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Challenge your Mindset

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How are you feeling?

The reason we put up a pretence even around our friends


Pretence is sometimes the best way of getting through tricky situations or particularly rough days. It’s a human defence mechanism to say you’re fine when you’re not, so you can avoid explaining your feelings and get on with your day. It’s sometimes better for your well-being to not be so honest if you don’t like someone’s outfit. It’s easier for you to get on with people if you pretend you need someone’s opinion on a situation so you don’t look arrogant. People recognise pretence and practise it everyday as a normal part of being yourself, but why?

Child’s play

The need for pretence stems from childhood. As children, we often play pretend and have an increased capacity for imagining things that aren’t real whilst ignoring or not understanding reality. Playing pretend is normally sparked by a reaction to a new piece of information in children. In trying to understand it and make sense of it, they play with the idea of it by making fun and playing games around it. We eventually grow out of this phase but even in adulthood, a part of it remains as a natural way for dealing with difficult situations where we feel out of control. For example, when we face the prospect of a promotion at work, we sometimes imagine ourselves as in the job already to get a feel for how we would approach it. This makes us act differently around people we know – in this case you might start dressing more smartly, acting more professional and being less laid-back with your friends as though it’s totally normal. It’s a very subtle example of pretence that psychologists believe helps us adapt to new situations.

Power and control

The most outward form of pretence – lying – is normally reactive. When we feel threatened socially by someone who undermines our success or knowledge, some people will brag about things they own, have experienced or have achieved just to stay on top of the pack, even if completely untrue. The pretence is risky, but instinctual. When it comes to our selves, our ego is most fragile when interacting with others. [What does being egocentric mean] We want to protect our sense of selves in case it is mocked or deemed not good enough, though these fears are very rarely rational.

Freud and the id

In terms of sociology, pretence is vital. Freudian theory posed the idea of an id, in most basic terms a version of you constructed by your true self which best communicates you to other people. Your id is your social side – it absorbs impressions of acceptable social interactions and creates a personality for others to best understand you and accept you. This psychological mechanism means you can repress parts of your psyche which don’t fit with perceived society. It’s what stops you from speaking before thinking, talking modestly about your interests, and staying rational with your deepest desires. In this case, pretence is not a way of disguising or lying, but a way of revealing truth.

Think about times when you’ve had to censor yourself or adapt in order to please people. It doesn’t mean you’re not honest or lack too much trust in your friends or have bad self-esteem. It’s a necessary part of being in society.


This article was contributed by Pink Moods.

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