“Put on a happy face”
The reason that in courts people promise to tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”, is because in real life we are rarely that honest.
An everyday example “oh hi, how are you?” How are you going to answer? Most people, in most settings reply something like “yeah good, you?” Maybe sometimes they will say something a little less positive such as “been better” or “well you know”. Not very many people choose to answer with how they are really feeling at that moment.
This lack of honest about our real feelings is not always a bad thing.
Boss: “I would like you to meet this important business contact who wants to hear about your innovative product”
Client: “Hi, how are you”
You: “Oh I’m actually really distracted right now, I spent the morning getting annoyed at my dog and then spent the commute arguing with myself, in my head, about how lazy I am and how this product I have made is never going to work. I also have flatulence and yes that smell was made by me.”
I’m not sure this type of honest answer would be good for career development.
So there are times when we hide how we feel or what we think, or at least when we try to hide how we feel. In psychology this is sometimes called a persona or wearing a mask. The real me is what goes on in my head and my mask is how I want other people to see me.
Sometimes our mask is trying to just show our best side – like an Instagram filter for our personality. Other times we try to hide negative parts of ourselves, this is one of the reason there is a link between feeling depressed and being a comedian as the comedy mask hides some of the hurt underneath.
In the early days, reality TV show Big Brother was marketed as a science experiment and psychologists would talk about the contestants behaviour. Masks was a common discussion point, as the weeks progressed, we would start to see more about what the contestants were really like, what they really thought because it is not possible to maintain a mask or persona all of the time, particularly when you are living under surveillance.
Your mask is a good thing and there are times when it really helps you to make a good impression or be professional. Pretend behaviour can also lead us to gain new skills – Fake it; Until you make it!
But there has to be some balance. When are the times when you can safely take your mask off? Maybe there are friends who you can be honest with. Maybe there are times when you can dance like no one is watching. Maybe you keep a journal where you can be honest about how you are really feeling. And sometimes there may also be times when you can readjust the mask and think about a middle ground between what you think and what you want people to think about you. If you hate an idea but the mask wants to say it is great, perhaps there is a way to say you like some parts but believe it could be improved. This type of professional honesty can help to narrow the gap and feel closer to the real you.
I am running a therapy group for young people in school years 7, 8 and 9. This will be in East London during February half term (Monday 18 – Friday 22 February 2019). There are still spaces available and we will be exploring out “Too Big” emotions together including the feelings we hide behind our masks. If you know a young person who is having a hard time please let them know, it isn’t always easy to find group therapy and there can be really long waiting lists. I am offering a free consultation for anyone who wants to know more.