DEAR COUNSELLOR: Faking it with my ‘friends’

Dr Karelle Hylton, PhD

Dear Counsellor:
I am a 16-year-old student who is inclined to, what you would call, ‘faking it’. I am surrounded by the type of people who I have to be conscious of what I say, for fear of being judged. In other words, I cannot be myself. I call these people my friends, but they are anything but that, for I know they continuously talk about me behind my back. I am afraid to drop these friends, fearful of being alone, and also because I have grown attached to them. Yours truly,

Dear T.C.,
Adolescence is an interesting time in a young person’s life. It is during this stage of development that you will develop a sense of self and establish your own identity. Successfully manoeuvring through this stage will enable you to stay true to who you are. This is really a transitioning period for you and, believe it or not, this is part of growing up.

You will begin to do some searching to find yourself based on your values, beliefs and goals. This is usually influenced by your parents, your peers and your community. Faking it, as you have indicated, has now become a concern of yours because your cognitive self realises that this does not feel right. When you said “I cannot be myself”, and that they are really not your friends, you already know what you need to do. There will come a time when you acknowledge that there is only one you ... and regardless of the need for friendships, you will have to make decisions that benefit you.

Fear is nothing more than an obstacle that stands in the way of change and self-accomplishments. In overcoming fear, people move forward stronger and wiser. Now, T.C., you have two options – forget everything and run, or face everything and rise. The people with whom you currently associate are not meeting your needs, in the sense that you fear dropping them ... that you are faking it ... Not all the people in your life were meant to stay; some persons are in our lives to teach us lessons and to help us become who we need to be. It may have taken some time to be attached to these persons, and this is understandable. However, relationships grow and change, and it is all a part of the process of being social beings.

T.C., you may need to expand your social circle – join a club at school, talk to other students in your class or school, engage in activities that require making new acquaintances; be involved in volunteering at school or in your community. You may find making new friends an exciting and empowering adventure. Friendships are healthy when you share things in common – shared values, shared expressions and, at times, healthy differences – to increase the depth of the relationship.

Dr Karelle Hylton, PhD, is a counselling psychologist. Email:

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