and real in others, because so often we will perceive others from the perspective of our own standards of what is true and genuine. If a friend lies about their activities, hear what is true in the lie. You think they are lying because they want to be liked? What is fake about wanting to be liked? You think they are lying because they are only telling you what you want to hear? What is fake in not feeling comfortable to express yourself, or fearing that your expression will have painful repercussions? You think they are lying because they know what they did is wrong? What is fake about how difficult it is to see or to admit our mistakes?

The moment someone tells me something that I struggle to believe, or I think is an outright lie and I want to catch them in a lie and shut them down, I realize that my desire to shut them down is because I am shut down. I don’t want to listen or hear what they are saying. I don’t want to spend time considering how they are right, or real. If I believe I’ve encountered someone I believe is fake, my desire to shut them down is only my own acting out and putting on them my own sense of being shut down.

No. I will not give you anything to shut them down. What I will encourage you to do, is to not be shut down and to try to listen to what is true in all that you deem fake.

See what is real for another person as real. It is okay if you fake it. Or as I like to think of it: it is okay to try.


About the Author


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I'm a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice down in the greater Long Beach, CA, area. I've been in the mental health field, formally, since 2005, and I consider it a deep and rewarding honor to see other people grow and live the lives that they want. If I'm not sitting on a couch with a cup of tea in hand, I'm probably on my bicycle, or lost in my own thoughts on the beach; meditating, tweeting, blogging, and talking into a video camera are also known to happen.

BradyOn fake people

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