The Death of Pretending

–Becoming Whole and Integrated

Several years ago, we lived where there was a large backyard and fenced deck next to a breezeway. On warm, sunny days my children played in these spaces. One summer morning we noticed a rancid smell that permeated the entire house. This putrid odor made all of us gag a bit. I had never smelled anything like this.

After investigating, my husband, at the time, found a decomposing possum underneath the deck. Amazed that the pungent, indescribable odor could permeate our entire home from the outside, I felt grateful he had found the source. He wore a mask and struggled not to toss his cookies as he cleared away the remains.

I regularly share that the conditions of our spaces are metaphors for our lives. I know signs come in all kinds of packages, sometimes nasty ones. I looked up possum in my Power Animal book. These creatures pretend to be dead as a coping strategy. Predators want live possum. The decomposers obviously relish the actual dead ones.

I laughed as I read this. I reflected on my life up to that moment. I realized I no longer needed to pretend about anything. Now, it took me years of bumbling along the path towards living true to myself, to living in greater alignment. I still sometimes notice I’m pretending about something. I’m better at catching this quickly as it often makes me irritable.

What are you pretending? Do you pretend to be sick when you are well? Do you pretend to be well when you are sick? Do you pretend to be in love when you are “meh”? Do you pretend to be happy, kind, blissful when you want to growl, snap, and roar? Do you pretend to be brave when you are petrified? Do you pretend you are poor when you are rich? Do you pretend to be rich when you have debts? Do you pretend that you are not addicted when you have a serious addiction? Do you pretend all is “fine” when all hell is breaking loose everywhere around you? Do you wait for others to tell you about your authenticity and have no clue what that actually feels like in your own body? And how would others really know the “real” you unless they were inside of your mind, heart, body, and soul 24/7 and maybe you can hardly be inside yourself 24/7?

The process of becoming yourself, of living true to your life purpose takes time, practice, and focus. Becoming whole and integrated involves becoming vulnerable enough, to tell the truth about what’s going on inside of your heart, your gut, your soul, and maybe, lastly, your mind that can actually begin to learn from your body.

Daily meditation or time for quiet reflection, movement, mindfulness, and gratitude practice can support you in meaningful ways with this shift. Listening to podcasts, reading books, attending transformational trainings, or asking your closest friends for honest feedback can help, too.

Telling the truth to yourself can be such a brave step forward. Telling the truth, you discovered about yourself to others becomes an additional bold action.

Being willing to hold a compassionate, safe space of non-judgment and deeply listen often allows others to reveal their deeper truths. Holding this sacred space can free others from pretending. What a profound gift your presence becomes for your colleagues and beloved ones. Living in a state of greater wholeness, alignment, and integration brings great joy. May the death of pretending enter your life in a less noxious sign than a decomposing, stinking possum. May you honor the gift of your life by breathing fresh air and exhaling your honesty, your beauty, and your grace.


Laura Staley
Laura Staley
The founder of Cherish Your World, Laura Staley passionately helps people thrive by guiding them to a holistic transformation of space, heart, mind, body, and soul. Laura knows that there’s a relationship between the conditions of our homes or workplaces and the quality of our lives. Trained and certified with the Western School of Feng Shui and seasoned by almost two decades of working with a variety of clients, Laura uses her intuition and expertise to empower her clients to produce remarkable results in their lives. Her trifecta of serving people includes speaking, writing, and compassionate listening. As a columnist, Laura writes personal essays focused on self-discovery, feng shui, emotional health, and transformations from the inside out. Laura is the published author of three books: Live Inspired, Let Go Courageously and Live with Love: Transform Your Life with Feng Shui, and the Cherish Your World Gift Book of 100 Tips to Enhance Your Home and Life. Prior to creating her company, Laura worked as a fulltime parent and an assistant professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. She earned a Ph.D. in political science from The Ohio State University. Her joys in life include laughing with loved ones, dancing, reading, meditating, running, being in nature, and listening to music she loves. She resides in Black Mountain, NC with lovable dog, Layla. Laura is a contributing author to the inspiring book Crappy to Happy: Sacred Stories of Transformational Joy

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  1. I think that our spaces are extensions of ourselves as well as metaphors of our lives. I am a big believer in landscapes as mindscapes, both on an individual and societal level. Your insightful post brings Aristotle’s priceless quote to mind: ‘Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.’ Thank you for sharing.

    • Oh, what a great quote, Noemi! Yes, indeed. Aristotle was quite a wise individual. I appreciate you sharing this and your thoughtful reflections including “landscapes as mindscapes, both on an individual and societal level.” How we interact with our physical world is often a direct reflection of what’s happening in our minds, hearts, and souls. Thank you for contributing to the conversation!

  2. “Becoming whole and integrated involves becoming vulnerable enough, to tell the truth about what’s going on inside of your heart, your gut, your soul, and maybe, lastly, your mind that can actually begin to learn from your body.” So lovely, Laura. Thank you for this timeless reminder. And, not everyone can connect it to a vivid story about a dead possum. Well done!

    • Thank you so much, Mary! And you are so welcome. I’m grateful these words resonated. And no, not everyone has a dead, stinking possum story to steer them towards that awakening or Aha realization. Thank goodness. 🙂 I appreciate your kind words very much, Mary.

    • Thank you so much, Larry, for your kind words. Being real with ourselves takes great self-awareness, that solid witness being on board. I can imagine growing up on a farm would keep things very real.

  3. Laura – Beautifully composed and written as always. Your posts always make me think. I think I’m pretty genuine, but as our friend, Kimberly Davis, instructs: it’s not up to me to say. Only those with whom I interact are allowed to grant me that badge. There is no deodorant in the world that will cover up the odor of pretending.

    • Thank you so much for your generous and kind words about this article. I would have to say it’s a premise Kimberly Davis uses in her book in which I part ways. When you take the time to do deep inner work with that witness part of you, you know in your heart and soul whether you are pretending or not. No one else determines you authentic expression. Only you can know when you are living true to your heart and soul as this lives in the very center of your being-your guts-that mind/body connection-the witness inside of you that hears your thoughts and feels your feelings. Others can certainly point out our “blind spots” along the way until we can fully see all of them with crystal clarity. Others can also project their hurts, pains, unresolved traumas, self-loathing onto us. We often see in others what we have resisted seeing inside of ourselves. We can become mirrors for one another. Looking in the mirror at ourselves can sometimes feel like crawling on shards of glass or finally breathing in the truth of the ways we are decent, caring people. Living awake and fully aware can be uncomfortable, disorienting work as we come face to face with all the parts of ourselves, how they show up in life, and for others. Integration, wholeness, and freedom become well worth the effort.

      And I completely agree, “There is no deodorant in the world that will cover up the odor of pretending.” Indeed. Well-stated!

    • Thanks, Laura, for your perspective. As I reflect on this, I think you both have a point. One has to know if one is authentic or not, but getting the nod from others is important verification.

    • Thank you so much, Darlene! Your book sounds interesting. What is the title? Yes, being true, living true, choosing how we respond to life can be such an emancipation. Living whole, integrated, and free—YES! And you are welcome. My joy. 🙂

    • Hi Laura:

      The book is entitled “Stop Deprivng The World of You: A Guide for Getting Unstuck.” I have been told it is very positive which was exactly my intent.

      With a smile,


  4. Very though-provoking as usual, Laura! I so agree that the condition of our spaces is a metaphor of our lives. Much can be gleamed in surveying our environments about our emotional selves. I work at not being a pretender and showing up to be as honest as possible to those around me. I just do not want to live a life of BS’ing myself or others. In doing that it does take self-work and being a-okay to just put things out there and to have those sometimes not so comfortable discussions. It is all worth the effort to attempt to have a truly fulfilled life. Thank you your sharing your story and of your possum reveal!

    • Thank you for your kind words and thoughtful reflections. I’m consistently amazed at how the outer world speaks to the inner world (and vice-versa). The work to be honest with ourselves can be both uncomfortable and liberating-sometimes simultaneously. Part of the discomfort/disconnect is many of us have been taught to hide the hurts, shame, grief, failures, the “dark” side, the clutter and only show the bright, shiny, clean kitchen counter smile to the world. Yet, we are both/and plus other dimensions too. Life can be stinky and messy, wonderful and sweet-smelling from one moment to the next. I celebrate you and your work to show up real, aware, awake, uncomfortable at times. “It is all worth the effort to attempt to have a truly fulfilled life.” Yes, indeed! I appreciate you, my friend!