Relationships are a precious part of our everyday existence. Between your spouse, family members, friends, neighbors, work colleagues, fellow church members, or the guy at your local coffee shop that you interact with every weekday morning, your life, and the lives of everyone around you are replete with relationships. However, it is common for a man to feel like an impostor.
Those relationships will vary as to whether they bring you joy or angst, whether you want to remain in them, and in many other particulars. Not every relationship is healthy, as some may be mired in constant conflict, and we’d rather avoid them altogether. However, we are relational and social beings, so something rooted deeply within us desires relationships with others, even if those relationships may not be edifying.
Rather than avoiding relationships because of the pain they’ve inflicted on you, it is better to try and work on your existing relationships to deepen and sweeten them; in other words, to nudge them away from dysfunction toward being healthy relationships.
Talk about relationships is often directed toward women, but men are just as relational as women are, though it may present itself differently. One area for men to consider, perhaps with the guidance of a Christian Counselor, is whether they are being an impostor in their relationships.
What is an impostor in relationships?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word “impostor” refers to “one that assumes false identity or title for the purpose of deception.” Being an impostor is about putting up a fake front to persuade another person to go along with something. Being an impostor can manifest in a variety of different ways, including the following.
Pretending to like something because the other person does.
This includes liking certain animals, or children, books, movies, or particular activities. For instance, a man might pretend to like Tolstoy because the woman he’s interested in does.
Pretending to be proficient in something you’re not.
A person can try to “fake it till they make it.” They may not know a buzz saw from a hand planer, but they’ll pretend to be handy when they’re in a pinch.
Denying your own preferences.
The other side of being an impostor is pretending that you don’t like what you like. To avoid being called “dull,” “unmanly,” or any number of other things, some men will hide or deny what they like.
Pretending to have what you don’t.
Sometimes, a man will act like he has more money, fashion sense, or taste than he has. To make a good impression on someone, a man may be willing to break the bank or even sacrifice their moral code.
Hiding your hurt.
Everyone has a history, and that history may not always be a pleasant one. Whether in a romantic relationship or not, one can hide their pain and areas where they are vulnerable, perhaps to avoid further pain or because the relationship doesn’t feel safe.
Relationships aren’t easy, and we move in them in different ways that we’ve learned through experience and in emulating those we admire. Whether in romantic or in families, people may hide their true selves and project a false self for a variety of reasons.
Why a man may be an impostor in his relationships.
To be fair, both men and women may be an impostor in a relationship, and for different reasons. Human beings have struggled with vulnerability since almost the beginning, as Genesis 3 tells us.
The reason that Adam and Eve’s first action upon their fall from grace was to cover themselves, hiding their nakedness from each other, was that their sin had brought about a deep lack of trust. As soon as other people’s definition of what is good differs from our own, we struggle to trust them or their intentions.
Sometimes, fear of vulnerability is a cause of being an impostor. If you are vulnerable with someone (so the thinking goes), you are open to being hurt by them. They might laugh at you or try to diminish you in some way. To save yourself from this fate, it may seem better not to risk being open, but instead project a false front as a form of self-protection.
Other reasons why people are impostors in their relationships include the following:
- Past hurts make trusting others difficult.
- Fear of failing to meet the expectations of others.
- Conflict avoidance.
- To get ahead in the dating game. It may seem as though those who lie prosper.
There may be other reasons why a person chooses to not be themselves in relationships. While it may be possible to maintain a false impression of yourself for a while, it places strain on you.
Not only do you hide your true self, your needs, and what matters most to you, but maintaining the façade takes energy. That means that not only are your true needs not being met, but you’re expending energy to be a person you’re not. Such an effort can affect your mental and emotional well-being in the long run.
The other downside to being an impostor in a relationship is that it fuels constant anxiety. You never quite feel secure in the relationship because you’re plagued by the thought – “What if they find out who I really am?” The fear, insecurity, and anxiety that being an impostor generates can be overwhelming, and it detracts from the enjoyment of the relationship.
The benefits of healthy relationships.
According to Jen Plummer, “The quality of our relationships is the single biggest predictor of our happiness – more so than business success, physical health, wealth, status or fame.” Healthy relationships are where we connect meaningfully with others and know we have the support of others. Not only that, but a healthy relationship with honesty and vulnerability at its heart allows you to feel connected and have a sense of belonging.
When you’re in a relationship where you can be yourself, warts and all, you can also be kept accountable to who the Lord has called you to be. Being accepted and meaningfully connecting with others elevates feelings of positivity and self-worth, which contribute to your happiness and well-being.
Such healthy relationships allow a person to be fully human and explore the full range of the human experience – being able to laugh, cry, grow, nurture others, be nurtured, and more. Being an impostor in your relationships effectively denies a person these and other benefits of meaningful and vulnerable relationships.
How not to be an impostor in relationships.
One of the hallmarks of a healthy, productive relationship is that it’s mutually supportive, in good times as well as when things get rough. Additionally, healthy relationships create the opportunity for the people in them to be authentic and vulnerable with one another. When people feel comfortable just being themselves, they can have shared experiences that are not only novel, but that are enjoyable for everyone concerned.
If having healthy relationships is the single biggest predictor of our happiness, then it is something we ought to pursue. There are different reasons why people hide their true selves in relationships, and to move past inauthenticity requires courage.
Perhaps you don’t even know why you pretend to be someone you’re not, or you know why but can’t make yourself move toward authenticity and vulnerability despite knowing that it’s best for you.
If you find yourself feeling dissatisfied with your relationships because you’re not being authentic or vulnerable in them, you can start to take steps toward healthy relationships by talking with a Christian counselor.
They can help you understand some of the reasons why people are inauthentic with others, and help you understand the fears or concerns that prevent you from being yourself with the people in your life. Take that first step toward being real by reaching out and speaking with a Christian Marriage Counselor.
“Dinner”, Courtesy of sasint, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Conversation”, Courtesy of Valdas_K, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Funny Face”, Courtesy of RyanMcGuire, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Smiling Man”, Courtesy of StockSnap, Pixabay.com, CC0 License