Foo Fighters’ “The Pretender” features lyrics that are wonderfully ambiguous — it’s a passionate plea to fight pretending without being specific about the story or the situation. So that means it leaves a lot of room for interpretation and putting in your own story.
Now, it’s easy to say “be true to yourself” and “stop pretending.” But that’s turned into a bit of cliché so while I don’t disagree with it at all, I would like to stop and think why that’s a good piece of wisdom.
My observation is that lying takes mental energy, and pretending is a form of lying. If you’re acting on stage then that pretending becomes an art form, but everywhere else we pretend, mostly because we are afraid. One can pretend out of kindness for others, but that’s probably rare — most of the time we pretend because we are afraid that something bad will happen.
So, if pretending takes energy and we are expending that energy out of fear, that’s energy spent that could have been used spreading more positive energy to the surrounding world. And let’s not pretend that that doesn’t matter — our presence, our energy affects those around us, and the people you have in your life are the reflection of the kind of energy you’re putting out.
What if you didn’t have to pretend, or at least didn’t have to out of fear. To many of us that’ll be a dramatic reduction in energy we’re spending, a negative energy. You’ll feel more energy, to get up in the morning and face your day, to exercise or volunteer or do something good for you and others, more energy to combat what is referred as the Resistance, the force against all things good, as defined in Steven Pressifield’s War of Art. The more positive energy you put out, the more you make a difference in the world and the more you receive from it, too. It’s a positive cycle. It’s in everyone’s best interest, for each of us to reduce or eradicate the energy we spend pretending out of fear.
And that’s where this song comes in. Can you feel the defiance, the rage of this chorus?
What if I say I’m not like the others?
What if I say I’m not just another one of your plays?
You’re the pretender
What if I say I will never surrender?
That, to me, is a rallying cry against this pervasive trend to pretend and make ourselves to be something smaller than who we truly are. To fight the urge to shrink, to reduce ourselves to be less than what we really can be if we didn’t spend that energy pretending. I particularly appreciate the first line, because to stop pretending is to be an exception. Stop being like the others.
Because none of us are really like the others. We never were.
It is time to accept, and embrace that truth.