Do you ever feel that you’re wearing a mask or smothering who you really are? Well, you aren’t alone. Thousands of people do the same thing every day (and you may just not notice because hey, they’re doing a great job of hiding it). Why do we hide from ourselves? Perhaps the most common reason is for approval: we all want to be liked, right? And, with the rise of social media and other online “masks,” it’s fairly easy to create a false perception of ourselves. Maybe we believe it’ll bring us happiness, or something along those lines. The truth of the matter is, we are all unique individuals and embracing who we truly are is probably one of the most liberating things we can do for ourselves. Even renowned psychologist Carl Jung once stated that “The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
There’s the day-to-day stifling- when we stop ourselves from saying or doing something because we are afraid of another’s judgment. Unless it’s harmful to another person (following the whole “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” rule we’ve all heard), there’s no reason why you should minimize your own feelings because of someone else: “Don’t try to please others at the expense of your values and your integrity.
At the end of the day, you want to like yourself when you look in a mirror” (Millen Livis). A common example of this is in schools, when a child will go against what he/she feels is right in order to fit in with a group. Adults exhibit the same behavior. Being inauthentic doesn’t just harm us, it can harm others (directly or indirectly).
Another way of suffocating one’s self involves wishing we were more (or entirely) like someone else. Today, we tend to compare ourselves to what we see on t.v. or social media, even if we know it’s not realistic. 9 times out of 10, when we measure ourselves in this way, we come up short. “Ah,” we sigh, “I wish I could be more like that…” But what does being more like “that” accomplish? I’m guilty of this, but I don’t have an answer for it, either.
What I do know is that once you become “more like that,” you’re still dissatisfied. There will always be something just beyond your reach, another “that” to aspire towards. It’s as though you’re chasing something that’s forever out of reach, which is a silly way to spend one’s time. “To wish you were someone else is to waste the person you are”- there is no one else in the world like you, so why stifle yourself?
As it turns out, pretending to be someone we aren’t can have some serious side effects on our health: “If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief” (Brene Brown). It may take some time and practice, but only you can stop minimizing your feelings, speak up when your gut tells you to, and learn to love the things that are amazing about you.