Holden Caufield was right – we’re all phonies. Whether you realize it or not, you probably lie. A lot.
According to studies of self-presentation, we typically act in ways that we want ourselves to be perceived by others, and not necessarily in accordance with the reality of our being. This type of behavior helps us get what we want, and through positive reinforcement, manipulation becomes very mainstream.
For example, maybe you have an upcoming job interview, and you’ve been out of work for a while, so to improve your outward disposition you get a slick haircut, splurge on new dress clothes, practice your best behavior, and do everything else in your power to trick the interviewer into thinking you’re the man (or woman) for the job.
When I describe it this way, it seems quite underhanded. Conniving, even. But it works.
Now, your typical day-to-day manipulation is not malicious by any means. A white lie never hurt anyone, right?
But I think in the long run repeated societal-deception can have a negative effect on our psyche. There becomes a disconnect between who we are and who we present to society. I think this can cause mental distress. (“Who am I?”)
I know I often catch myself saying one thing aloud, then instantaneously thinking in my head “Why did I say that? That’s not true!”
Overall I think it’s best to be as honest as possible, both with ourselves and with others. It takes practice to break away from bad habits and expose ourselves to backlash from our peers, but I have a lot of respect for those that are truthful and able to tell it like it is.
The next time you’re put in a tight spot and feel pressured to put on a show, try not to give the standard rigmarole, and instead, spit the truth. It might just work.