How To Know If Someone Is For Real or Not? 14 Clues That Give Away A Pretender

How To Know If Someone Is For Real or Not? 14 Clues That Give Away A Pretender

5. Name-Calling

Unless used creatively, name-calling is not acceptable for cultured adults. As many people react emotionally to such behavior, the pretender gets away with murdering the truth about him or herself in the meantime. Name-calling is a fabulous distraction and a definite red flag.

6. Dropping Names

People who have nothing to say make sure others know who they know. It’s a popular way to make an impression, but if it happens often, you might just deal with a pretender.

7. Belittling Others

Pretenders belittle others to reinforce the hierarchy. While some nasty people take pleasure in condescension, which too is an unacceptable disgrace, a pretender resorts to such behavior when feeling threatened. Beware!

8. Self-Praise

All people need to be acknowledged for their good actions, but pretenders must make up for the fact that good actions are few and far between. Self-praise makes up for it, especially when they:

9. Exaggerating 

What of a pretender is not exaggerated? Their behavior drips with grandiose assertions and ornamental embellishments. If they had gold, they would pour gold over their words.

10. Offering Little Substance

Pretenders do not know the details and complexities. If they did, they would not be pretenders.

11. Contradicting Themselves

Pretenders do not only tell lies, but they also embody them. They might say they are rational, but act erratically and instinctively. They do not display competence but talk about it all the time. They might demand loyalty while cheating. If it weren’t so harmful, it would be funny. 

Related: The Absolute Narcissist’s Playbook: 60+ Tricks For Pretending They Win

12. Little Time for Others

Pretenders have all the answers; questions would give them away. Many people lack the ability to listen—see also Listen to MeBut for the pretender, listening is a weakness, which must be avoided.

13. Hostility

Timid pretenders exist, but most must aggressively defend the fantasy to keep up appearances. What better way to do so than to attack a person who might expose them? Hostility is also a way to distract from lacking the asset in question.

Also, when everything fails, the pretender projects his or her hostility onto the other. It is your job not to identify with the projection.

Dealing with a pretender
How To Know If Someone Is For Real or Not? 14 Clues That Give Away A Pretender

14. Disliking of Experts

The number one enemy of the pretender is the expert. A person dashing truly competent or blessed people may just be incompetent, feeling empty and devoid.

These clues are not meant to help judge others prematurely, but to notice patterns. To be happy, it is important to relate to people with an open and kind heart. But not to fantasies, especially when they are meant to make you feel inferior. 

© 2019 Andrea F. Polard, PsyD. All Rights Reserved.


1) Andrea F. Polard (2012). A Unified Theory of Happiness: An East-Meets-West Approach to Fully Loving Your Life. Chapter Seven: Confidence, pp. 125-152.

Written By Andrea F. Polard   
Originally Appeared In Psychology Today
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How To Know If Someone Is For Real or Not? 14 Clues That Give Away A Pretender
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How To Know If Someone Is For Real or Not? 14 Clues That Give Away A Pretender
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Andrea F. Polard Psy.D.

Andrea F. Polard, Psy.D., founded and teaches Zen Psychology and Zen Psychology Therapy. She derived the approach from her book, A Unified Theory of Happiness. Her work is rooted in science and Western thought as well as in Eastern thought, especially Zen Buddhism, reflecting her multicultural background. After having started with humanistic approaches, she subsequently trained in self-psychology, system-oriented therapy, cognitive-behavioral psychology and mind-body work. Polard studied at the Freie University Berlin, focusing on creativity and non-verbal expressions, using the Facial Action Coding System to analyze the smile. Her dissertation examined the phenomenon of emigration: Leaving the Circle. She is now an independent researcher and scholar of wisdom traditions, aspiring to revitalize Zen Buddhism in the form of Zen Psychology.View Author posts