The above article on Nature.com is about Imposter Syndrome, that feeling that we're not good enough, that we don't deserve what we have, and shouldn't be doing what we're doing. That is not entirely what I discuss below, and yet it is very pertinent to many of the questions I ask. More than anything I'm trying to get to the bottom of human interaction, and what it means to be genuine or fake. There are many aspects to this deep subject, and I do not intend to grasp everything here, but perhaps begin a search.
What does it mean to be fake? Perhaps many define this as doing something to gain popularity or to please others, though it's not who they really are. Is it the opposite to be genuine: someone who does something because it is who they are, not because they seek to have something because of it?
How do we know which is which? How do we know the motives of a man within his heart? Is it genuine or fake to accuse someone of being fake or praising someone for being genuine?
I would wager that it's not necessary to conclude whether someone is genuine or fake. We are all genuinely fake. If someone is fake (trying to be what they are not to gain the praise of peers), is it not his nature to be so? Isn't he acting upon his inner feelings? If someone is genuine, doesn't he still want something from others, be it love or affection or friendship? Aren't we all motivated by something else than the way we act?
Aren't those who accuse others of being fake themselves acting upon their own need for security, their lack of trust in others? The accuser and accused are opposite faces of one coin. One, from her insecurity, is trying to be something she is not. The other, from her insecurity, is projecting her own fears upon others.
Aren't both accuser and accused fakes, and aren't they both genuine? Aren't we all?
This may be the prime struggle of human beings within a society. The constant balancing act of peer to peer relationships. We see it in preschools, with children first learning how to make friends. We see it in national and international politics, when world leaders try to gain high ground through diplomacy or deception.
And yet the worst thing to be, it seems, is to be a fake. To be “real,” to be a real person, a real friend, a real leader, is the highest compliment an individual can receive.
This is very prominent in American gang culture, where thousands of people are on unsteady ground, where a single word can lead to violence, a misunderstanding can be death. The last thing a gang member wants to be perceived as is dishonest—to be a snitch or a buster. In ancient times, a man was only as good as his word.
But why is it that we are so concerned with what is real and unreal? Honest and dishonest? Genuine and fake? Is this a cultural trapping? Is it a personal need? Is it inherent to human beings to know who is with us and who is against us?
Or is it a sign that we have lost faith in our fellow humans? In the world itself.
The question of genuine or fake implies a certain level of trust; trust in human beings and in ourselves. Are we to get caught up in life's drama, in the social popularity contest, or are we to decide for ourselves that life is not a drama, that there is no contest?
I Can't Wait by The Real People
The Grand Illusion by Styx
The Stranger by Billy Joel