Remember the old TV game show, “To Tell the Truth?” Three people all claimed the same story and tried to convince a panel of judges and the studio audience that they were the real McCoy. The object of the game was for the judges to guess who was posing as an imposter and who was telling the truth by asking questions. Everyone had prepared their stories to be convincing. So to correctly sift out the pretenders, it was important to pay attention to the non-verbals.
Some were quite convincing, masking their true self flawlessly. They were brilliantly effective at selling their story and fooled everyone – only then was the truth was revealed.
We do this too – all the time! We are masters at convincing others as well as ourselves that we are someone other than who we are. Here are a few reasons why we do.
- Sometimes it preserves our dignity. We put on a false smile to protect ourselves from revealing our embarrassment or disappointment in an awkward public situation. This helps us maintain a sense of poise and respect despite how we feel inside.
- Sometimes it is to protect ourselves from people who don’t have our best interests at heart. A mask guards our areas of vulnerability from people who may not have good intentions. Trust need to be earned. It is healthy for us to keep people at arm’s length at first, and gradually let our mask fall as we develop trust in the relationship.
- But sometimes it is a way to cover up our insecurities. Our non-verbals give us away and even if people don’t consciously take note of them, their subconscious does. It signals them that something is not right, the behavior and words don’t match and therefore they can’t fully trust you. The result is that you are either consciously or unconsciously labeled as a poser.
Fear of failure, not being accepted, not being good enough bring your imposter to the surface. The danger here is if what you are hiding is true, it will reveal itself. Even if it isn’t and is only a figment of your imagination (for example, “I’m ugly”), you will FEEL like an imposter. People will pick up on that too. Others receive the mixed message as false modesty, fishing for compliments, and see your insecurity/low self-esteem.
There are good reasons for using masks, but the biggest reason to take a chance and let your mask fall is that it frees up our true selves and opens up our most creative selves. Maintaining your mask is mentally exhausting. It takes considerable energy to maintain the false front, battle against the emotions and keep true to your story with the confidence to sell it. Your mask masks your brilliance!
Your true self allows you to ask for help, give heartfelt, genuine compliments and share ideas without concern of ridicule.
So ditch your poser face and start living to your true potential. As Fanny Brice said, “Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be.”