Always Acting

Why do I (along with most people I know) seem to feel compelled to always be smiling, bubbly, or superficial when interacting with others?

It’s not like I want to be this way.

I value transparency, honesty, and realness in myself and in others. Yet, when socializing, it can become hard to live up to these self-expectations. I feel like I must put on a show (or conceal the real, ugly show) for people. I must continuously perform.

I smile and laugh even if I have a headache and it hurts to move my facial muscles. I smile even when I feel like crying.

I’ve been practicing this for so long that I can no longer cry in public if I feel like crying, because I’ve taught my brain that it’s not safe or permissible to be emotionally vulnerable in public, or to expose others to something they might not want to see. If I do, they might not want to be my friends anymore.

Am I afraid of rejection? Do I fear that if I were to throw my real self out there – to the wolves – that this true self would get chewed up and torn apart?

If I make a fake me – a decoy – then it won’t hurt so much when people tear me apart, because they won’t be destroying my actual self. Only a persona I’ve created.

I am also afraid of hurting other people. Afraid that if I seem to be frowning – or not smiling and laughing with everyone else – that people with think me disapproving, boring, judgmental, or negative. Or they’ll assume that I’m upset with them.


When you don’t reveal your genuine self, you are alone. No matter how many “friends” you have.

No one ever has the chance to know and love the real you. And you don’t get the chance to know if you, in your “imperfect” state, would be loved by others.

You continue to reinforce in your head the message that the external, fake you is the only image worth portraying, because it is the only one that the world outside you will accept.

This perpetual acting can come with a physical cost. If you are constantly “gearing up” for interacting in an artificial way with others – then your body will endlessly be in “fight” mode – trying to survive a stressful social setting. Because you have to work hard to keep the mask on.

The body responds to physical and emotional stress the same way: it releases cortisol. This can take a toll on your adrenal glands, eventually leading to adrenal fatigue, and with that, a whole host of other issues, such as hormonal imbalance, blood pressure problems, insomnia, and compromised thyroid function.

And before you know it, this continuous “fighting” mode has led you down the path of chronic fatigue and depression.

Being fake can actually make you physically sick.

Social pretending made me sick. I’ve felt unwell to varying degrees since I was a child (for multiple reasons), but I believe that years of acting and pretending compounded my stress and my physiological issues.

But aside from the health risks of social acting, performing for others can take an emotional, mental, and spiritual toll.

The Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Dangers of Hiding Our True Selves:

 – Our internal and external characters become discordant, creating self-confusion and inner tension.

 – Pretending can be a form of dishonesty, and practicing this has the potential to lead to dishonesty in other areas.

 – Hiding our pain prevents us from getting the help we need.

 – We’ll never know if our genuine selves would be accepted, because we never give others the chance to accept us as we truly are.

 – We send the message to others (who may be hurting inwardly) that it is not safe for them to share and be vulnerable with us, because we’re choosing not to share and be vulnerable with them.

 – We can begin to forget who we are. This happened to me after years of pretending and trying to please other people in the way I presented myself or communicated, while suppressing or ignoring my own inner voice. I am only now beginning to gain confidence and an awareness of who I am apart from anyone else. I’m just beginning to find the courage to be individually and uniquely me.


How to Turn the Tide and Promote Realness in the Community

Next time you’re over at a friend’s house, and you’ve got a headache, or you’re tired or stressed, let your friend(s) see it. I know, easier said than done. But make it a social experiment.

If your experiment turns sour (i.e. people don’t want to see the real, transparent you) that just gives you more data about your “friend(s)”. Maybe you’ll begin to question the quality or strength of your friendship. Maybe you’ll even have the guts to call them out on their superficiality (something to the effect of “Hey, I wish we could be more real and transparent with each other. In my book, that’s what friends do.”).

And you know what? The more vulnerable you choose to be about yourself and your struggles, the more likely you are to attract the right kinds of friends in your life. People who struggle like you. Or people who don’t struggle like you, but are mature enough in their thinking to care for and accept people who fight different battles than they do.

Be okay with silence. Silence doesn’t have to be awkward. It’s only awkward because people have said it is. If you have nothing to say, that’s okay.

Resist the pressure to try to convince people your life has meaning. You don’t have to prove to others how busy or hardworking or smart or successful you are.

If you feel that you have little to say for your life – few things that sound impressive or “socially acceptable” (like, I’m going to this school or working that job), it’s okay. Answer honestly and confidently about your current situation. Because the truth is, nobody has it together all the time. So who are they to judge you? We all have rough seasons or unconventional periods in our lives. Sometimes, those seasons are the very best. There’s no need to downplay these aspects of our lives or cover them up.

It’s okay to be hurting or to have an unusual life or “strange” answers to people’s questions. You can’t flunk being you. Make these conversations social experiments as well, and watch how your friends react when you say “I’m trying to build my own ____business”, or “I’m kind of stuck direction-wise at the moment”, or “I’m just taking a break from things and enjoying being with my family/friends or devoting more time to my hobby/passion of ____”.

It’s okay.

Insecure people want you to think it’s not okay to be who and where you are. They have to tear you down because inside, they feel pretty small themselves. Or their lives feel meaningless. And they don’t want to be the only ones feeling that way.

Ask people how they are doing (with the expectation or desire of an answer). Probe for a more honest answer if you feel the first one wasn’t (there’s a fine line between probing and being nosy though. 🙂 )

But don’t feel that you must ask “How are you?” in a bubbly, put-together sort of way. You’re more likely to elicit an honest response if you’re just being and doing whatever’s natural for you in the moment. If you are tired, ask them the question while you’re slumped over your friend’s couch with your eyes closed. Ask them without smiling, if smiling hurts or is not you right now.

If they see you being real, maybe they’ll be inspired to be more authentic themselves.

❤ Kate


DISCLAIMER
THE MATERIALS AND CONTENT CONTAINED IN THIS ARTICLE AND WEBSITE ARE FOR GENERAL INFORMATION ONLY. USERS OF THIS WEBSITE SHOULD NOT RELY ON THE INFORMATION PROVIDED FOR THEIR OWN HEALTH OR MENTAL HEALTH NEEDS. FOR THE BEST ADVICE ON ALL HEALTH OR MENTAL HEALTH CONCERNS AND TREATMENT, PLEASE SEEK THE KNOWLEDGE AND GUIDANCE OF A PHYSICIAN OR THERAPIST.

USE AGREEMENT
IN CONSIDERATION FOR YOUR USE OF AND ACCESS TO THIS WEBSITE, YOU AGREE THAT IN NO EVENT WILL REFLECTION CUBE OR KATE RICHARDSON – THE AUTHOR OF THIS WEBSITE – BE LIABLE TO YOU IN ANY MANNER WHATSOEVER FOR ANY DECISION MADE OR ACTION OR NON-ACTION TAKEN BY YOU IN RELIANCE UPON THE INFORMATION PROVIDED THROUGH THIS WEBSITE.

© 2017 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

11 thoughts on “Always Acting

    1. Great point. It’s one thing to be transparent for a moment, another completely to make authenticity a way of living. Kind of like dietary changes. 😛 Thanks for reading and commenting! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Friday. Turned on WordPress. Mine defaults to my “Followed Sites”. Scrolled down. Saw the topic: “Always Acting”. Hmmm, catchy headline. Let’s see what it’s about.

    Get ready, loonnnng reply coming.
    Disclaimer: I ask questions. Alot. To most everybody. They are NOT attacks. Not at all. The purpose, is simply to share comments & thoughts with the goal of: Gaining broader & deeper INSIGHT. Hopefully, anyway.
    I believe understanding anything from more angles and deeper, brings more inner peace. So there you have it. Not that iiii have the answers, but that hopefully you may find more of your own answers thru pondering more questions. :}

    I am discovering quite a few posts online lately all about “Authenticity”. Why is this such a “thing” lately? More to the point: why do so many people people they are, apparantly, being IN-authentic and need to get back to being real? How did that happen in the first place?

    Lets go thru the post:
    “I feel like I must put on a show (or conceal the real, ugly show) for people.”
    Questions: But why would the “real” have to be more “negative” or “ugly” ?
    and then:
    …” taught my brain that it’s not safe or permissible to be emotionally vulnerable in public”. Question: was there some event you still remember when you *did* open up, be authentic, or emotional, or vulnerable, and then when you did, people were..?…taken aback? Unsympathetic? Avoided you later? Scolded you for “being negative?” Not safe or permissible? That had to come from….somewhere. Where? Again, these questions are not scolding and are not attacks. The hope is that they may trigger memories, clarity, a-ha moments or Insight. All I can do is try. Let’s keep going…

    A fake you? A Decoy? To avoid hurt? Hmmm, maybe so. It seems like it “ties back” to what you already said earlier. But you know, best. There’s more—

    …”No one ever has the chance to know and love the real you.” Why? And does the real you really have to be some horrible negative whatever? Is there something you are ashamed of? Not necessarily. Maybe not. Maybe it’s a Confidence thing or you don’t feel good enough? I don’t know, I’m just offering “possibilities”. Maybe yer just a bit to self-conscious? Here’s some good news: (deliberately said in the 3rd person and I’m not sure why): The girl in the picture, above, has nice eyes, very pretty hair and isn’t fat. I don’t think she’ll have any trouble getting people who want to hang out with her. She can be confident.
    So there! Encouragement I can be honest about. ….still more—

    …”We can begin to forget who we are. This happened to me after years of pretending and trying to please other people in the way I presented myself or communicated, while suppressing or ignoring my own inner voice”.
    Questions: When, did this start? Think back. How old were you? Who was it with? What happened back then when you *didn’t* pretend? Why was it so important to please people in this or that way? What happened when you didn’t?

    It sounds like you are already learning and figuring this out more. Like when you said:…”Because the truth is, nobody has it together all the time. So who are they to judge you? We all have rough seasons or unconventional periods in our lives.”

    I like the idea of having the courage to try things as “social experiments”. This shows inner strength. I know this has been long, but congrats, yer post was interesting.

    Almost lunchtime. It’s Friiiidaayyy! Have fun!

    #Insight #Growth #Confidence #Self-Image #PersonalityTypes #Personality #Authenticity #SelfHelp #20-Somethings #Adulthood #Pretending #InnerVoice

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey theOwl30!

      Thanks for commenting! These are some excellent questions.

      ‘K, long response here. 😛

      Your Question (Q): I am discovering quite a few posts online lately all about “Authenticity”. Why is this such a “thing” lately?

      My Thoughts (A): One reason “Authenticity” is such a thing these days is because “Positive Vibes Only” is also a popular thing. “Positive Vibes” is all about ONLY expressing positive emotions or thoughts. I think the flaw in this mentality is that humans are too complex to be confined to a few emotions or facets. To suppress the “negativity” in ourselves is to repress or conceal a part of who we are. To hide these emotions and thoughts is often to simply bottle them up.

      Second, I believe that part of genuine friendship is being there for someone through thick and thin. A person who only wants to know or see 50 or 75 percent of me (the positive or agreeable side) is not a true friend.

      So authenticity is about being a true friend and also letting other people be true friends for you – letting them see the hurting or painful parts of your life (depression, heartache, fatigue, illness – mental or physical), and the “controversial” or individual parts too (dissent or independent thinking can also be mistakenly perceived as negativity, so authenticity is also about being brave or confident enough to express your own opinion, even if others might disagree with you or “disown” you as a “friend”). I think this is, on average, more of a challenge for women, who may tend to be conditioned or pressured more strongly to be amenable and “friendly” – and “punished” (in one way or another) if they’re not. (I cover this a bit in my piece “The Struggles of an INTP Girl”: https://reflectioncube.com/2017/10/26/what-its-like-being-an-intp-girl/ )

      Q: “I feel like I must put on a show (or conceal the real, ugly show) for people.”
      But why would the “real” have to be more “negative” or “ugly” ?

      A: I may or may not personally think my “show” is more “negative” or “ugly” (often I do), but much of the world outside might think that. Depression, pain, sickness, and clashing viewpoints tend to be perceived as “negative” or “ugly”, and I’ve noticed these days that a lot of people are uncomfortable witnessing them. They might as well be watching someone bleed to death. (“Ew! Get away from there! Don’t touch! Is it catching?”) A lot of people are uncomfortable with witnessing another’s pain or walking with them through the rain. They only want to see sunshine.

      Being “real” is about choosing to be brave and letting people see both the sunshine and rain clouds in your (yours, mine, anyone’s) life, knowing that some will reject you and others (the “right” friends for you) will love you and come alongside you for the rainy weather.

      Q: …” taught my brain that it’s not safe or permissible to be emotionally vulnerable in public”. Was there some event you still remember when you *did* open up, be authentic, or emotional, or vulnerable, and then when you did, people were..?…taken aback? Unsympathetic? Avoided you later? Scolded you for “being negative?” Not safe or permissible? That had to come from….somewhere. Where?

      A: Yes, many places/times/situations. I’ve experienced this at church, work, and around friends. People at/from church didn’t want to see my depression (I tried sharing it with a few friends, and the responses I received made me feel very alone, like my struggles were something no one else understood, and for which I was being judged. So I learned to keep them to myself. Later, there were points in my life where I had been suicidal a few days prior and nobody knew – they just saw me smiling as always. I had come to believe – likely based on previous experiences – that it would be emotionally safer to suffer in silence than to be very vulnerable with people in my community).

      Working 3+ years in customer service, I had to smile and be very friendly even when I was in deep pain. Problem is, this pattern of behavior spilled over into my personal life, and it became challenging for me to be unvarnished with most of the people I knew. I had even learned how to make my eyes “sparkle” with the appearance of happiness when in fact, my eyes wanted to sparkle with tears. I learned how to look genuinely healthy and happy when I was anything but that.

      Q: …”No one ever has the chance to know and love the real you.” Why?

      A: Because they’re loving the decoy that I (or anyone represented by “you” in the general sense) have created. They’re “in love” with the mask. Perhaps the smiling girl in the picture is wearing such a mask. Who knows if that’s the REAL her or simply the image she is choosing to project to the outside world? Who knows how she may be hurting inside right now? Perhaps she thinks she can’t share her pain, because it would annoy the “Positive Vibes Only” crowd. Or people would read her “negativity” (sadness, depression, or strong opinions) as her being judgmental of them (people have assumed on more than one occasion that I was judging them when I really wasn’t. Maybe I was tired or focused or sad or thoughtful or tuned-out. But it had nothing to do with them). But some people seem to take another’s “negativity” as a personal offense.

      Q: And does the real you really have to be some horrible negative whatever? Is there something you are ashamed of?

      A: Whether I feel personally ashamed about a thing varies. I hate being negative or depressed or whatever, and can feel terrible about myself when I am, and about the fact that I feel powerless to fight or stop it. Sometimes I hate myself for it, other times I just think, “well, that’s me right now, and that’s okay”.

      Q: Maybe it’s a Confidence thing or you don’t feel good enough?

      A: Yeah, confidence is part of what I’m getting at with this post. We should feel confident that it’s okay to show and talk about our depression and pain, to express dissenting points of view, and to not feel that we always have to be “agreeable” around others, please them, or worry about keeping them comfortable with who we are.

      Your Thoughts: Here’s some good news: (deliberately said in the 3rd person and I’m not sure why): The girl in the picture, above, has nice eyes, very pretty hair and isn’t fat. I don’t think she’ll have any trouble getting people who want to hang out with her.

      My Thoughts: I agree, but would they still want to hang out with her if she looked sad and depressed? Or would the “Positivity Only” people shun her?

      What if she was having a rough moment or season, and what if that were to show through on her face? Would she still be popular, or viewed as “confident” or worthy of friendship?

      What if she feels she has to conceal her pain through smiling or laughter? I’ve done this many times. In the past, even some of the closest people in my life were unaware of how much I was acting and pretending to be delighted or to have a great time, when in fact I just wanted to crumble in a heap and sob away. I know many people who do the same.

      You’re trying not to hurt the people you love by letting them see your pain, and trying to not let them hurt you. You’re protecting or shielding yourself by wearing the exoskeleton of happiness. Here, your depression or sadness or strong-mindedness are equivalent to vulnerable guts/organs or whatever, and you don’t want to expose your vulnerable areas, because you could get wounded.

      Your Thoughts: She can be confident.

      My Thoughts: Can she be confident showing how she really feels? What if she’s hurting? Can she be confident being her real self when that self might be perceived by her friends as “negative” or “less than friendly” or “depressed’? In my mind, smiling and laughing when you don’t feel like it is not confidence. It is the exact opposite. Confidence is being able to express who you really are and/or how you’re really feeling, rather than the ability to put on a certain “happy mask”. 🙂

      Q: …”We can begin to forget who we are. This happened to me after years of pretending and trying to please other people in the way I presented myself or communicated, while suppressing or ignoring my own inner voice”.
      When, did this start? Think back. How old were you? Who was it with? What happened back then when you *didn’t* pretend? Why was it so important to please people in this or that way? What happened when you didn’t?

      A: “Forgetting who you are” is something that frequently happens to people who are (or choose to be) “highly agreeable” or who are “highly empathic”. Some people are naturally this way, and others are conditioned to be agreeable and/or learn that they must be this way for “social survival” (to avoid some form of punishment – physical or emotional).

      Since I was fairly young, I felt the need (for “social survival” reasons) to get along with people and not get in trouble (and because, as a child, I had a reputation for being sort of a “good kid”, it was actually easier for me to be perceived as “disobedient” than for some of my siblings, who seemed to be allowed a wider spectrum of “normal” behavior). So I tried very hard to not stir the waters, so I wouldn’t have to feel the pain of people I loved pulling away from me or hurting me because they disliked me or saw me as “difficult” (i.e. autonomous, confident, or “opinionated”) or because I asked questions. Rather, I chose not to be “difficult”, to instead be “low-maintenance”, and to rarely question or disagree. It was safer, and less likely to result in punishment. (Lest you get the impression that my parents were/are monsters, this is not the case. I love my parents. But these were some struggles for me growing up that followed me into adult life.) I continued to silence certain parts of myself and not show my pain or question things (except internally). I continued to be low-maintenance.

      But this unhealthy pattern of living worsened as I got older, worked in customer service, and interacted with many people – including several who were less than honest (but often, dishonest in clever ways that exploited the loopholes of company policy) – and I had no choice (business-wise) but to be agreeable and “make things right for them” in return, even when that was the last thing I wanted to do.

      I suppressed or ignored my inner voice, telling me “What these people are doing isn’t right” or “I should confront them”. (I had leaders who enforced and supported the “making it right for the customer” thing, even when that seemed completely illogical and the customers were obviously being “criminal”. Only thing I could have done [and eventually did] was to leave.) (Check out my retail story: 11 Lessons I Learned Working In Retail: https://reflectioncube.com/2017/11/02/lessons-i-learned-working-in-retail/ )

      Again, some great questions. Thanks for reading and discussing. Hope this was more helpful than confusing. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Kate!
        Thanks for the reply. Very good. Conversation with some depth. Hurray! Enjoyed it much! 🙂
        Decided to reply to this reply (depth is good) and then maybe go onto to something else. (That is not any hard-n-fast rule, though, but nice to “get into” a given topic, (we already were) and then maybe move on to explore another topic. Here goes: level 2, haha…

        …”One reason “Authenticity” is such a thing these days is because “Positive Vibes Only” is also a popular thing”
        Comment: Yep. And we’ve got people like the TV-preacher Joel Osteen and his Mega-positive preaching/fluff to push society into the “positive only” camp. My opinion. More–

        …”part of genuine friendship is being there for someone through thick and thin. A person who only wants to know or see 50 or 75 percent of me (the positive or agreeable side) is not a true friend.”
        Comment: Unfortunately, too true too often. Decent friends can be hard to find, but still worth looking for anyway. For all of us.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ack! It posted before i was done? Word-limit? Maybe i pushed/bumped “a wrong button” but anyway…continuing:

        …”Being “real” is about choosing to be brave and letting people see both the sunshine and rain clouds in your (yours, mine, anyone’s) life, knowing that some will reject you.”
        Reply: That can happen. With all of us. It’s still worth-it to be brave. I thibnk the critical parts here:
        1. How soon, is someone, finding out all the juicy details? The could –FEEL– they are being blown away by “over-sharing”, On the other hand, this “level” of how much is too much varies widely with individuals. So I guess we’re al;ways, to some degree, taking a chance. But what if its with someone who knows you quite well or a good friend? Then it gets more fuzzy or complicated, but not hopeless. What IS “the pain” one is feeling inside? That matters. Was it aan event that most anyone would recognize as a sad occurrence? OR—is it a prolonged, lasting sadness that has no apparent real-life cause? ie. if its getting over a bad relationship or a sad childhood, thats one thing, but if its some organic, bodily or chemical-imbalance thing, a doctor/counselor and some medication may be much more helpful than friends who dont understand. We should be aware that if we are the one who is depressed that it will SEEM like so many other folks are wanting to be “all positive, all the time”…ie…when nyer wayy, waayy down, of course it can appear that everyone else is too smiley and artificial. Something to be aware of. Which leads to:
        3. Pain. We all feel it sooner or later but—-How long has it been with us? “going thru a rough patch” is one thing. But if its been going on unrelenting for months or years, then something is up. (pardon the pun). We are not “bad” or a failure for having pain in our lives. Take heart. Most of us are not as together as we may appear. But the pain should go away. It shouldn’t be chronic. if it is, why is it? There is a reason. Some reason. It is up to us to find it, understand it, and treat it and deal with it. Good news! If you’re an INTP, with your Introverted thinking and extroverted intuition, you’ve got some useful-introspective-tools!
        Note: when we worry about if we said the wrong thing, looked stupid, etc….let’s remember to also ask ourselves: Are THEY worried about how they appeared or sounded with US? Probably not. Likewise, we have a right to our feelings/opinions, and to say them! Without guilt. Why apologize so much? Are they? We’re not being vicious. Maybe they just “can’t handle the Truth” or worse still—don’t want to know. But we can choose to be Authentic!
        HOO-rah!

        #Depression #Psychology #MBTI #INTP #PersonalGrowth, #Happiness, #20-Somethings

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Happiness is Not Wrong – Reflection Cube

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s