I’m pretending all the time to be, kinder, stronger, funnier, more sociable than I am. I guess we’re all like that but it just feels so inadequate.

What’s the difference?

I know it sounds flippant but… certain things are fundamentally performative.  And other things are so close as makes no difference.

Kindness is performative.  Actions are kind, and people are kind by performing those actions.  You can’t “pretend” to be kinder than you are, you can only perform kindness or not perform kindness, and choosing to perform kindness is always worthwhile, no matter how much you may second-guess your motivations.

Strength is so many things.  It takes strength to pretend a strength you don’t feel.  And the way to achieve strength is to exercise it, so long as you do it in enough moderation to not strain or break anything.  Being able to affect strength when necessary while being able to put it down again when that in turn is necessary is healthy.  Everyone starts weight training with the littlest weights.  It’s not fake or pretending to do what you gotta do in any given situation.

Funniness lives in the interlocutor, not in the speaker.  It doesn’t matter how funny you think you are (or think you are pretending to be) – that’s not how it’s measured.  At what point are you “pretending” to be a musician if the music still gets made?  And often what it’s tempting to describe in first person as “pretending” is more accurately described in the third person as “practicing” – which is of course the way you cause things to Be.

Sociability is also performative.  Pretending to be sociable is just…being sociable, despite a disinclination towards it.  It’s making an effort towards something you value.  So long as the effort is not so great that it backfires into resentment, there’s no practical difference.  

Qualities or activities or whatever are no less worthy because you have to actively choose to perform them.  If anything, the worthiness lies in the act of choosing.  It’s not “pretending” – it’s agency.

tl;dr: ain’t nothing wrong with “fake it till you make it.”  A plastic spoon* holds just as much soup as a “real” one

* I keep wanting to talk about semantic domains!  Artifacts are defined by their utility, whereas living things are defined by their identity.  So plastic forks are still forks, but plastic flowers aren’t flowers.  So there’s two pep-talk messages to take away from this: (1) for certain things, the distinction between “fake” and “real” isn’t a relevant one so long as they still get the job done, and (2) the purpose of a living thing is to be the thing that it is.  The idea of a “useless person” is as semantically nonsensical as the idea of “pretend kindness” (or fake cutlery).

I love this post. It illustrates what I think is maybe the key difference between a developing self-identity and a formed self-identity, which is, like…confidence? If you are BEING kind, consistently, if you are prioritizing that over your own comfort or fatigue or even, occasionally, your emotional inclination (because OH MY GOD FUCK THIS GUY, I HAVE HAD IT UP TO HERE–uuughhh, but no, I’m not gonna lash out at him, that won’t accomplish anything, and besides, he’s probably had a bad day, he’s under a lot of stress, I don’t have to be an asshole about this…), guess what? That makes you kind. That is literally what kindness is. Same for patience, same for strength, same for all of this stuff. You got it. You’re doing it. You’re not faking anything. Stop second-guessing yourself and cutting yourself down. Give yourself enough credit to look at your actions and confidently assert to yourself that you are no longer just making things up as you go. 

I’m remembering that years ago, after a road trip, I told an acquaintance that in Alabama, when I just went into a Taco Bell or something the employees acted like they couldn’t be happier that I had come into *their* Taco Bell. She interrupted me, saying, “It’s an act.”

I was stumped, because of *course* it was an act. The point was, they put on an act to make me feel good, and I liked it and tried to return the favor. Rather than us all trying to make our days more difficult.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s