Fake People

“People walk around they don’t know what they’re doing
They been lost so long they don’t know what they’ve been looking for
Well, I know what I’m a looking for but I just can’t find it
I guess I gotta look inside of myself some more.”
– Donovan “Riki Tiki Tavi”

She’s an amazing young woman and she’s explaining to me that the zombie apocalypse is already upon us. “I just see so many people walking around like they’re dead inside.” This is the downside to empathy – too much of it and you find yourself strongly affected by your environment and the people in it. Those of us who come from unhealthy homes tend to have tons of empathy. We intuitively sense things and we know how people feel about themselves and their lives. We spot you a mile away when you’re faking it.

Fake people are invested in maintaining appearances. In a childish manner they convince themselves that no one can see through them. It’s like when I meet a businessman for the first time. The first thought I have is “suit” and the first thought he has is “hippie.” The difference between us is that I’m the same guy everywhere I go. I say “Hi, I’m Jim” and he says in an impossibly awkward voice, “Hey…Man…” He will hear himself say that and wonder, “Why the hell did I say that?” He says it because he is subconsciously trying to adjust who he is to be able to relate to me. Unfortunately, this leaves him judging by appearances. Worse, when fake people say dumb things they tend to say more dumb things cuz they feel committed to stay the course.

“Be careful what you pretend to be because you are what you pretend to be.” – Kurt Vonnegut

When you’re fake you’re trying to be a chameleon. Maybe you pull it off. Then you get to be an amateur actor and emulate others in order to gain acceptance. How many personas do you have? One for each environment. You’re a different guy at home, at work, with friends, and with family. It’s a lot to keep track of. The sad truth about this is that nobody really knows you – especially yourself.

If you’re a lousy chameleon people won’t want to know you. They see that you’re trying way too hard and you’re too eager to please. You will go whichever way the wind blows because you so desperately want acceptance. You’re “that guy.” You’re probably overcompensating for insecurities that you can’t do anything about (being short, bald, or having a big nose). Perhaps you project (wrongly assume that people judge you for the things you are unhappy about: your income, the car you drive, the neighborhood you live in). You’ll conveniently overlook that if people are judging you that way, they’re probably not folks you want to know anyway.

“The days go by and you wish you were a different guy
Different friends and a new set of clothes
You make alterations and [a fact in you knows]
A new house a new car a new job a new nose
But it’s superficial and it’s only skin deep
Cause the voices in your head keep shouting in your sleep.” – The Kinks “Do It Again”

Fake people talk about their superficial lives and their things and their money and sometimes they’re just trying to say what they think I wanna hear. They’re just always wrong. Sometimes they complain about the weather or the Red Sox or Obama and I just hear Dave Matthews in my head singing, “These fickle fuddled words confuse me…” When I’m trying not to embarrass my poor wife I can pretend to care. When she’s not around I can’t be bothered.

Go to Google right now and type in “Oriah Mountain Dreamer – The Invitation.” Best five minutes you’ve ever invested. If you can answer what she’s asking or if you’re willing to seek out the answers then come hang out with those of us who are genuine and who have the guts to dream.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.