Dealing with the Poser & The Freedom of Being Real (Part 3)

Dealing with the Poser

Well, its been a while since my last post in which I asked you to note your responses to a few things in your life.  So pull out those notes. How did it go?  Did any patterns emerge? Any new ideas spring to the forefront? It can be tough to connect the dots in day-to-day living of all that impacts our freedom.  That’s why we paused to take note of a few specific  things. To be honest, I pause like this far too little. But, I want to live with freedom. (And I’m assuming you do, too.)

In the last couple of posts (Pt 1 and Pt 2) I’ve been writing about the impact on our lives of both being real and when we “pose”.  And just so we’re all clear… I believe we all pose. Yes, all. I’m hoping that you’re beginning to recognize it after the last couple of blog posts. So today I want to tackle the underlying question, Why?!  Why do we pose? And more importantly, what do we do about it?

First, the poser comes from here:      Wound —-> Message/Lie   —->   Agreement/Vow   —->   False Self           (** More at the bottom of this post.)

Secondly, I believe it’s simple: we will keep doing what “works”.  If we can successfully hide, we won’t change. If we fear exposure, we tighten up our game. If we fear embarrassment, we strive more and share ourselves less. We are afraid we don’t have what it takes, so we skate by, never stepping out into the harder things. We don’t like to deal with the messiness of intimate relationships, so we learn to tell jokes, become the life of the party. Laughing people don’t ask deep, probing questions. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that being funny is automatically “posing” or that we should expose ourselves to everyone in the world and walk around like a huge exposed nerve-ending. For that matter, I don’t think most people are even aware of it when they are posing. It isn’t a lie we tell, it is the way we’ve found to relate to life. And so when we reach the tipping point and move from what flows from us naturally, freely, honestly, to a controlled, reserved/over-the-top, etc version of ourselves, then we have shifted into posing.

Third, we pose to hide… to protect ourselves… to avoid.  We pose in our weaknesses… and even in our strengths. A strange idea, I know. It would seem like we would just pose to hide our shortcomings. But, posing doesn’t always mean we are covering up a weakness. To step out into something we’re good at takes courage. It takes a willingness to accept the responsibility that comes with being talented or strong. Posing isn’t about talent, it is about hiding what is most true of ourselves.  I know people who are funny and outgoing, but they have assumed a “life of the party” role to avoid being intimate with others. I have friends who are really good at their hobbies, but it ends up isolating them from deeper friendships. I personally have hidden behind being really good at technical functions. Being a go-to-guy allowed me to hide from my discomfort initiating/maintaining interpersonal interactions. I have friends who know a ton about sports and talk about sports in every conversation to avoid the uneasiness they feel when having a conversation with others.  I know men who hide behind manly, macho personas because they have no idea how to relate others on a deeper level.  I know people who are very intelligent, but they hide behind their knowledge of information to avoid the difficulties related to emotions. I know people who busy themselves constantly to avoid the introspection that down-time can bring.  And, in all these cases the pose limits the freedom they experience in life, they are settling for ‘good enough’, for ‘what works’.

Let’s not just settle for “what works”.  There is more to us then we’ve let the world know.  Freedom is so close!

So, how do we resist the temptation to pose?  Here are a few thoughts to help us live from our truest self:

  • Invite God to be part of this process.  I mention this first because the following suggestions hinge on the honesty and strength and insight God alone can provide.
  • Ex-Pose yourself.  When you begin to feel the tug to put on a show, focusing on the external, stop and open up. When you’re in a conversation about a topic you don’t know much about, ask questions. You’ll grow. When you are in doubt of what to do and you feel the urge to fake it, resist the temptation to pose. Instead, ex-pose (expose) yourself. (Please forgive the cheap pun, but it fits. 🙂 People will respect you more for your honesty. Friendships will grow deeper as a result of your vulnerability. The anger and frustration you’ve been experiencing will fade away.
  • When you feel yourself leaning toward control, beware.  Control is the initial reaction we fall back on when we feel threatened. Bullying, increasing your intensity, turning the attention elsewhere, making jokes all the time, always trying to organize your surroundings, reverting to rules/lists, or simply retreating/withdrawing, these are a few signs that you’re moving toward control. So, fight the urge to control the conversation, the moment, and those around you. If you have some safe friends, in the moment confess to them that you’re feeling the urge to control and let them talk you through it.
  • Give yourself time to change.  There is a time of transition between the person everyone knows as “you” and the real You waiting to get out. As you let down your guard and drop the pose, you may feel unsure of yourself. Others will even try to pull you back into your pose. They’ll tell you “What happened to you?! You used to be more fun.” Fight it. It will take time, maybe a long time, but it will come. You will come to feel secure with the true you. And, God will begin to feel closer to you than ever as you lay down the masks and tear down the walls that have kept Him at a distance for so long. As you begin to allow Him into the burdens and fears and struggles and hurts and embarrassments and discomfort, He will change them into places of healing and rest and strength and passion and honesty and freedom.
  • Be aware of the inner life.  The urge to pretend and control and fake it a symptom of something deeper going on. When you catch yourself saying, “I just need to get my garage cleaned!”, ask yourself what you’ll feel like if it doesn’t get cleaned. Listen for your response, it will indicate if you are just busying yourself, avoiding something, or if maybe your garage is just really dirty.  And, when you catch yourself getting upset that your spouse won’t alphabetize the canned goods shelf… well… that really is just wrong :-)… but you will find there is more going on here than what is at the surface. I find this very true of myself (and many of the men I know). We busy ourselves, work harder, dive deeper into a sport or hobby, etc. Sometimes it’s just a fun, harmless release from life’s pressures… and sometimes it is an indicator of something deeper going on inside.  In these times, I’ve found it helpful to pause and simply ask God, “What’s going on? Am I running from something? Hiding from something? Avoiding something? Trying to find comfort for something?”  And, more times then not, I will surrender to His prompting, and invite Him to heal the broken place, restore the damaged relationship, help me overcome the fear, be the true source of the comfort I need.
  • Develop a good friendship.  This sounds easy, but I’m not talking about spending more time playing tennis with your buddy. I’m talking about intentionally interacting with another person at a below-the-surface level. Ask deep questions of each other. Get to know them… and become fully and completely known. (These questions may help, “Getting to know each other”.) If we are to ever become our true selves, we must have a one or two good friends. We need someone in our life that knows our story. When someone knows our story, when they know what is true about us, when they can’t be fooled by our posing, they can help draw out what is most true about us. A few years ago I made an intentional decision to have a real friend. It has taken time and intentionality and inconvenience and vulnerability and honesty and patience. It is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And it has been one of the most rewarding, life-changing things I’ve ever done.

There is a Freedom available. I hope this blog post has awakened a belief that more life is available.

Learning to leave the poser behind,




** This is a sort of technical process to try to explain in a few sentences, but I figured some of you analytical types would appreciate this. 🙂
 We take wounds in life. Painful things happen. People let us down. They say hurtful, damaging things. Abuse happens. Disappointments happen. And on the heals of every “wound” comes a message. “I’m not good enough.” “People can’t be trusted.” “It’s true what they are saying about me…” “I’m worthless…” “What I have to say doesn’t matter.”  But, the only thing more damaging to us than the wound is what we do with it. (Craig McConnell)  And so out of the message, we often make agreement with the “message”. We buy into it, own it.  And so we vow to protect ourselves, or not give ourselves over to people, or to live cautiously, or don’t open up our true thoughts and feelings to others, etc., etc.  And, this leads to the false self. But, it makes sense, doesn’t it? That if we believe, for example, that people can’t be trusted, we will hold back, even fake our way through to protect ourselves from what we “know” is true.

8 thoughts on “Dealing with the Poser & The Freedom of Being Real (Part 3)

  1. What you have described is the best way to live indeed. I’ve known it all along. I’ve always hated faking it. The trouble with me was that I kept wanting to extend myself, so I wouldn’t keep devaluing myself by holding back from socializing. Instead of its intended effect, it made me see just how desperately I wanted real depth and how surprised I was when a couple people actually wanted to try to become deeper with me — people I felt completely unworthy of. One of these friends actually had the courage to ask me for advice. Even as I continued with it, he was the one who dared to ask others to join him in his goal-setting, whereas I often tried to superficialize our interactions a bit, even when there was regular close communication.

    For someone like me who has deeply valued realness and desperately needed true depth of contact, I don’t know how I became so protective and proud and unwilling to ask for help, especially from people who would even give me advice. Maybe I have felt so hurt by them in subtle ways that I can no longer trust people who are far better than I am. Maybe this is why I want help from people who are near my level of skill or from people who can be nice but a bit distant. I am pretty sure that I very much want to avoid every hint of someone making me feel inferior and unvaluable by how superior or how far ahead they are in a skill, task, or level of discipline.

    1. What I have described may be “the best way to live”, but as you’ve shared its not always the easiest. I can totally relate to the pull to “superficialize” interactions. There are probably 100 reasons why. And I suppose we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves. I think the overall goal is to keep trying – to remain open. I find it an interesting test for myself to see how I feel around others when there is a lot of pretense and masking. Can I feel comfortable with myself, in their presence, without having to be totally “real”? Not that I should fake it, but can I be comfortable in my own skin no matter what? If so, then I find real freedom in offering myself, both in depth or in that “so how about those Packers?!” conversations.

      Ok… I’m beginning to ramble. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts, honestly.


  2. I think something else we do when we’re wounded is that a part of ourselves, wanting to protect us from repeated hurt, says, “Never again!” Then it springs up with a defense, a pose, an acting out or a withdrawal, whenever it looks like the pain will get triggered — all to shield us from being hurt.

    Sometimes I imagine having a conversation with my inner Poser: “Thanks for working so hard to help me. I’m asking God to help take care of whatever painful place you’re protecting. Could you please step back? I promise I won’t blunder around without God’s help.”

    1. Great insight, Roz. I think your response to the false self will be one many can relate to. But I love your response to it–you take it on directly. You see it as a thing… A person… To be dealt with. This is great and I can see how this could bring clarity and take you closer to healing. Thanks for sharing this with me.
      — Mark

  3. Great topic. Here is my contribution.
    In his book The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis paints a graphic and horrifying picture that has stuck with me of what happens when we let the false-self take over. “The shadowy ghost of the pompous old actor appears to lead a tiny dwarf ghost, but we soon realize that the tall theatrical figure is the illusory self, and the tiny dwarf is all that is left of the man. The dwarf figure holds a chain attached to the collar of the tall one.. the bright spirit who has been sent to help, appeals only to the dwarf ghost, all that is left of the real man. She looks and speaks solely to it- ignoring completely the big tragedian. But the dwarf ghost will not speak to her or even look at her. Instead he yanks the chain of the shadowy tragedian, and he answers her. Try as she might, she cannot get past this large inflated self-image to the dwarfed figure of the real man. ..with each of his bad choices, the dwarf diminishes. Finally he is swallowed up in the illusion- the persona of the dramatized self which the man in life had adopted and into which he had disappeared. The last image we see is that of the dwarf ghost growing smaller and smaller, crawling up the chain around the neck of the tragedian, the illusory self. “
    Leanne Payne says Personhood, identity, being itself come from Him as our hands and hearts are open (through merely asking!) to receive. Focused on Him, we climb up and out of the hell of self and self-consciousness. Listening to the words He speaks, we are freed from the words that emanate from our unhealed hearts, from the unhealed hearts of our fellow creatures, or from the powers of darkness. In listening to the words that come from God, we become all we were created to be.
    My sense is this will be a life long struggle but one worth fighting. The alternative is too awful to contemplate.

    1. Hi Joy… Thanks for your thoughts. Your words are sobering! How easy it would be to let our true self shrink away while our false self grows in “popularity” and power. It is a tragic thing. I hope others will read your words and seek refuge in the healing that God alone can offer in “the words that come from God”.

      You are on the right path… Being honest with others is a great step as light exposes the dark and brings with it the hope of change.

      Looking forward to more,

    1. Thanks. I wanted to find a look that was less formal. Life shouldn’t feel so formal, so why should a blog?!
      As for the posing comment… Too funny. Nice try! But I know you too well for that to work on me. You’re right there with us on this one.

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