For example, there’s a man you perceive to be a player because he dresses nicely and talks and smiles at all the women at work. Could be he really is on the prowl but maybe you have the opportunity to have a conversation with homeboy, only to find out that he’s actually a thoughtful, intelligent person with the utmost respect for women. He’s just friendly. If you hold on to your initial perception, and maintain he is a womanizer, you could might miss out on the opportunity to have a meaningful friendship with him or more if you’re in the market.

We are not always responsible for how we are perceived. Circumstances may put us in situations where we have to do something that is out of character and as a result, someone watching or listening thinks that is who we are. But what I really want to talk about is purposely misleading – (or almost as bad: not correcting an assumption) someone into thinking you are someone you are not. I’m talking about the chick who tells you she’s about to buy a house when you know she can’t pay her rent or the dude who says he’s getting a new car and you know he can’t afford a MetroCard. We all play roles, publicly and privately but I do think we have a responsibility to be truthful in our dealings with others.

Perpetual Lies

I have a friend who I would consider a good person. She is responsible and kind and intelligent and loving but she worries greatly how others will perceive her. She would spend her last dollar on the latest fashion and accessories just so people would think she was “cool” and doing well financially. Or, she would talk about the new car she’s getting (but never seems to get). And when you ask her why she’s still riding the train, she’ll tell you that she went to the dealership and had it all picked out but dealer was shady, or they screwed up her paper work and she said the hell with ’em.

Although I was aware of my homegirl’s perception deception issue, I’ll never forget the day that I, by association, became part of my friend’s deception. And I did nothing, but play along. Here’s what happened: I was out one afternoon and ran into a mutual friend. He asked if I had talked to her recently and said he needed to give her a call soon since he wanted to make a real estate purchase himself. In her most recent deception, she had told everyone she would was buying a brownstone. Personally, I knew she could barely pay her rent. And given that fact, a purchase of that magnitude was not in the near future. I had the option of saying, ‘”She doesn’t own a brownstone,” but I opted to say nothing…. partly because despite her issues, I love my friend and didn’t want to put her business out there, mutual friend or not. And partly because I was embarrassed, for her, for me… and I didn’t want to get into an explanation (of which I had none) as to why he thought she had purchased property. I let it go and when I told her about the encounter later on, she was silent; knowing full well that she and I both knew she flat-out lied to our friend.

“That’s not keeping it real, that’s keeping it wrong.” Be true to yourself.

I think the core of this personality trait is that they, my friend included, want to be held in high regard or, since that was a nice way of saying it, they think they’re better than everyone else – or at least they want you to think so. I’m not a psychologist but I have always been interested in human behavior. My guess is that this is a partially a self-esteem issue and also occurs in those who are high on the materialism trait. The only potentially good thing I can see coming from this behavior is that either the person doing the perceiving says, “Gee, she’s doing so well… I want to do that well…” and they are motivated or, the person doing the deceiving works harder to achieve what’s been perceived. Meaning, my friend will work overtime and part-time elsewhere to afford the property she supposedly owns.

Once the trickery is revealed, it can lead to emotional strain for the pretender and breed mistrust and decreased respect in the one deceived. I believe scripture says, “wheresoever I am, I shall be content.” People who are not happy where they are also likely to engage in this diluted thinking. However boys and girls, they do have a choice. While there is much in this life that none of us can control, I think the whole point of living and interacting with others is to have them like and love us based on who we really are and not want we want them to see.

It Will Catch Up to You

Personally, I believe this pattern of deception to be self-deprecating — a character flaw. Conversely, I also feel some sympathy for those who worry so much of what others might think that they resort to lies or put themselves in situations they can’t handle. “Oh, what they’ll think of me!” types will almost always have to make up stories to maintain their image. They purposely deceive in order to make others think they are doing better than they are, feeling better than they are, etc. Incidentally, it is not uncommon for small lies to build up, creating an almost fraudulent existence. Like I said in the beginning, we all care, to some degree about how we are perceived but it needn’t dictate our lives, ambitions or relationships.