When You Should Pretend You’re Someone Else


Sometimes it’s actually beneficial to pretend we’re someone else. I know this sounds counter to what I usually tell you. We talk about the importance of discovering who we are and learning to show up as ourselves without trying to mold ourselves into someone we’re not.

So why am I now telling you to pretend you’re someone else?

Really it’s about perspective. Sometimes we can benefit from approaching our situation through someone else’s eyes—whether we need a more balanced understanding of ourselves, a bit of distance and objectivity, or some help freeing up our creativity.

So when can it be helpful to pretend you’re someone else?

When you’re worried about what others will think of you

When I started writing this blog, I worried about sharing my thoughts. I was afraid I didn’t know enough yet. I feared that as my knowledge grew I’d realize I didn’t fully agree with everything I’d previously written. I was afraid people wouldn’t trust me if I couldn’t maintain consistency or if I wasn’t an expert.

But then I was prompted to think about how I would view another person in the same situation. What would I think of someone who was willing to share the things he was learning in order to help someone else? What would I think of someone who was willing to adjust her opinions as her knowledge and experience increased? I realized I actually quite admire such people. They are growing and aren’t too proud to revise their ideas.

I was viewing something as a weakness in myself that I actually see as a strength in others. By pretending I was someone else and looking at my internal struggle from an outside perspective, I could see more clearly where I was holding myself to a different standard. It gave me the courage I needed to start writing and sharing—knowing I will continue to learn and grow.

What is an area in your life where you are worried about what others will think of you? What would you think of someone else in that same situation? Are there aspects of yourself that you think are a weakness, but actually consider a strength in someone else?

When you need distance from the problem

Sometimes when we are close to a problem, we start feeling stuck. Asking yourself what you would tell someone else with the same problem changes your perspective, provides distance, and opens up space for creativity.

My husband sometimes builds things to solve particular problems—whether it’s to make work more efficient, our home more enjoyable, or life more fun. Sometimes he gets stuck figuring out one aspect of the problem. He’s been so focused on it that he can’t see past the options he’s already tried.

Often, if he talks through the problem with me, one of us comes up with a solution. Explaining the problem to someone else can help him think about the problem from a different perspective. Meanwhile, I am free to think more creatively because I don’t feel the same level of pressure to find a solution.

In the same way, when we get stuck facing a problem it can be useful to pretend we’re helping someone else solve it. Not only does this give us a little distance from the problem and ease the pressure of finding a solution, but it also prompts us to look at the problem from a different perspective.

What do you do when you get stuck brainstorming solutions to a problem? Next time this happens try approaching it as if it were someone else’s problem and you’re just helping out. How does this change the way you feel about the problem? Does it relieve some of the pressure?

Conversely you can imagine you’re someone else helping you with your problem. Put yourself in another person’s shoes. What do you think that person would tell you? What insight do they bring? How does this fresh perspective jog your own creativity?

When you need to be kinder to yourself

I am often very critical of myself. But mentally chastising myself for every mistake and every perceived flaw isn’t necessarily helpful. Inwardly shaming and punishing myself doesn’t prompt me to improve. If anything it convinces me I’m not good enough and I shouldn’t even try.

So often we talk to ourselves in ways we’d never dream of speaking to anyone else. We can be overly critical and cruel. We dismiss the value of our own humanity and focus on the things we see as mistakes and flaws. We berate ourselves for imperfection, forgetting that everyone is beautifully imperfect.

Next time you respond harshly to yourself, stop and think about how you would speak to someone you care about. If your friend made a mistake would you call her names and tell her how awful and unworthy she is? I certainly hope not.

Most likely you wouldn’t remain friends with someone who treated you that way. Yet, we often withhold from ourselves the compassion and kindness we willingly give to others. Thinking about how we would talk to someone else can give us a framework for our own internal dialogue.

Also, try thinking about yourself from the perspective of one of your biggest supporters. Not only does this help you look at your situation from another perspective, but it also helps you determine what kind of response would be the most helpful to you. What is the most supportive thing you can say to yourself right now?

Sometimes in order to be our most authentic, creative selves we need to take a look at who we are and what we are doing from an outside perspective. Taking a few minutes to pretend we’re someone else is not about trying to become someone we’re not. It is about gaining the perspective to see ourselves for who we really are.

What are situations in which you think it might be helpful to pretend you are someone else? What insights do you gain?