When you think about it, pretending is a natural human instinct. Everybody pretends on a regular basis. It can be seen as lying, but there’s a distinct difference. Now, I’m not quite sure what that difference is, but it’s there.
You might pretend you like someone’s food so you don’t upset them or come across as ungrateful. You might pretend you have enough free time to take on an extra task, or you might pretend you’re swamped so you have a chance to actually rest. You may pretend to your family that you’ve met up for coffee with a friend so they don’t worry that you’re staying in your room, alone, for days on end.
Everyone pretends. Sometimes it’s the only way to stay afloat.
Say, for example, you’re beginning to feel overwhelmed. You’re feeling the burnt-out sneak in, or you’re feeling homesick. You’re tired from work, and you’re stressed about coursework, but you can’t pull back on anything. You can’t go home for another month, you can’t miss work because you need the money, and you can’t ignore your uni work because you’re already behind and you have important deadlines to meet. So, instead of taking moments to rest where you can, you pretend you’re okay. You put on a smile, and you just say ‘yes’.
People around you are falling sick, or running into personal trouble, so you accept the jobs they can’t take on. You pretend you have the time and the emotional capacity. You don’t. But at least when you’re busy, you don’t have time to feel stressed or sad. When you’re working 24/7, you don’t have time to feel homesick. Your family Facetime you, and they say you look tired. You are, but you pretend it’s just because of work. That you’ll have an early night tonight, despite the essay you have to finish.
People pretend to be happy all the time. It’s human instinct not to let anyone know how you truly feel. Not to bring others down. It’s human instinct to protect others from the sadness and stress you feel. Someone asks, “how are you?”, you reply, “I’m okay”, despite feeling like you’re one kind hug away from bursting into tears.
I don’t know where this instinct of pretence comes from. It’s hard to say. Maybe it’s our survival instincts telling us not to be too vulnerable, or maybe it’s our protective instincts kicking in and stopping ourselves from hurting others. Either way, everyone pretends.
It isn’t always to save face. You might be on a date and really not feeling it, but you pretend to have a good time in order to make the other person happy. You don’t want to upset them, so you laugh and smile, and try and have a good time, even though there’s no sparks flying. Later, you get a text from them, “I had a really good night, would you like to go out again?” You feel bad, but you don’t want to disappoint them too much. So, you soften the blow a little. You tell them you had a good time too, a pretence, but that you think you’d be better off as friends, pretence again. You know you won’t be seeing this person again, but you pretend in order to soften the blow of rejection. You don’t want to hurt them.
It’s in our nature to be kind. To try to ensure everyone stays as happy as possible, so pretending comes naturally. It’s easy. Yes, some might consider it to be lying. But everyone pretends, and it’s usually with the best intentions.