To be counterfeit, something must be an intentional imitation designed to deceive. When you think about the important relationships you have in your life, with your family, friends, lover, spouse, co-workers, career, possessions, and especially with yourself, are you buying into a counterfeit reality? And if so, whom are you trying to deceive, them or you?
The strange thing about buying something counterfeit is that you know it’s fake, but you feel like it’s real. But, it’s fake. But, the emotion is real. But, someone will find out. So, you won’t let them look too close. Or, maybe you actually boast you have what might as well be the real thing, only it’s not and, gee, doesn’t that make you savvy for having the cachet of real at a bargain price? Ah, the way we reason with ourselves to justify faking it. Only, I’m not talking about designer handbags or faux-lex watches. I’m talking about the things you buy into in your life that are more about the feel than the real.
Before we get into what can make your life “counterfeit,” let’s consider the motives at play behind actually buying counterfeit goods. If you’re fashion conscious enough to know that Gucci, Yves St. Laurent, and Rolex are premium brands selling far above the capacity of the average wallet, you know those $30 Louis Vuitton carry-ons and $10 Breitling watches piled on a sidewalk folding table are fakes. Yet, some people will buy anyway.
Buying counterfeit luxury goods is known in psychiatric circles as Identity Seeking. Designer brands are distinctive, so people think it will make them distinctive to own them. Each posh brand is aspirational in that it promotes the creation of an image linked to happiness and a popular social status. Buying a counterfeit allows a person to gain membership to an identity they wouldn’t otherwise be able to acquire. This phenomenon is known as the Bridging Effect. The same principles of Identity Seeking and the Bridging Effect can be applied to your life. The key is the perception of the onlooker you are fooling, not what you know to be true, and the simultaneous expectation that you will be treated differently, even when the only onlooker is you deceiving yourself.
Genuine happiness is the by-product of being authentic. If you’re unhappy, or tell yourself you’re happy, yet feel disconnected and plagued by a sense of emptiness, anxiety, or depression, you might be trading the fake Bridging Effect you get from the counterfeit choices you make for the authenticity of being true to who you are and what works best for you in the long run.
Are you really in love with your significant other, or are you too comfortable to move on, or just in love with what they have or can do for you? Are you so happy with your job you’d do it for free, or are you drawn to the prestige or money despite feeling ill with dread as you drag your feet to work each day? Can you really afford that motorcycle, that diamond tennis bracelet? Sure you won’t regret moving away from your job/family/friends to stay with your partner who’s been transferred out-of-state? And surely the pros outweigh the cons of staying with that drunkard/gambling addicted/abuser you love so desperately? Or, are you faking it to convince yourself and others that things are better than they are or not as bad as they seem? Are you faking your life, your relationships, your identity?
Sometimes, you end up counterfeiting your life simply because you don’t know any better. Studies of people who shop for counterfeits reveal that unless you are really familiar with the originals, you can easily be impressed with the fakes. If you have a vague and imprecise idea of what the original should be, you’ll accept the fake thinking it’s just as good as the genuine article. So, if you’ve never had a truly loving relationship, you’re more likely to buy into one that looks loving, but is actually superficial, controlling, or abusive. If you’ve never had financial success but suddenly get a major-league salary or win the lottery, you’re more likely to blow your cash on expensive cars, bling, and other spoils of living large rather than on sound investments and a reliable retirement fund. Though you mean well, lack of experience can lead you to a counterfeit life that you think is as good as it could be, but in your heart and soul just isn’t.