If you fake it every day—fake happiness, fake acceptance, fake motivation, fake identity—there’s a cost.
It can ruin your on-the-job productivity. It can damage your physical health. It can kill a relationship. If it doesn’t literally kill you, it will kill the “you” that the world is crying out for.
Fakery is smiling when you really feel like crying (remember “Tears of a Clown” sung by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles?). It’s clenching when you desperately need to take a shit. It’s like psychic cutting. Taken to its extreme, it is identity suicide.
A powerful example of fakery and the anxiety it brings on is the character Lester Burnham (played by Kevin Spacey) in American Beauty. Lester hates his job, his boss, his marriage, and his relationship with his daughter. In other words, his life. His masculinity, his sexuality, and his general identity are repressed to the point of boiling over and eventually exploding.
Prof. Edward Jessup in Altered States complains about the culture of academia, “If I don’t strip myself of all this clatter and clutter and ridiculous ritual, I shall go out of my fucking mind.”
Don’t forget The Narrator in Fight Club (played by Edward Norton), a young guy so seriously unhappy with his identity that he… (if you’ve seen the movie, you know what happens. If you haven’t, I’m not going to give it away).
Other movie examples of people who have had it with the fakery, disillusionment, and general fucked-up-ness of the modern world—whose frustration causes them to implode—are William Foster (Michael Douglas) in Falling Down and the classic line “I’M MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!” that Howard Beale shouts in Network.
Living in fakery means living with perpetual cognitive dissonance—a battle between the side of you that says “I must do X” and the side that says “I must NOT do X.” It’s like The Clash song from 1982, “Should I stay or should I go?”
You’re in a constant double bind. Screwed if you do, screwed if you don’t. A state like that is like metal grinding on metal, and chances are good that in the long run, it will affect your physical well-being. What can prolonged cognitive dissonance do to you? From Psychology & Neuroscience Stack Exchange:
It appears that extended exposure to cognitive dissonance ignites an initial emotional reaction that is then mediated by the rationalization process. If no rationalization can be made, or if the emotion cannot be effectively controlled by the individual, then the initial emotional reaction may grow more powerful, resulting in mood-regulation disorders such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
But wait, there’s more! If “faking it” day in and day out causes emotional stress, it’s likely that your body is going to react. You may develop some of the symptoms of depression. From Healthline.com:
You may also feel tired all the time or have trouble sleeping at night…
Depression can cause headaches, chronic body aches, and pain that may not respond to medication…
You may even lose your appetite entirely, or fail to eat the right amount of nutritious food. A sudden loss of interest in eating in older adults can lead to a condition called geriatric anorexia. Eating problems can lead to symptoms that include:
Depression and stress are closely related. Stress hormones speed heart rate and make blood vessels tighten, putting your body in a prolonged state of emergency. Over time, this can lead to heart disease.
Untreated, depression raises the risk of dying after a heart attack…
Depression and stress may have a negative impact on the immune system, making you more vulnerable to infections and diseases.
What to do? How can you avoid the cognitive dissonance that kills? How can you bring your mind, body, spirit, identity, and life into glorious alignment?
Lori Stephens, pNLP, CCP, WPCC is a writer, editor, publisher, Certified NLP Practitioner, Whole Person Life Coach, and the founder of ROAR Life Coaching. She specializes in Exit Strategy Coaching—helping people who are ready to quit a soul-crushing job, walk away from a toxic relationship, exit a repressive social or religious group, come out as their true sexual or gender orientation, or in some other way claim their true path. She can be reached at email@example.com.