I believe most of us go through a fraudulent phase when we care more about how others perceive us than we do about how we perceive ourselves. I suspect this leads to great unhappiness over time and is the internal cause of a lot of self-loathing in people’s lives.

I know in my late teens and early/mid 20s I was a fraud. I had a specific image of how I wanted others to see me but in reality, I didn’t like myself at all. Fortunately, that phase has come to pass and I no longer care how others see me. I don’t need to appear cool or intelligent or even physically attractive to know my self-worth. I’m happy with my life and the only concern I have with things related to my identity deals with self-improvement and being a better person than I was yesterday.

There is a sadness I see in society now that directly correlates with this type of self-fraudulence; it’s a societal cancer that grows daily and threatens to take over those afflicted with the disease. I call it the Hemingway problem.

Author Ernest Hemingway is often more recognized for his public image than he is for his writing. This was somewhat deliberate on his part in that he cultivated a specific image that he wanted portrayed to the world. Though, I don’t think he wanted that image to become more important than his work, but that’s the risk of being a fraud. There’s always the potential that the false identity overtakes the real one.

When I compared being a fraud to a growing cancer, I’m referring to the societal ills brought on by social media. Very few are genuine when it comes to their online presence. Even those who build a following devoted to positivity and being one’s true self are often putting on an act—wearing a mask crafted from deception—and while their message might be genuine, they are still presenting themselves exactly how they wish to be seen by you.

Narcissism is usually blamed for this phenomenon of everyone’s “sudden” need to be seen and heard, but I don’t think that’s fair. Sure, there are people out there with delusions of grandeur, but I think most are simply trying to stand out in a sea of sameness. With so much exposure, and the ease in which we can all be seen and heard now, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to stand out in your own carefully crafted world; a place where you can share your thoughts and world views with like-minded people. But again, the issue lies with the act, the facade, the fraudulent image you present to the world.

If you can’t be your true self you eventually lose your true self to the act. The fraud takes over and becomes who you are, much like a parasite that takes over the host and masquerades as the real thing from a hollowed out husk of the original. This is why you see some people who are so unhappy even though on the surface, they have everything they could ever want. They have the nice house, the cool cars, the respectable career, the “happy” family, but what they really have is the fabricated image they painstakingly created to impress others. They aren’t living the life they wanted, they are living the life they think other people want.

I can only speak from my own experiences, but I find true happiness comes from being true to yourself. Creating an identity for others to dote on won’t bring you happiness. Impressing other people won’t make you respect yourself. You aren’t the mask you put on, you’re the face beneath it. It’s up to you whether that face is smiling or crying. And if you’re truly brave, if you take off the mask and aren’t afraid to show the world your real face, you might find that you don’t really care if others like how you look. In fact, you might realize that they aren’t looking at you at all, because they can’t even see through their own masks.

If you enjoyed this, check out some of these other life pieces.

To Jump To The Clouds

To truly live is to notice the world around you and recognize your place within it. To go beyond living is to brave the sky and go beyond the clouds.

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