Personal Development

How Can You Tell If Someone Is Being Fake?

Fake people are everywhere.

Indeed, it seems like living authentically is actually getting harder than it used to be. 

What actually motivates people?

Whatever the reason, it’s important to be able to notice “fake people” in order to prepare for them and not get caught up in the messes they make for themselves and those around them. 

We’re going to look at what a fake person is, how they’re different from genuine people, how to spot both in the wild, and what to do with “”fakeness””.

What Is A “Fake Person” and Why Do People Act Inauthentically

A fake person is someone who is not being their authentic self.

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They go through life pretending, never showing their genuine selves to anyone else, usually because of fear of their real self being rejected or some similar reason. 

“Why would anyone act inauthentically? What purpose does it serve?” 

There are many reasons, but it usually comes down to fear in some way. Fear of rejection. Fear of losing control, fear of not fitting in, ect.

As written by PhD candidate Marianne Etherson in Psychology Today…, those who act inauthentically have a compelling need to conform to the expectations of others.

Mrs. Etherson believes those who act ‘’fake’’ have a shaky self-worth as they struggle with self-criticism and ultimately have a perpetual need to win the approval of others. Ultimately, they are pressured to think, feel, and behave in a way that is not their own, molding themselves into something they are not.

This strategy is doomed to fail over the long run, but to the ego that doesn’t matter. Everyday fake people will continue to hide their true selves even from themselves.

Fake People vs. Authentic People

Fake People Want To Bend Reality Around Themselves and Others. Genuine People Never Try To Manipulate Reality for Themselves or for Others.

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Relationship expert Darlene Lancer lists such manipulation tactics as lying, complaining, passive-aggression, emotional blackmail, and strategic forgetting, to name just a few tricks used by fake people.

All of these are meant to extract as much short-term, selfish benefit as possible for the fake person. 

Genuine people try to get what they want without pretending. The truth is more important than getting their own way all the time. 

Fake People Respect Only Superficial Attributes. Genuine People Respect Everyone.

A fake person wants a few things, namely power, money, and to be perceived as someone good. They want everyone to look at them and how rich/powerful/attractive/intelligent they are, and they only have respect for people who possess these attributes. 

Genuine people recognize basic human dignity and treat everyone with respect to the best of their ability. 

Fake People Brag. Genuine People Are Humble.

When I grew up playing pick-up basketball I learned a lot of life lessons, including that those who brag the most are typically not that good and are the most fun to beat.

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Bragging about how much money they make, how high their IQ is, how many cars they have, or anything else are sure signs you’re dealing with someone who wants to present you a carefully polished veneer of a person, not a genuine human being. 

Genuine people are proud of their own accomplishments, sure, but they don’t rub it in your face to try to make you feel bad. They’re also very forthcoming about their own shortfalls.

Fake People Criticize Others To Make Themselves Look Better In Comparison. Genuine People Praise And Inspire Others.

To someone who’s inauthentic, if someone else is worse off, then it makes them look better by comparison.

Genuine people are happy when other people are happy. They try to raise other people up, and allow themselves to be raised up in turn, because they understand that progress is made by people helping and encouraging each other. 

Fake People Are Nice When They Need Something. Genuine People Are Considerate And Responsive.

Esteemed writer, scholar, and man of science from the 1800’s Johann Wolfgang von Goethe famously said that…,
“you can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him”. 

Anyone can be nice to anyone else when they need something from that person.

But only a genuine person who is in touch with who they are and the world around them can treat other people how they want to be treated, even when they have nothing to gain from them. 

How To Spot A Fake Person – 23 Signs You’re Dealing With An Inauthentic Person

Spotting a “”fake person”” is not something you can always just do instantly. You typically have to know the person. Also, just because someone exhibits one of these characteristics once, it doesn’t make them “fake”.

These are behavioral patterns that need to be observed over-time and in conjunction with other traits as well.

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1. Fake People Are Quick To Judge writes that “Inauthentic people can be highly judgmental of others, often as a way of gaining control.”

It’s rare to hear them say something nice about another human. The first words out of their mouth are always a criticism, and they seem to know just what to say to deflate others. 

2. Always Trying To Make You Like Them 

Some fake people put up this display because they’re desperate to feel liked. It doesn’t matter who they’re talking to, they need positive attention.

According to Medical News Today, toxic positivity is when a person may try to appear happy all the time. Even despite having internal feelings otherwise.

Toxic positivity is unhealthy and forces you to silence negative emotions, dampen grief, stifle authentic emotions, and creates pressure to pretend to be happy (even when you are struggling).

3. They Often Surround Themselves By A Clique

Ever notice how the “”judgey”” conservative Christian moms in the sitcoms travel in packs? It happens in real life too.

Fake people need to be surrounded by others who act and think the same way they do. 

4. They Spread Rumors

Fake people love gossip because it makes other people look worse and being a source of (mis)information is a source of power and a kind of status.

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Gossip by itself doesn’t mean you’re being fake, but being commonly “”overly gossipy”” can be a sign of someone who’s insecure and acting inauthentically.

Dr. Megan Robbins, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of California, defines a ‘bad gossiper’, as someone who shares information about others in order to get ahead, or to get an advantage for themselves. Or, someone’s who just plain reckless.

5. They Can’t Handle Criticism and Don’t Own Up To Their Mistakes

They love to talk smack about anything you do, but when you make the tiniest little comment about their behavior, bring on the rage or the tears. Or both.

According to MayoClinic…, “behind the mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

If you make a mistake, then you’re stupid, terrible, a waste of oxygen. But if they make a mistake, why can’t you let it go? It’s not a big deal.  

6. They Make Plans They Don’t Keep

Flaking on plans comes as naturally to to a fake person as breathing. It never seems to occur to them that maybe this is why people don’t want to hang out.

Making plans creates an authentic feeling of trust and bonding, but ditching plans can be an easy way to hold onto a shallow connection to someone.

7. They’re Only Around When It’s Convenient For Them (or if they need something)

A true friend is someone who will help you bury a body, right? Well conversely, a fake friend isn’t around unless they have literally nothing better to do at that moment.

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Fake friends make excuses or disappear when you need them most. They’re happy to go to the movies with you. they’re happy to go to dinner, go shopping, whatever, but as soon as you need a favor, they can’t be there for whatever reason.

8. They Don’t Listen

According to PscychCentral and professor of psychological sciences Dr. Michael P Nichols…,

“Listening is hard work and takes concentration, effort, and self-restraint.”

Really listening to each other is not an easy task, but you can be guaranteed that a fake person won’t even make the effort to try. 

9. They Pretend Not To Be Upset About Things (even though they really are)

A genuine person can admit when something is wrong. But fake people have to hide every imperfection from you. It’s obvious they’re upset, but you’ll never hear them admit it. 

10. Fake People Only Pay Attention To People In Positions Of Power

The boss, the rich, the powerful… These are the only people worthy of actual respect for a fake person. If you’re not their superior (in their mind) you’re not worth their time.

11. They Lead People On With ‘Sweet’ or ‘Little’ Lies

Maybe they tell tall tales, or perhaps take credit for small things no-one else cares about that much. It adds up to a pretty dishonest life.

12. They Sabotage You 

Any help they offer seems to make things worse. Their words of “encouragement” get you down. As long as they’re around, they don’t want you to succeed. 

13. They Always Want The Spotlight To Be On Them 

If a fake person is not the center of attention, they’ll do something to get everyone to look at them. They hate when other people get praise or notice. 

14. They Want Respect But Don’t Give It

According to a compilation of experts, the desire for appreciation and respect are huge motivating forces for a lot of people in this world.

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Those who lack self-esteem, and lack the respect of others can develop feelings of inferiority which can in-itself become a great ‘negative motivator’.You’ll never see them treating others with respect, but if someone treats them the same way….then all hell breaks loose.

15. They Only Get To Know People On A Superficial Level

They might know everyone’s job, or what car they drive, or where they last went on holiday (keeping score). But if you ask them about their friends, they don’t know anything meaningful. 

16. They Bully and Put People Down 

They’ll say something negative about every achievement of others and every good deed. You might think this kind of bullying stops after high school, but according to the American Psychological Association, bullying continues even into old age. 

17. They’ll Leave You When There’s A Better Deal

Even if you’re in the middle of something planned that’s important to you, if something better comes up they’ll walk out without with an elaborate excuse (or not).

18. They Aren’t Interested In Learning From Their Mistakes

There’s no such thing as constructive criticism, only attacks on their character. Since fake people have trouble accepting constructive critism, they can’t learn from the critism, and therfore can’t grow.

19. Fake People See You As Competition 

Even if you’re friends, they have to be better than you. Or more accurately, they have to be seen as better than you by your peers.

20. They Don’t Celebrate With You

It’s because they’re jealous.

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When you have good news, their facial expression looks like an actor who just lost the Oscar to their worst enemy when they think the camera isn’t on them. Jealousy and Envy and two toxic character traits that can consume inauthentic people and ultimately can poison their relationships.

Focusing on what other have is for the weak-minded, while focusing on yourself and providing value to others is for the strong minded.

21. They Drain Your Energy

Whenever you hang out with them, you leave feeling exhausted – even if you had a good time. Almost like a vampire sucked your blood out.

When you have a negative attitude towards life, you radiate negative energy. You can start to become unpleasant to yourself and energy draining to the people around you. 

22. They Lack Consistency

They’re all over the place. They tell different people different things about themselves. One day they love you, the next day you’re a piece of garbage to them, with no indication why.

According to experts, consistency, accountability, and transparency are the most important leadership qualities to develop.

23. It’s Never Their Fault

Whatever the problem, it wasn’t their fault. Whatever nasty thing they did, no matter how obviously malicious, it was never because of them. There’s always another explanation or extenuating circumstances. It’s exhausting.

How To Spot A Genuine Person: 8 Way s to Be More Authentic

If you’ve read through these lists and thought “oh crap, I do some of these fake things”, then don’t worry, we all do some of these things to different degrees and in different variations.

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But if we choose, we can become more aware of some of these “inauthentic” traits to make ourselves more authentic.

If you’re aware of it, then there’s something you can do about it. And it starts with radical self-awareness, radical open-mindedness, and radical care for others.

Here are some of the traits that let you know you’re dealing with someone who is authentically themselves. 

1. Genuine People Follow Through On What They Promise 

Genuine people genuinely care and their word is their bond. If they say they’ll be there to help, you can count on it.

According to Michelle Gielan, best-selling author and Executive Producer of “The Happiness Advantage” on PBS,…, “When we don’t keep a promise to someone, it communicates to that person that we don’t value them”

2. They Boost Others Up And Compliment Them

A genuine person doesn’t feel threatened by anyone else’s success, so they’re happy to celebrate with you and really thrilled when you’re doing well.

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3. Admit When They’re Upset or Mad

Of course genuine people experience negative emotions. But they’re self-aware with themselves enough to let you know how they’re feeling. And if they have a problem with you, they will tell you promptly so you guys can work it out.

4. Have A Realistic Image Of Themselves

Self-awareness and self-acceptance play a big role in genuine people’s lives. They know who they are, and what their place in the universe is. If they’re not okay with their current reality, they make efforts to change themselves instead of tearing down everyone around them.       

5. Authentic People Have Values, And Stick To Them 

Genuine people believe in doing what is right, not just what is easy or profitable.

They are open-minded to new ideas but also hold tight to their own values, even if that means disagreeing with you. They will also respect your values and what you believe in, even if you don’t share the same beliefs.   

6. They Show You The “Messy” Parts Of Themselves

Everyone knows that to be human means to be flawed, no-one is perfect.  Genuine people aren’t afraid to show you who they really are, and they don’t judge you for your mistakes and idiosyncrasies.         

7. They Take Responsibility

If they make a mistake – and of course they do – a genuine person will own up to it. They will admit they did something wrong, and try to fix it whenever they can.

8. They Don’t Give In To Peer Pressure

Genuine people are assured of themselves enough to make their own decisions about how they live their lives. Whatever their lifestyle choice, you can be sure that they made that choice rather than following a trend.

7 Tips For Dealing With Fake People

1. Don’t Take Their Actions Personally: Distance Is Key

People who act inauthentically don’t see reality for what it really is. That means they don’t see you for you who really are, either.

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With that in mind, look at their actions not as being personally against you, but for what they are: automatic defensive behaviors without conscious thought behind them. 

Taking some time and space away from these people and their actions lets you see this more clearly, and helps you to not be so affected by it. 

Forensic  and clinical psychologist Alona Guha says that defining clear boundaries is a vital part of maintaining any kind of relationship with people who exhibit manipulative, “fake”, or inauthentic behavior. 

2. Take The High Road

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As Gandhi said,
“an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

3. See Behind Their ‘Mask’ and Understand Why They’re Acting Fake

Why do you think they are the way they are ? Why are they acting fake? Is it because maybe deep down they feel very insecure and are covering up for their deep feelings of fear for being judged?

You could even offer some help to work through the personal problems they may be experiencing? 

It’s kind of a risky game – you don’t want to get sucked into their spiral and suffer along with them – so always remember it’s not your responsibility to fix anyone. 

4. Don’t Give Your Power Away To A Fake Person

Fake people love games of power. Anything they can hold over your head to make you feel guilty or ashamed… They’ll take it and run with it to give themselves the thrill of feeling superior. 

The best way to keep your own power is not to overshare. In a normal context oversharing means not spilling your deepest and darkest secrets. 

5. Don’t Let Their Annoying Fake Behavior Get To You

Ignoring your calls, flaking on plans, gossiping about your friends behind their backs, and many worse things.

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All of these are annoying and fake behaviors that are just plain nasty to be around. 

Distance helps here, but if you can’t get away from the worst of it just try your best not to let it get to you. See the bigger picture, and vibrate on a higher level.

Remember – it’s fake behavior, they’re not even doing it with conscious malicious purpose.

6. Don’t Be Afraid Of Them

Some kinds of fake people see fear as a valid alternative to affection or love. They will try to make themselves more intimidating to seem and feel more powerful. 

The best way to counteract this is to recognize that when they act like that, one, it’s not normal, and two, it indicates deeper unexpressed feeling.

Once you can recognize the behavior, it’s easier not to be afraid of that type of behavior.

If you have to feel any emotion towards severely fake people, feel pity. It’s not their fault they are like this. 

7. Don’t Be Worried If They React Negatively To You Telling The Truth

Fake people hate to be called out on their behavior, because it drives them dangerously close to self-awareness. And to a fake person whose unconscious ego is fully in control, the danger feels very real.

So if you tell a fake person what you really think about them or any other subject, there’s a high chance of a negative reaction. Calling them out on their BS is particularly likely to be met with hostility. 

Don’t worry about it. They might try to make you feel like you’re being hurtful. They may even attempt gaslighting you into believing you’re in the wrong. But likely you are not wrong.

Telling the truth is never the wrong thing to do and a negative reaction to the truth is a sign that a person is probably not worth your time. 

According to one recent study, giving liars and manipulative people a clear image of who they are harming with their actions makes them less likely to offend in the future. So you might be helping them and other people who are affected by the fake people in everyone’s lives.

Final Thoughts: Authentic Personalities vs. Inauthentic Personalities

Being authentically yourself isn’t a new problem. It’s been a subject of considerable debate since at least the ancient Greeks, and probably much further than that. 

It’s always easier to spot “”fakeness”” in other people than it is to find it within ourselves, but it’s vitally important that we try our best to notice both, and respond accordingly. 

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