Did you ever play this game as a child? When one child boasts, “I’m an astronaut,” another child insists that he will be the doctor who will take care of him when his spaceship crashes.
Then another child chimes in, “Well, then, I’m going to be a fireman and when your spaceship crashes, it will be me that pulls you from the fire before the spaceship explodes, and I will take you to the doctor who will fix your broken bones.”
And then, yet another child excitedly joins in, “I’ll be the nurse who takes really good care of you and reads you bedtime stories so you won’t get too homesick.”
Is there any wonder that the fantasy of being anything you want, whenever you want, is an irresistible game for all children? What could be more fun? Such pretending can go on forever.
Sadly, for some adults, this game does go on forever. Rather than ever accepting themselves for who they are, far too many adults make the game “Let’s Pretend” a way of life.
Although fun for children, pretending is miserable for adults. So, why play the game?
The answer can be found in one word, “fear.” More pointedly, it is “fear of rejection.” For some this mean a paralyzing fear that if others knew the real me (the good, the bad and the ugly), then I would no longer be accepted — much less loved.
So the individual compromises, believing that if he presents his best to others, then at least he will be accepted. Fear of isolation, alienation and rejection are powerful forces that lead many to carefully guard what they present to others — even presenting a lie if need be — never fully exposing themselves ... never becoming that vulnerable.
Keeping one’s guard up does work. It’s effective in keeping potential pain out. Unfortunately, it’s equally effective in keeping love out. Never knowing if the real you would be accepted means blocking the possibility of ever experiencing a truly intimate relationship since there remains the underlying gnawing awareness that you are not being loved for who you truly are.
Face it. Playing “Let’s Pretend” just isn’t worth it. To go through life wondering and never knowing if others will accept you for who you are just isn’t a satisfying way to live. Not having the courage to just be yourself drains the very life out of you and only serves to make you hyper-vigilant, if not paranoid that someone, someday, sometime, will find you out and in the blink of an eye bring your game of “Let’s Pretend” to a devastating halt.
Living this way is sort of like speeding down the highway of life always checking your rear-view mirror, paranoid that this may be the day you get caught.
If you are playing the game “Let’s Pretend,” consider stopping on your own terms before you get caught. The best way to end the game of pretend is, first, be honest with yourself and, second, be honest with the significant people in your life (not everyone needs to know everything about you).
I’m really not sure which task is harder, but I am sure that being honest with yourself must come first. When you tell others, expect half to accept you and half to reject you.
This may be a little frightening at first, but after some thought, you will realize, like I have realized, that the half who don’t accept you for who you truly are never really accepted you in the first place.