You Are What You Pretend To Be…

by Emily Steers on 07/31/2012

One of the first may-jor papers I wrote in college was for an early essay writing class.

Everyone at Emerson had to take the same class (WP102, I think? I can’t remember). It was supposed to teach you how to write a big term paper. So, the goal of the course was the same for everyone, but each individual professor got to choose the topic for their section.

I got a young Masters student who chose the concept of “passing” as our topic. Other segments got topics that were, let’s be honest, way sexier. While I was reading essays by gay women pretending to be straight men, or lightly complected black men passing as white, other students were learning about… ok, I can’t remember. Movies and shit.

At the end of the semester, I wrote my term paper on what I called “belief passing.” It was all inspired by my favorite novel, Mother Night, by Kurt Vonnegut. In it, Howard Campbell is an American who “pretends” to be a Nazi during World War II in order to have a luxurious life in Germany during the war, and then gets surprised at the end when he’s convicted of war crimes and dies in prison.

Lighthearted stuff, obvs.

The moral of the story is, as KV says in the beginning, You are what you pretend to be– so you better be careful about what you pretend to be.

I think this sort of moral should be instilled on people my age.

I read a blog post recently by a young woman (a year older than me) who says that she hates talking about politics– and people who do talk about politics themselves. Sorry, kittens, but I’m not going to be that person. You are what you pretend to be, after all. I don’t want to pretend to be a person who doesn’t feel strongly about the things I do feel strongly about. It’s disingenuous.

But on the flipside, I’ve been having major confidence and anxiety issues for a while now. I have been living my life with the constant inner narrative that absolutely NOTHING that I do is worth merit or pride. That I’m the worst blogger that ever lived, the least likeable person on the internet; a friend-less dork that wasn’t popular at 16 and isn’t popular amongst her peers at 26 either. (It’s amazing how much more confidence I had as a teenager than I do now. I feel like I was usually so happy with myself back then– aside from the fact that I was forever mortified that I couldn’t find jeans that were long enough to cover my ankles.)

Of course, it’s not just blogging that I take my mental hatchet to. In my daily life, I feel like Mindy Kaling– Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Of course, much of my isolation boils down to the fact that I have panic attacks when I’m about to go hang out with “new-ish” friends. (Or, frankly, be in a place with more than 10 people contained in four walls.) I hate being around people who haven’t known me for 10+ years and know what a dork/loser I am but love me anyway.

Co-workers, work associates, cool people I met once or twice and duh– clearly they are just pretending to enjoy my company. They are just going to dump pig blood on my head at the prom and I am not telekinetic so I can’t even exact my revenge on them. Life sucks.

So, it’s time to start playing pretend. I’m going to pretend like I’m a really good blogger. One that everyone loves and connects with and whose posts you talk about at dinnertime because I’m so gosh-darn witty.

I’m going to pretend like people actually want to hang out with me.* (*People apparently actually want to hang out with me?)

I’m going to pretend that when I show up to events and smile, my smile isn’t that I Am In Actual, Physical Pain Because of My Awkwardness smile.

And maybe I’ll just end up… being the person I want to be?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Ada August 1, 2012 at 5:56 AM

Oh man, it’s such a thin line to walk, isn’t it? Trying to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones without feeling disingenuous. I like your idea of pretending to be who you want to be in order to actually become who you want to be. I suffer from a lot of the same anxieties as you: “Why do I blog when hardly anyone reads it?” “Am I just a terrible friend?” And always, always, since early adulthood, I’ve been plagued by Mindy Kaling’s question: “Is everyone hanging out without me?” I hope you’re able to conquer some of your insecurities soon. For the record, I think your blog is great (it’s one of my favorites) and I think if we lived closer, we’d probably hang out.


Jen @ Lita's World August 1, 2012 at 8:58 PM

I think you already are what you say you’re going to pretend to be! I always enjoy your posts and tips and DIY and political insights! So , please keep going…please!! I’ve been feeling like a lame blogger lately only posting once or twice a week as my life feels so calm and, well, boring right now – but in a good way! So, I’ve been spending time just reading blogs lately …in my reader which means I get lazy about posting comments so need to get better at that too ;) We’re all in this together ;) r u heading to BlogHer? I’m passing this year….gonna check out Vida Vegan Con in Portland next year instead as I don’t need any more “kid” schwag ;)


nichole August 2, 2012 at 11:41 PM

i was about to say “well, i haven’t really known you for ten years but i’m going to comment anyway” but then i realized holy crap, i HAVE known you for ten years almost (next september, online much earlier than that!) … where does the time go?

anyway, getting back to the entry – you are a fabulous person, em. you shouldn’t have to pretend to be anyone else – why would anyone want to know someone that isn’t the real emily? the “real” emily – the one i know – may be a little shy and socially awkward, but when she lets people in, she’s really badass, and i wouldn’t change that about you for anything. so what if you’re not the most popular person on the planet? trust me, i come from a past of horrific self-esteem too, and i still hate on myself constantly, but we have to remember that we are who we are for a reason, and if people can’t see all we have to offer, then they’re not worth having around anyway…

this whole thing reminds me of the quote from machiavelli: “everyone sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are…”



delainanicole September 3, 2012 at 12:13 PM

Ok, this is only a loose connection, but it made me think of Michael Jackson:

“Be careful what you do
Because a lie becomes the truth”

Or maybe it was just a lame excuse to quote MJ lyrics.


Georgina September 15, 2012 at 8:03 PM

huh… maybe you’ve been pretending ur a good blogger for a while now…. seems to be true..


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