Appearing to be what we are not

CC BY-NC-SA Lance McCord

This morning, as part of my daily reading, I read maxim 457 of François de La Rochefoucauld’s Collected Maxims and Other Reflections:

We would gain more by showing ourselves as we are than by trying to appear to be what we are not.

I’ve got the version with parallel original French text, which makes for slightly odd reading on a Kindle, but nevertheless backs up the value of this particular maxim. 

For some reason, this quotation reminded me of a quotation attributed to Henry Thomas Buckle:

Society prepares the crime, the criminal commits it.

I think the reason for these being connected in my mind is because what we call ‘society’ does a great job a social reproduction. That is to say, we (collectively, if not individually) assign roles to ‘types’ of people, meaning that it pays to pretend to be a certain type of person. 

As parents, we want the best for our children but (as Keri Facer argues) this manifests itself in a desire for them to get ‘good exam results’ so that they’ll be OK and go to university. But what if that’s not in accordance with who they are? All of this is not to say that we’re the same person throughout our lives. I think we evolve and change, having no fixed identity.

There’s lots to unpack here — more than I can allocate time for this morning — but certainly something to ponder…

Image CC BY-NC-SA Lance McCord