The Perils of Pretension: Why Thinking “I Am Stronger/better Than You” Will Make You Fake

From an early age, we are taught the importance of being competitive. Whether it’s in sports or academics or any other sphere of life, we are told that coming out on top is what really counts. And soon we start believing that we are better than others – smarter, more talented, more capable.

But this kind of thinking can be extremely dangerous. The “I am stronger/better than you” mentality can lead to pretension and fakeness. It can make us lose touch with reality and our authentic selves. In this article, we will explore why this kind of thinking is so harmful and what we can do to avoid it.

The Danger of Pretension

Pretension is a deceptive way of presenting oneself that involves pretending to be something one is not. When we believe that we are better than others, it is easy to fall into the trap of pretension. We may start exaggerating our achievements or pretending to have interests or abilities we don’t really possess.

But pretension is a slippery slope. The more we pretend, the further we move away from our true selves. We may start to feel like we are living a lie, and this can create a lot of anxiety and stress. Worst of all, we may start to lose touch with the people around us – the very people we are trying to impress.

The Psychology Behind Competitive Thinking

To understand why we sometimes fall into the “I am stronger/better than you” mentality, we need to look at the psychology of competition. Competition is a basic human instinct that developed as a way for us to survive in a hostile environment. When resources were scarce, those who were the strongest and the most resourceful had a better chance of surviving.

But in today’s world, we no longer have to compete for survival in the same way. Yet, the competitive instinct remains strong. We still feel the need to prove ourselves, to show that we are worthy of respect and admiration. And this can lead us down a dangerous path towards pretension and fakeness.

The Dangers of Competitive Thinking

Thinking that “I am stronger/better than you” can have a number of negative consequences:

1. Loss of Authenticity

When we believe that we are better than others, it is easy to start exaggerating our achievements or pretending to be someone we’re not. This can lead us away from our authentic selves and make us feel like we’re living a lie. We may also start to lose touch with our values and beliefs, and this can create a lot of inner conflict and confusion.

2. Damaged Relationships

Pretension can be a real turn-off for people. When we start pretending to be something we’re not, we may come across as insincere or phony. This can damage the relationships we have with others, making it difficult for us to connect with them on a meaningful level.

3. Increased Stress and Anxiety

Living a fake life can be extremely stressful. We may feel like we’re constantly under pressure to maintain our facade, and this can create a lot of anxiety and tension. We may also worry about being found out, which can make us feel paranoid and insecure.

4. Missed Opportunities

When we pretend to be something we’re not, we may miss out on opportunities that would have been available to us if we had been our authentic selves. We may also attract opportunities that are not a good fit for us, leading us down a path that is ultimately unsatisfying.

Overcoming Competitive Thinking

To overcome the “I am stronger/better than you” mentality, we need to work on cultivating humility and authenticity. Here are some strategies to consider:

1. Practice Humility

Humility is the opposite of pretension. When we are humble, we acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses without seeking to prove ourselves to others. We are comfortable with who we are, and we don’t feel the need to impress anyone.

2. Embrace Authenticity

Being authentic means being true to yourself. It means acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses and embracing your unique qualities. When you are authentic, you are comfortable in your own skin, and you don’t feel the need to pretend to be something you’re not.

3. Shift Your Focus

Instead of focusing on competition and comparison, focus on growth and self-improvement. Set goals for yourself that are meaningful and inspiring, and work towards achieving them. Remember that success is not about being better than others – it’s about being the best version of yourself.

4. Build Meaningful Relationships

Developing real, authentic relationships with others can help you stay grounded and connected with reality. Seek out people who share your values and interests, and who support you in your personal growth journey.


Thinking that “I am stronger/better than you” can lead us down a dangerous path towards pretension and fakeness. By embracing humility and authenticity, and shifting our focus towards growth and self-improvement, we can overcome this mentality and live more fulfilling lives. Remember that being authentic is the key to happiness and success – not pretending to be something we’re not.


Related Posts

  1. Grant, A.M. & Mayer, D.M. (2009). Good soldiers and good actors: Prosocial and impression management motives as interactive predictors of affiliative citizenship behaviors. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(4), 900-912.
  2. Tice, D.M. & Baumeister, R.F. (1993). Self-presentation and performing under pressure: Self-protective strategies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65(2), 306-312.
  3. Custers, R. & Aarts, H. (2010). The unconscious will: How the pursuit of goals operates outside of conscious awareness. Science, 329(5987), 47-50.
  4. Baumeister, R.F. (1989). The optimal margin of illusion. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 8(2), 176-189.
  5. Driskell, J.E., Salas, E. & Johnston, J.H. (1999). Does stress lead to a loss of team perspective? Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 3(4), 291-302.
  6. Fiske, S.T. (2004). Social beings: A core motives approach to social psychology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  7. Greenberg, J., Pyszczynski, T.A. & Solomon, S. (1986). The causes and consequences of a need for self-esteem: A terror management theory. In R.F. Baumeister (Ed.), Public self and private self (pp. 189-212). New York: Springer-Verlag.
  8. Kunda, Z. (1999). Social cognition: Making sense of people. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  9. Gilbert, D.T., King, G. & Wilson, T.D. (2005). The paradox of sociality: Affect and social reasoning. In J.P. Forgas et al. (Eds.), Hearts and minds: Affective influences on social cognition and behavior (pp. 3-21). New York: Psychology Press.
  10. Leary, M.R. & Kowalski, R.M. (1990). Impression management: A literature review and two-component model. Psychological Bulletin, 107(1), 34-47.