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You are who you pretend to be. May 13, 2011

Posted by Wilz in Personal, Society.

This post is going to sound a little odd. It is inspired by this quote:

“Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (American Writer, b.1922)

This has always been sort of like an epiphany for me. It carries a precautionary tone, but it can mean so many things. And it gives an odd, but very interesting way of looking at things.

Every now and then we hear of a great man/woman or a great act of good/kindness and we tell ourselves, “I don’t think I can ever be like that” or “That’s just not me.” This quote tells you that if you wish it so, you can. In fact, you will be. Just pretend. To yourself and others. As convincingly as possible. The other way to say this is probably “if you believe in something enough, you can make it happen”. That is the idealistic, positive tone of putting it, but it doesn’t really work for everyone. Some people cannot believe. However, those who do not have the strength to believe, can pretend that they do – and if you pretend long enough – that will be you.

Another way of explaining that – how are we ever certain that we’re doing the right thing or heading the right direction? Even someone who has looked really hard and figured out his purpose and direction as well as he can (and continue doing so with every new experience) – will have constant doubt. If I start bringing reusable containers to pack food, but I don’t know how to start conserving water when cleaning things because I’m a clean freak, does that make me green? Do I have the right to encourage others to be green? Should I first resolve all my own excesses?

Well the truth is – no one is holding a ruler and measuring when exactly you cross the line that makes you green, or charitable, or great, etc. No one can. So quite simply – yes – you are green when you choose to be. (I’m pretending here). If you sincerely pretend you are in all your dealings with yourself and with others – you will make it so one way or another. You gotta start somewhere. In fact, the decision to be something – is the decision to start pretending to be something. When we decide to change our ways and be green, we aren’t actually green yet – we are just starting out.

However if you don’t convince yourself that you have that green principle, you will never bring that reusable container to pack lunch, or refuse that plastic bag at the checkout counter. If you don’t convince yourself that you are someone who is on time, you will never plan ahead or apologize, because that isn’t your principle. If you don’t convince yourself that you are charitable, you will never offer that ringgit note to that stranger or friend who needs it. Life becomes a series of excuses of why you can’t be this and can’t be that.

Of course the precaution is there as well. We all make mistakes, but if we wallow for too long in self pity for being a horrible person – we will come to believe it. Everyone indulges sometimes – we allow ourselves a little too much gluttony, or a little too much envy, but eventually it will become us. We will find ourselves with people that we love to hang out with, but whose principles we completely disagree with (or more commonly, who do not have any principles at all). Everyday we pretend to fit in, and every time we allow ourselves to be silent on things we cannot stand for – we will slide that much closer to what we do not wish to be.

This is not in any way saying that everyone can claim to be whoever they want, wax poetic and that will be true. If you don’t bother to be consistent or hold to your pretense, you’re not going to convince anybody. However, if you’ve done your homework  and if you’ve figured out who you want to be and why you want to be that, you can safely ignore that little nagging voice that goes, “Nah… you’re just making this up as you go. Even with all the introspection, you really still have no idea what you’re doing.” In fact, embrace that voice – because you will know that you’re on your way.

When you get down to it, a good and consistent pretense is indistinguishable from a strongly and truly held principle. So call it whatever you want. We’re all pretending, but we all really are (pretty much).

So yeah – pretend to be awesome, and you will be awesome!

“What are you talking about, I already AM awesome!”

Yeah, that’s it. Good job.

“Wait what?”




1. Moa - June 2, 2011

i like iiit!!

2. Cathlene - July 14, 2011

Beautifully put <3 Thank you so much! … today this is just what I needed to hear. This makes so much since and really speaks loudly to my heart and mind. Be blessed

3. blogaddress7 - November 29, 2012

A pretense by definition is a lie.

If I want to be a doctor, but I have neither the ability nor the desire to go to medical school, should I pretend to be a doctor, and convince people to trust me as a doctor, and every once in a while kill a patient through malpractice, because I don’t know what I’m doing, because I never went to medical school? Is that a good idea?

If I (a married man) want to have sex with a woman who is unwilling to have sex with a married (to someone else) man, should I pretend not to be married so that I can have sex with her? Is that a good idea?

I agree that your pretense (lie) philosophy is an odd philosophy. That philosophy ignores the damage that such a philosophy, when practiced, does to other people.

If I assume a pretense (a lie), and if my doing so raises expectations in others based on that pretense (that lie), then when the truth comes out, and it always does, those expectations will turn into disappointments, and those disappointments will be harmful.

The pretense (lie) philosophy is a selfish philosophy. It does not take into consideration the effect that the pretense (the lie) has on others.

Obama obviously subscribes to the pretense (lie) philosophy. He pretends to be whoever he needs to be in order to get elected. Then, once he’s elected, he does the opposite.

What ever happened to just being honest with oneself and with others?

For example.

Honesty: I haven’t been a good person, but I want to be a good person, so I’m going to try to be a good person, and today I’m going to do something good for you (another person) and see how it goes.

Pretense (lie): I’m a good person, and I’ve always been a good person, and I never do anything wrong, and therefore you (another person) can trust me, because I’m a good person.

The difference is that the honesty doesn’t raise unrealistic expectations in others (it doesn’t make promises that it can’t keep), and therefore it doesn’t cause disappointments, whereas the pretense (the lie) does raise unrealistic expectations in others (it does make promises that it can’t keep), and therefore it causes disappointments, and sometimes those disappointments can be more devastating (to others, but also eventually to ourselves a well, because of the guilt) than one ever imagined.

4. Wilz - November 29, 2012

blogaddress7 – I agree with everything you said. I don’t think you read the whole post though:

“This is not in any way saying that everyone can claim to be whoever they want, wax poetic and that will be true. If you don’t bother to be consistent or hold to your pretense, you’re not going to convince anybody.”

Also you’re being literal. I wasn’t.

5. blogaddress7 - November 30, 2012

I suppose that whenever one learns how to do something new, there is a point at which one imagines doing it, and then one pretends to be able to do it (not really knowing for certain whether or not one can actually do it) that first time. Then, once one has actually done it, one doesn’t have to imagine or pretend anymore, because now one has the actual experience of having done it.

6. Wilz - November 30, 2012


But the greater point is also that when one is in the transition stage, fear or a lack of confidence is generally not useful if one’s intention is true.

“You are who you pretend to be” was originally uttered as a precautionary statement – be careful who you’re pretending to be. However, it can be thought of in a positive manner as well. The thought counts as well. :)

7. arnie Gerstein - December 29, 2013

Authenticity is a constant practice. To know where you are with it try listening to your voice talking with another person echoing back to yourself either because of a faulty connection or recorded. It is eye opening. What were you expecting from yourself or the other person when the discomfort of pretense started to be heard? And it is an innocent response to a much earlier learning experience about love and fear or separation.

8. Melissa Wright - September 15, 2017

This was great! I loved the way you described both sides to the meaning. There are those genuine people trying their best to be what they want the world to believe, but on the flip side there are those that are only trying to hide their actual ugly self from the world at large. When I first read this quote on some other site, I thought “that is absolute BS!”. But then after reading your description, it came to me that there is another way to look at it.

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